ROME: The famous Italian city of Venice on Thursday launched a controversial new scheme to charge tourists €5 (US$5.43) if they only visit for the day. The move is aimed at helping to protect the canal city’s delicate infrastructure.

The fee will only be charged to visitors coming from outside Venice, during peak hours and during peak tourist season. If the trial is successful, it will be extended, officials said.

The northern Italian city is the first in the country to unveil such a plan.

Some advocacy groups have complained that the fee discriminates against low-income travellers and restricts freedom of movement.

However, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the fee is a way to fund preservation efforts in the city, through funds provided by those who do not support the city’s tax base either as residents or by staying in the city.

“We have a duty to preserve the great historic centres of the world,“ Brugnaro said at a press briefing.

The fee will be charged for 30 peak travel days between April 29 and July 14. Tickets must be bought online and anyone illegally entering the city without paying could be subject to a fine of €300.

The fee will not be charged to residents of the city, children under the age of 14, students, visitors staying in hotels in Venice or people coming for a sporting or work-related events. It will also not apply to those who arrive in the city after 4 pm or before 8.30 am.

The introduction of the fee comes after Venice banned large cruise ships from entering the city’s harbour in 2021 and 2022 as they are seen as a risk to the city’s infrastructure. However, there has been a backlash to this decision: Norwegian Cruise Lines has removed Venice from its itineraries for this year and next.

The city has also banned the use of loudspeakers for tour groups.

Venice is a World Heritage site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and is one of the most-visited cities in Europe. (1 euro = 1.09 US dollar) - Bernama, Xinhua