One region has capped visitor numbers in an effort to prevent overtourism as Europe sells out and hordes of tourists descend on Italy for what appears to be a busy summer.
The autonomous region of Alto Adige, which is also known as Bolzano – South Tyrol, is in the north of the country. It has set a cap on the number of overnight visitors to the levels that will be in effect in 2019, and it has banned the opening of any new lodging establishments unless another has already closed.
One of the most well-known entry points to the Dolomites is this region, which borders Austria. Tourists flock here to see breathtaking craggy peaks that glow pink at sunset, dreamy glacial lakes, and adorable Tyrolean towns, where they eat dumplings, drink local beer, and practice their German – the province is bilingual.
Capital Bolzano is additionally home to one incredibly popular occupant: ” “Tzi the Iceman,” a local man’s naturally mummified body from about 5,200 years ago. In the city, there is a museum just for his body and clothes, which are almost perfectly preserved.
According to Arnold Schuler, who proposed the new law and is in charge of tourism in the province, the region had “reached the limit” of what it could handle, he told CNN.
He added, “We reached the limit of our resources, we had problems with traffic, and residents have difficulty finding places to live,” and that they want to “guarantee the quality [of life] for locals and tourists,” which has become increasingly difficult over the past ten years.
‘We had reached the limit’
Although Alto Adige is regarded as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Schuler claims that the large number of visitors has begun to jeopardize the region’s long-standing reputation.
“Sightseers come here to climb and to see delightful spots, not to wind up definitely having a difficult time,” he said.
There were 34 million overnight stays in the region in 2022. It became a lot at certain times of the year and in certain areas, he told CNN.
“We took these measures to guarantee a better management of the flow of people and to guarantee lodging for tourists because the tourism sector is very important for us, for jobs and the economy.”
The law, which went into effect in September 2022, prohibits anyone from opening a new lodging establishment—which includes an Airbnb—or adding additional rooms without first obtaining permission from their local authority.
The quantity of formally enlisted beds starting around 2019 has been set at just shy of 230,000. Businesses now have until June 30 to tell the government how many guests they actually accommodated in 2019, effectively adding sofa beds that were not previously included in official statistics. The limit that can never be surpassed in the future will be marked by the final number. Each comune (local authority) will also have a set number of rooms, representing the total number of businesses under its jurisdiction.
In order to assist small businesses, an additional 7,000 imagined “beds” will be allocated by the local Alto Adige authorities to small businesses with a capacity of less than 40 guests. If someone wants to open a business in a town with very low tourism levels in the future, an additional 1,000 “beds” have been reserved for that purpose.
Curbs on ‘hit-and-run’ day-trippers
Day trippers, who are regarded as the scourge of Venice as well as a victim of overtourism, will also be affected.
Beginning around 2021, top season vehicle admittance to Lago di Braies (or Pragser Wildsee) – a completely flawless frigid lake in the mountains, and a staple on Instagram – has been by reservation as it were. According to Schuler, the region made the move, which he refers to as a “pilot project,” because the situation was getting out of hand.
He states, “You have to register to go to the lake, but that guarantees you access and keeps us from having too many people there.” Additionally, everyone who visits has access to the lake.
In the past, it was also difficult to get to the vast Alpine meadow known as the Seiser Alm, or Alpe di Siusi in German. Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the road up to the plateau is closed to private vehicles; anyone wishing to travel must use public transportation. The plateau is exempt for residents and those with hotel reservations.
What’s more, expect these to be the first of a more extensive reservation framework for well known spots, as Schuler says they will “surely do it in different regions” of the locale. He says that restricting access to the most popular locations benefits everyone, comparing it to museums and galleries that sell a predetermined number of tickets each day. Not only are the locals content, but so are tourists as well because they can park, eat, and have fewer accessibility issues.
No houses for locals
According to Schuler, the influx of tourists is also making life difficult for locals, who are having trouble finding places to live.
He stated, “It’s becoming ever more difficult to find housing because so many [lodgings] have been turned into tourist accommodation,” adding that rental prices have increased as a result.
There are approximately 532,000 people living in the region, with residents outnumbering tourists by roughly two to one. However, this average is based on some areas that don’t get much traffic. We have regions where the quantity of vacationer beds dwarf occupants by a great deal,” said Schuler.
He went on to say that over the past five years, there have been 400% more Airbnbs in the area.
He stated, “We always said we want to be a region for tourists, but also a place where the locals live well.”
Quality not quantity
It will be challenging, but not necessarily impossible, for anyone who wants to open a hotel, bed and breakfast, or vacation rental in the future.
The assignment of a business’s “beds” will be returned to its comune, or local authority, in the event of its closure. They can then give those spots to someone who wants to open a new location or expand their property. According to Schuler, “that way we guarantee that the number of spots remains unchanged in the future.”
The move is essential for a 100-page record called the “Programma commonplace per lo sviluppo del turismo 2030+”, or Program for the improvement of the travel industry past 2030 in the region.” The program’s years of research are detailed in a 100-page document, as are its plans for sustainable development. Another move is to present a “green star” rating framework to compensate lodgings working economically.