I’ve always been a goal-setter. Didn’t always attain them, but that wasn’t the point. Striving for something better, something more, propelled me to make goals. Even if the goal was just surviving. Getting old is the ultimate goal.
Many people have a bucket list goal of getting to Europe, sometimes a specific country or two, or maybe the whole darn thing. We got a heaping helping of what it’s like to tour Europe post-pandemic last fall. Three weeks in Italy, six cities, countless kilometres by planes, trains, and buses. Maybe you or someone you know are planning a trip to Europe in the near future. Well, there will be changes, my friend. Cities big and small are getting fed up with droves of tourists that no longer ease off even in the cooler weather.
It’s too much of a good thing in Europe these days. Tourism is an important component of the economy but too many tourists deplete resources and they’re hard on the ancient infrastructure. You notice it when you’re there. I came away actually feeling sorry for the locals on Capris and in other areas. And I realized I was part of the problem.
In 1970, 5% of Americans had a passport. Now, almost half of them do. Three-quarters of Canadians have a passport and 11% are citizens of another country besides Canada. We are nations of travelers.
Some of the Changes for Tourists
In Italy, a new €5 charge will be imposed on visitors to Venice who can’t prove they’ve booked a hotel there. We stayed in nearby Mestre and would have been charged had the fee been in place last year. But honestly, €5 (approx. $7.30 CDN) isn’t much of a bite out of a travel budget. Venice is also working on banning tour groups of more than 25 people, and loudspeakers. Groups also won’t be allowed to stop on bridges, along narrow streets, or in passageways.
Florence has banned new Air Bnbs in an attempt to open up rental properties to locals. Portugal did the same thing for the whole country. But new rules don’t mean instant compliance. Toronto’s attempt to thrwart new short-term rentals is just inspiring people to use creativity to get around the restrictions. In Europe, the idea is to slow the steep hikes in rent, open up more rental properties to locals, and halt the outrageous growth in tourism. Portofino has enacted a bylaw to stop tourists from creating traffic jams by stopping for selfies on the coast.
“With fewer than one million inhabitants, Amsterdam attracts more than one million tourists on average per month.”Forbes
Spain’s Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is mulling over a tourist tax. In Dubrovnik, Croatia, they’ve put a luggage drop-off system in place to stop tourists from making noise by dragging wheeled suitcases along cobblestone streets. I’m fine with that, having lugged my belongings all over Italian cobblestones. It’s a workout for the arms and makes a heck of a racket in the wee hours. Amsterdam has voted to block cruise ships from entering its main port. This idea has been in play since 2016 and it will be a few more years before anything changes. Meantime, the capital city of the Netherlands is also clamping down on open marijuana use as it tries to overhaul its famous red-light district, which has become a blight for local residents.
A Biggie Coming in 2025
About a year from now, there’ll be another travel document that North Americans will need: ETIAS – European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It’s a three-year doc that accompanies the Canadian passport to VISA-exempt (EU) countries. It’s designed to provide an extra layer of security for participating countries, such as Italy, Sweden, Greece and Portugal. ETIAS was supposed to come into effect Jan 1, 2024, but like so many things, it got delayed.
If you visited Europe a decade or more ago, consider yourself lucky. You saw a different continent. We were fortunate to visit England and France around 2009 and we remember Paris being busy but not a crush of tourists. Covent Garden Market in London, England bustled, but not to the point that we wanted to flee, like we did on our recent visit to Rome. After three days of feeling a bit like cattle, I actively searched for someplace less busy, and we spent a day exploring incredible sites that aren’t as “touristy”. We had even considered skipping Rome altogether – but I’m glad we didn’t.
This isn’t meant to deter anyone from traveling and seeing what they long for. Just know before you go that it might be busier than you think. And some of the rules are getting tighter. I’m casually planning another major trip to a European country for 2025. Just me, one of my cousins, and a few million others who will probably come along!
On the subject of travel, I’m skipping out on work and home again for ten days! This time will include Gracefully and Frankly’s Facebook Live event on Jan 16th. Details HERE.