After a 15-month pause on international travel, Italy has begun reopening for tourists, reports The Associated Press. The country’s reopening plans are trying to do more than just promote public health, though; Italy is also trying to promote sustainable tourism.

  • These efforts hope to proactively address the issue of “over-tourism,” says CNN.

What is ‘over-tourism’?

‘Over-tourism’ refers to mass tourism that begins to have a harmful effect on the destination, says the AP.

  • Before the pandemic, Venice struggled with over-tourism. Over 25 million people visited Venice in 2019. Only two square miles in size, the hordes of tourists began to overwhelm the canal city and drive permanent residents to leave, says the AP.
  • Similarly, Florence contended with over-tourism before the pandemic with the sheer size of seasonal crowds making the area unpleasant for everyone, says CNN.

“At the height of the season, it wasn’t fun for a visitor, less so for a citizen, so now at the moment of reopening the city and country, we have to give a signal for a new kind of tourism,” Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence told CNN.

  • The pandemic-induced lockdown has given Italy a chance to rethink tourism and welcome tourists back differently, says The Local, an Italian newspaper.

How is Italy trying to combat over-tourism?

In Venice, local officials have proposed a new strategic plan for sustainable tourism in the city. The city hopes to limit day-tripping tourists with entry fees and increase permanent residents in the city by limiting private rentals and funding new local start-ups, says the AP.

  • Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the organization has recommended the city be added to the list of “World Heritage in Danger” sites, says the AP.

In Florence, efforts for sustainable tourism have taken a different approach. The Uffizi art gallery — one of Italy’s most visited museums — has started a new initiative: the Uffizi Diffusi or “Scattered Uffizi” project, says CNN.

  • The Uffizi will partner will regional galleries to disperse famous artworks into smaller areas to spread out tourist crowds and their spending.
  • Some of the artworks will be placed in locations significant to the piece, the artist or the story of the work, says CNN. The initiative hopes to make artwork an immersive cultural experience.
  • Some commentators think that the “scattered” concept could go global and be used in other regions to counter over-tourism.

“The reason for doing it now is that we need to transform tourism into something more ecologically and socially sustainable — and one that will be more fun, too,” Schmidt told CNN.