What is sustainable tourism?
Can tourism in Venice be sustainable? This has probably become the most urgent question in the last few years. But before we go into the answer lets sum up the principles sustainable tourism is based on. Quoting the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) sustainable tourism should:
- Use environmental resources maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to protect natural heritage and biodiversity.
- Respect the socio-cultural environment of host communities and preserve their cultural heritage and traditional values.
- Secure long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all the businesses that are distributed in the area.
In other words sustainable tourism should allow the traveler to enjoy the chosen holiday destination. Travelers should do that in total respect of its society, environment and economy. The idea is that of visiting a place trying to really live its traditions and uses. Eating its food, buying its typical products, helping the businesses of its locals as well as admiring the beauties the chosen area has to offer.
Massive tourism in Venice
As far as Venice is concerned, the combination of massive tourism and the reckless idea of turning the city into a money machine, has brought its authenticity down. It is more and more common to find shops selling shoddy goods and touristy traps providing terrible quality food. Sometimes if it is not that terrible, in any case it is not typical. The most classic example is the one of restaurants promising you the best carbonara, pasta al ragù, or pesto of your life. Although all of the above mantioned dishes are Italian, none of them is typical in Venice. The city finds itself in the middle of a lagoon which faces the sea, so traditional food here is fish. To find out what to eat in Venice, click here.
Moreover, many of the businesses in the city are not even held by Venetians. Many others, although held by locals, unfortunately pass the tourists the worst messages about Venetian traditions. For example, the shops selling bad glittery plastic masks! As a matter of fact the traditional Venetian mask is a papier-mache one, and it takes a lot of time and care to make one.
Sustainable tourism in Venice
These were just some examples of how bad the situation has gone so far. So, to answer the initial question, yes tourism in Venice can be sustainable. How? Thanks to the collaboration of us tourism operators and you travelers and tourists! It is our job to help you finding the best options for an authentic Venetian experience. To explain you our traditions and uses. To guide you at the discovery of a better Venice. It is your job to respect the city by following our pieces of advice and by being aware of what to do and how to do it.
How to be a sustainable tourist
So, to sum up, here is a little list of suggestions for you to become the best sustainable tourists (even if we are sure that many of you already are! 🙂
- Venice is a tiny city. Yes we know there are no cars, but this doesn’t mean there are no rules to be followed. When you are walking down its streets, try and keep your right so that there is always some space on the other side for people to pass. Try not sit on the bridges or on the steps of someone’s house, especially if your idea is eating there as well. Instead look for areas with benches and trees like the one in front of the train station or the beautiful Sant’Elena gardens in Castello district. Venice is like an open air museum so it is our job as locals and yours as visitors, to all play our part respecting and taking care of it.
- Try and avoid restaurants with pictures of food and insisting waiters inviting you in. Choose tiny and cozy places, away from the crowds, that offer a great variety of fish. We are not saying it is not appropriate to have a carbonara in Venice, but make sure that is not the first option on the menu.
- Try and buy traditional products in local shops. To go back to the masks, make sure they are papier-mache and look for business with “paint your own mask” option and maybe a tiny laboratory inside. As far as Murano glass is concerned, the best thing you can do is to purchase directly on Murano island so that you are sure you’re buying something authentic, really hand made.
We truly believe that if we establish this happy, long term collaboration between us locals and tourism operators and you, people who are coming to Venice to enjoy it and relax yourselves, the city can keep living and prospering in the centuries to come. It is very important that each one of us plays its own part or the city will soon be swallowed up by its own strongest source of income.