An Italian village in Puglia has started charging visitors an entry fee in a bid to attract tourists year-round.
Polignano a Mare in southern Italy has installed turnstiles and set a ticket price of €5 (£4.40) for entry to its cobbled streets, piazzas and terraces during the festive period, which are currently lit up by Christmas lights.
To justify the entry fee, visitors will get a bag of popcorn, doughnut, candy floss and a drink, with the idea being to encourage people to come in the off-season as well as the summer, according to local mayor Domenico Vitto.
“The aim is to attract tourists even during the winter months,” he told The Telegraph. ”We have big numbers of visitors during the summer but then it dwindles to almost nothing by October and the town is dead.
“We want to make it less seasonally dependent.
“With this initiative, shops, hotels and restaurants have remained open.
“Last weekend alone we had 30,000 visitors.”
Vitto has confirmed that residents “can come and go as they like and don’t have to buy the ticket".
During the lead up to Christmas and New Year, the village is illuminated by thousands of lights.
The ticketing initiative, which started earlier in November, will continue until 6 January.
However, not everyone’s a fan of the radical concept.
In a recently released statement, Confesercenti Terra di Bari, a local business association, said: “Installing turnstiles and charging people to enter one of the most famous historic villages in Italy is detrimental to what should be a public place.
“Turning the town into a sort of show business, as if it was a fun park for private use, is not a good idea. The town should be part of the cultural heritage of the whole world.”
Meanwhile music festival artistic director Cesare Veronico said: “The fundamental point is that you cannot restrict access to a public place, which everyone should be allowed to see.”
The village’s move to start charging in order to entice more tourists is at odds with other parts of Italy, where turnstiles and ticketing have been introduced instead to tackle overtourism.
Venice, for example, hit headlines in April 2018 when it installed temporary turnstiles to separate locals and visitors, with the latter prevented from using certain streets in a bid to disperse footfall over the busy bank holiday weekend.
However, protesters chanting “Free Venice” dismantled the check points a day after they were put up.
“We refuse the idea of having checkpoints to get into the city. We own our city,” said Marco Baravalle in a video later posted on social media. “It’s not the mayor who owns the city. It’s not the police or the tourists either.”
“Venice is dying,” he added. “The mayor putting in the turnstiles is demonstrating that he is giving up. He wants Venice to become a city with no inhabitants.”
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