Representatives from the city of Venice, the Italian government, UNESCO and ICOMOS came together at UNESCO Headquarters on 2 October 2019 to discuss the ongoing challenges facing Venice and its surrounding lagoon – an iconic site whose status as a World Heritage property is in jeopardy. 

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987, Venice is threatened on several fronts – from overtourism, from damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships, including ones weighing over 40,000 tons, and from the potential negative effects of new developments. This, combined with the lack of an integrated management system for the site, have put Venice’s “Outstanding Universal Value”, the hallmark of every World Heritage property, in peril.

The meeting represented an opportunity for the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Municipality of Venice and the Permanent Delegation of Italy to update UNESCO and ICOMOS International on these issues, and to discuss Italy’s response to the last World Heritage Committee decision on Venice. In this decision, the World Heritage Committee warned that unless significant progress was made in the state of Venice’s conservation, the Committee would consider inscribing Venice on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Italy highlighted the actions it has taken in recent months, including the completion of the Water Plan for Venice, the development of a Climate Action Plan and Morphological Plan for the Lagoon of Venice, and updates to Venice’s Management Plan. A new timeline for the implementation of Venice’s Tourism Strategy, as well as information related to alternative large ship navigation routes within the lagoon, were also presented. The World Heritage Centre proposed that, as a case study, Venice could test UNESCO’s sustainable tourism tool within the property.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Italy noted that it stands ready to invite the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS, and the RAMSAR Convention to send an advisory mission to Venice between January and March 2020. Venice will be on the agenda of the next World Heritage Committee meeting in Fuzhou, China, which will take place from June to July 2020.

The World Heritage Centre continues to monitor the situation in Venice closely and remains vigilant in the face of ongoing threats to the site.