Hundreds of demonstrators took to the water in Venice in order to protest against visiting cruise ships, because relations between locals and tourists reach new nadir.
Flare-waving protestors used gondolas and little boats to prevent cruise ships, including one belonging to Thomson, from passing through the lagoon yesterday, September 25.
During peak season some 30,000 cruise ship passengers disembark in Venice every day, which locals claim is ruining their city, both environmentally and culturally.
It’s not the first time Venetians have tried to block cruise ships from entering the port. In 2013, hundreds of locals donned wetsuits and went for a swim in the world-famous Giudecca Canal to disrupt the passage of vessels.
Cruise ship operators claim their boats create little damage to Venice's fragile palazzi and reckon some 5,000 families in Venice are supported by the tourism they bring.
However, locals fear the influx of visitors is damaging the local environment, spoiling the character of Venice and pricing locals out of the city.
Figures support their claims: Venice’s population crashed to a new low of 55,000 inhabitants this year – down from 164,000 in 1931 – as locals flee high rents or find themselves being evicted to make way for tourist accommodation or Airbnb flats.
Venetians have been particularly vocal about their distain for tourists in 2016. Earlier this month more than 500 locals took to the streets with shopping trolleys and pushchairs in a protest that was aimed at highlighting the negative effect mass tourism is having on the city.
And in August an anonymous protest group plastered posters on walls in the Unesco-listed city, reading: “Tourists Go Away!!! You Are Destroying This Area.”
Around 22 million tourists visit Venice each year, annoying the dwindling number of locals by crowding narrow alleyways, barging onto water buses with backpacks and wandering around during the summer in bikini tops and shorts.
The number of visitors each day, 60,000, now exceeds the number of Venetians.
A fact-finding mission to Venice by Unesco officials in 2015 found that “the capacity of the city, the number of its inhabitants and the number of tourists is out of balance and causing significant damage” to the city.