European tourist hotspot charging £4.30 tourist tax just to get into the village

As the anti-tourism sentiment gains momentum worldwide, another European destination is taking a leaf out of Venice's book by introducing an entry fee for visitors. Tourism is on the brink of a full-scale comeback post-pandemic, with the UN World Tourism Organisation predicting that 2024 will see record-breaking numbers of international tourists.

The idyllic Swiss mountain village of Lauterbrunnen, famed for its Alpine waterfalls and cliffs, has been inundated with tourists, leading to litter-strewn streets, sky-high rents, jam-packed roads, car parks at bursting point, and reports of unruly behaviour from visitors in local media outlets.

"We feel like employees in an amusement park," lamented Lauterbrunnen's village priest Markus Tschanz to SRF, the Swiss public radio, last year, echoing the frustrations of the 2,400-strong local population.

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Despite its Instagram-worthy scenery, the majority of tourists only make fleeting day trips to Lauterbrunnen, contributing minimally to the local economy. In response, the village is considering imposing a £4.33 entry fee, applicable even to those arriving by car, reports the Express.

This move mirrors Venice's earlier initiative, where a £4.30 "tourist tax" was levied on short-term visitors, effective until May 5 and on weekends up to July 14. Venice made history as the first city to introduce such a charge, aiming to curb the overwhelming crowds during peak seasons.

Last month, a protest against this controversial decision took place in Venice, leading to violent clashes between the demonstrators and the police. It's believed that the tax could significantly reduce the estimated 30 million visits made to Venice each year.

"The exception would be guests who have booked an offer such as a hotel or an excursion or who arrive by public transport," stated Lauterbrunnen's Mayor Karl Napflin.

Random checks will be conducted in the village to ensure compliance with the payment. However, further details on how the fee will be implemented are still needed, making it unlikely for it to be introduced this summer.

However, some are sceptical that the entry fee will effectively control visitor numbers, "...at least it could raise money that could be invested in measures to better manage visitor flows or capacities, or compensate for damages.Most tourism fees up to now don't really curb the numbers. But they give some leeway when it comes to managing tourism development," commented Fabian Weber, a researcher into tourism at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

This wasn't the first village in the area to grapple with the challenges of excessive tourism. Iseltwald found itself overwhelmed after becoming a hotspot for fans of the Netflix hit, 'Crash Landing on You', in 2022.

Reportedly, up to 12 coaches full of tourists would arrive daily, only to depart having spent very little. In response, the village introduced a selfie tax for visitors, charging around £4.

"Platforms such as Airbnb are not just increasing accommodation capacity but are also changing the morphology of a city. In other words, they are changing the way a city develops and is structured," commented Sina Hardaker, an economic geographer at the Julius Maximilian University of Wurzburg.

The surge of social media has fuelled a craze among a new generation to snap selfies against backdrops of iconic art, architecture, or natural wonders that become internet sensations.

As per the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism in 2023 concluded at 88 percent of the pre-pandemic figures, with about 1286 million overnight stays recorded. Global tourism is on track for a complete rebound from the pandemic's impact this year, with early projections suggesting a two percent increase over the 2019 numbers in international tourist arrivals.

Hence, the adverse effects of overtourism are set to continue sparking debate.