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People watch a water parade marking the beginning of carnival season along the Grand Canal, in Venice, Italy, on Feb. 17, 2019.

Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

Venice council has voted to impose an entrance fee for visitors to help pay for the upkeep of the much-visited World Heritage Site in a first for an Italian city.

Around 25 million tourists pour into the lagoon city each year, of whom around 14 million spend just one day there. Many take picnics with them, bringing no income to local businesses.

Councillors overwhelmingly endorsed the entrance fee at a meeting on Tuesday evening, saying day-trippers would now have to pay 3 euros ($3.42) each this year to enter Venice.

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The sum will rise to between 6-10 euros from the start of 2020, depending on whether tourists come in high or low season.

“This is a significant turning point in the management of Venice’s tourist flows,” said Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has championed the scheme.

Venice’s population has declined rapidly in recent decades from roughly 175,000 after World War Two to about 50,000 today. Remaining residents complain bitterly that their city is being overrun by tourists while they have to pick up the bill for cleaning and security.

The city council has not spelt out exactly how they will collect the money at first, but Brugnaro has suggested that eventually the transport companies bringing in visitors will add the amount to the cost of the ticket.

Exempted from the fee will be tourists who spend the night in local hotels, which already apply visitor taxes to their rates, and children under the age of six.

The head of the northeastern Veneto region, which includes Venice, welcomed the decision, saying it elevated the city to the status of an open-air museum.

“Venice needs respect, and as is the case with museums, sports stadiums, cinemas, trains and airplanes, it needs to have planned visits...which makes it sustainable both for tourists and the city,” Veneto governor Luca Zaia said on Wednesday.

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