Rome, Italy is taking a tough stance on overtourism to decrease crowds and pollution

Map of zones for tourist buses in Rome, Italy
Zone C closed from tourist buses in Rome.

One of Europe’s (and the world’s) most popular city destinations, Rome in Italy is restricting tourist bus traffic to the city center and is increasing the prices coach tour companies must pay to bring tourists to the city. The new measures will be effective January 1st, 2019. The objective is to reduce air pollution, noise pollution, traffic, and crowds in the city center.

The transportation management organization of Rome has published the new restrictions, prices and changes to the bus routes and stops. Two things will directly affect tourists who are planning to visit Rome after January 1, 2019.

1.The ancient city center where Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman Forum, among other gems, are located is going to be completely closed for tourist buses. Buses will have designated stops outside the central zone where they must leave visitors, who probably will walk to the sights (city scooter, anyone). Vatican is located in a zone where buses are still allowed, but the number of coaches is restricted.

2. The prices coach tour companies have to pay to the city are doubling. All the buses powered by a diesel engine must pay 90% more in 2019 and 105% more in 2020. An off-the-cuff estimation tells me that about 99% of tourist buses have diesel engines. Electric buses get reduced rates. Who is going to pay the price hike? Tourists, of course.

Skift reported that the new rules will be effective from January 1st, because they have already been contested in court. Despite local hotels’ and restaurants’ opposition, Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi is happy: “We have, for the first time, approved a series of rigorous rules to protect monuments and valuable areas, to counteract pollution, and to increase road safety. Starting in January, we will have safer roads and a more liveable city.”

What the heck is Rome doing?

Rome’s administration is doing exactly what a report produced in 2017 by McKinsey & Company for World Travel and Tourism Council suggested.

First, the report discovered that Rome is the world’s most crowded destination, and its residents, culture, history and infrastructure are paying the price.

overcrowded tourist destinations, graph by El Pais
Graph: El Pais.

Second, the report proposes five measures to manage the overtourism problem. Rome is doing exactly what the textbook says: adjust pricing and limit access.

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