Debate: ‘Death in Venice: is tourism killing or saving the city?’

This panel discussion and public debate will be held on Tuesday 11 October, 7.45pm until 9.45pm, De Marchi Room, CIMBA/Filippin Institute, Via San Giacomo 4, Paderno del Grappa, 31017, Treviso, Veneto, Italy.

The debate has been jointly organised by the Consortium Institute of Management and Business Analysis (CIMBA), Iowa University and the Institute of Ideas.

The introductions and debate will be in English. This event is open to the public and free of charge. No tickets are required, but please RSVP to if you intend to come to assist organisationally.

Venice has become one of the most visited cities in the world, despite its famous subsidence problem. Yet while the city is not quite ready to sink into the lagoon in which it was built, there is growing apprehension that the city is drowning in tourists. As growing numbers from around the world have flocked into Venice, the number of residents in the historic city centre has fallen by almost two thirds over the last sixty years. In 2009, Newsweek predicted, ‘by 2030, there won’t be a single full-time Venetian resident left’. One Unesco director has complained that it has become ‘a museum city, no longer a residential one.’ Consequently, in June 2011, Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni approved a tax on tourists staying in the city and nearby.

For some, Venetians should stop grumbling and embrace this change. British economist John Kay suggests Mickey Mouse could be the city’s saviour, arguing Venice has always been an artificial, man-made environment rather than a ‘natural’ beauty, so it can happily transform itself into a Disney-like ‘Magic Kingdom’ dependent on tourist money without losing its authenticity. Others suggest the problem for locals is not tourism per se but the wrong kind of tourist: too many package holidays and cruise liners, rather than art fanatics and educational trips. Either way, it is argued, with the local (and controversial) petro-chemical industries closing down, leaving a city lacking many of the mod cons of contemporary urban living, Venice cannot survive unless it is able to adapt to a changing world.

Is Venice really dying from tourism? To what extent are these problems related to the clash between ancient heritage and the need for modern infrastructure? Should tourists be encouraged to adopt a sustainable etiquette, through pricing mechanisms, surveillance and diffusion of tourist flows? Would Venice benefit from transforming itself into an urban theme park, or would it lose its historic allure for more discerning visitors? Should more action be taken to ensure the ‘right’ kind of tourist comes to visit, or does the drowning city need every buoyant dollar or Yuan it can get?


Vincenzo Casali
Architect; vice-president, Venetian social forum, 40xVenezia.
Vincenzo Casali is a visual artist and architect. His Venice based practice Vincenzo Casali Studio specializes in urban design projects ranging from footbridges and pedestrian walks to auditoriums – using unconventional forms and employing traditional materials to impart a strong identity to these focal elements in public spaces. The office also designs exhibitions installations including national pavilions in the Venice Art Biennale and monographic shows both in Italy and abroad. As an artist, he has created indoor and outdoor installations in which he investigates the rapport between space and the work of art. His architecture is characterized by its clean line and precise imagery.

Jane da Mosto
Scientific advisor, The Venice in Peril Fund.
After working in London in venture capital and in Milan at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (environmental economics), Jane da Mosto settled in Venice in 1995 when she married a Venetian, and has since had 4 children while also working variously including as a consultant on several European DG Environment projects, as Coordinator of the Scientific Advisory Board for Agenda 21 on behalf of Venice Town Council, for CNR (National Research Council) on climate change, as a researcher at CORILA (university consortium for coordinating research connected with safeguarding Venice and the Lagoon), occasional lecturing and as curator of a section of the British Pavilion dedicated to the Venice Lagoon for the XII Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2001 Jane became scientific advisor to the Venice in Peril Fund, which continues to support much of the work she does. In one way or another, Jane has been exploring the challenges of “sustainable development” within the boundaries of the best available knowledge and the public understanding of science and how best to broaden society’s capacity to appreciate the issues and make the inevitable choices. Venice’s exceptional history – which deserves an equally remarkable future – and the city’s closeness to the elements, situated as it is at the boundaries between the sea and freshwater systems, earth and sky, makes it an ideal laboratory for ideas and many critical phenomena are exposed, magnified and at close range.

Nathalie Salas
Marketing consultant and hotel developer, Veneto region, Italy.
Nathalie has 11 years experience in the marketing and communications field within the investment and private banking industry. Nathalie was a marketing consultant advising companies in the Middle East on marketing and branding strategies. Prior to that, she worked for various global private and investments banks in Dubai and London. She is now living in Italy to develop her first luxury boutique hotel and spa in the Veneto region. Nathalie is a qualified Chartered Marketer from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a current MBA candidate at the Glion Institute of Higher Education, Switzerland.

Dr Dominic Standish
Lecturer, sociology of management and journalism, University of Iowa (US) and CIMBA (Italy); author, Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and reality (forthcoming).
Dominic teaches the sociology of management and journalism at the University of Iowa’s site in Italy (CIMBA), near Venice. His principal research interest is environmentalism. He has published chapters in books in the UK and Italy about Venice’s environmental problems. In 2012, his book Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality will be published by the University Press of America. Dominic will be presenting a paper to the Venice UNESCO conference titled ‘The Future of Venice and its Lagoon in the Context of Climate Change’, 13-15 November 2011.
Dominic’s research has also explored the impact of environmental movements on nuclear power in Italy. He presented his research on how debates about climate warming have influenced this topic during ‘The Politics of Climate Policy 1’ panel at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference in Potsdam, Germany (September 2009). His findings were also recently published in ‘Nuclear Power and Environmentalism in Italy’, Energy and Environment, Vol. 20, No.6, 2009. Dominic has written in numerous journals, magazines, newspapers and for websites. Specifically, he wrote a column for the Italy Daily section of theInternational Herald Tribune for two years and frequent news analysis articles for the Italian news agency, ANSA. In addition, Dominic has appeared on radio and television programmes. Dominic is British and lives near Venice, Italy, with his Italian wife, Laura, and two sons, Riccardo and Steffan. Dominic’s website and blog about Venice’s problems, challenges and improvements can be found at:

Alessandro M. Tedesco
Business consultant, hotel and tourism sector, Venice.
Alex has extensive experience in hotel interior fit-out sector in Europe and the Middle East. He has also been involved in two successful start-ups; one in luxury furniture and, the other related to a multi-purpose tourism project in Venice. Alex was born in Lido, Venice and lived in the city for 25 years. He now lives in Monfumo, Treviso.


Peter Smith
Director of tourism, St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London. Peter is currently researching the sociology of volunteer tourism, with particular emphasis on the perceptions of development within the alternative tourism sector. Before embarking on an academic career Peter worked in the independent travel sector for many years. He is a robust defender of mobility in all its forms. Peter regularly appears in the media and at public events discussing travel, tourism and mobility related issues. He has spoken at and participated in debates for a range of organisations including: BBC London News, the Royal Institute of British Architects, The Cheltenham Science Festival, Clarke Mulder Purdie, University of Brighton, London Metropolitan University among others.

This event is sponsored by the Institute of Ideas in partnership with CIMBA/Iowa University and will be introduced by Alan Miller, as a guest representative of the Institute of Ideas Organising Committee.

Alan Miller is a director, author, producer and co-director of New York Salon, a forum for inter-disciplinary, open debate. He is also the co-founder of the Truman Brewery, a 10-acre site in London’s East End. The Truman Brewery now has over 200 companies, ranging from recording studios to art galleries, entertainment spaces, restaurants, bars, cafes, fashion and retail. It has helped regenerate a significant area of London, creating a new cultural quarter. Alan is also a film director and has had his work broadcast internationally, with a specialisation in music videos and live events. He writes on various cultural issues for several publications, including spiked, Culture Wars, and The Huffington Post.

Looking forward to your participation in this exciting event.

2 Responses to “Debate: ‘Death in Venice: is tourism killing or saving the city?’”
  1. sharmini says:

    A place can’t stay untouched for ever without turning into a museum and that may result in a different sort of death. I am more familiar with the Brick Lane that Alan Miller has helped transform. I remember the older, quieter, some would say less attractive Brick Lane with it’s more traditional Bengali shops and cafes where the National Front also maintained a sporadic presence. Certainly, it had a particular charm and frisson that I miss but I guess the old Jewish community also have a nostalgia for the days when it was mainly a Jewish quarter and before that there were the French Huguenots. Each new wave changed the place. It isn’t the place in which I prefer to hang out these days. It reminds me more and more of Camden but it is still vibrant; and places like the Truman Brewery attract a younger, more diverse clientele. It has been reborn with a new makeover and the previous layers of it’s changing histories can still be discovered in the facades of buildings, the Whitechapel Gallery and other local sites. New memories are being made that will become the history of the next generation. What do we want to keep of Venice? That has to be decided and a judgement made on it’s worth.

    • Dominic Standish says:

      I enjoyed your remarks about the East End of London. I agree there is always a sense of loss as cities change, which can combine improvements and replacing positive aspects of community. You describe this very well in the Brick Lane area. I recently wandered round there for a day with my family & friends Bob & Gerry (who I think you know). They explained how the area has transformed and confirmed many of your points.
      In Venice, it is true that some communities have disintegrated as residents have moved out, but there are now fewer slums and less overcrowding than during the last century. There are still many improvements that need to be made to modernize housing for local residents. I think it is better to focus on these positive changes than lamenting the loss of past communities, especially as many former residents have moved to better accommodation.

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