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Swiss village Lauterbrunnen considers entry fee to curb overtourism

The Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, tucked into a picturesque Alpine valley of waterfalls and snowy peaks, is considering charging day-trippers a fee to visit in an effort to curb overtourism. Photo courtesy of Halsteadk/Wikimedia Commons
1 of 2 | The Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, tucked into a picturesque Alpine valley of waterfalls and snowy peaks, is considering charging day-trippers a fee to visit in an effort to curb overtourism. Photo courtesy of Halsteadk/Wikimedia Commons

May 20 (UPI) -- Another European city, tired of being overrun by tourists, could follow Venice's lead and charge a fee to visit in an effort to thin crowds during the peak summer travel season.

The Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, tucked into a picturesque Alpine valley of waterfalls and snowy peaks, has created a group to find new ways to curb overtourism. One measure under consideration is to charge guests visiting for the day five Swiss francs or $5.50, according to the Berner Zeitung.

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Lauterbrunnen, which is in the Bernese Oberland, has become increasingly popular and now finds itself inundated by tourists who bring added traffic, trash and higher costs, according to Swiss Info.

"We feel like employees in an amusement park," Lauterbrunnen priest Markus Tschanz told Swiss public radio last year, as many blame the increased tourism on social media's thirst for selfies.

"Lauterbrunnen definitely has an overtourism problem," said Jürg Stettler, head of the Institute of Tourism at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. "But it's not a result of their success but of their interesting 'Instagrammable' waterfall, Staubbach Falls."

Global overtourism is also being blamed on cheaper airfares and the growth of online booking platforms.

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"Platforms such as Airbnb are not just increasing accommodation capacity but are also changing the morphology of a city. In other words, they are changing the way a city develops and is structured," Sina Hardaker, an economic geographer at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, told the Swiss Horizons Magazine.

Last month, Venice became the first city in the world to launch a five euro or $5.35 entry fee for day-trippers during a 29-peak-day trial period through July 14. Anyone booking a stay in the city of canals would be exempt.

"We are not looking to collect money, tax people or introduce a police state," Venice's tourism head Simone Venturini told NBC News. "We are being democratic about it, but the important message is: 'Please if you are a day-tripper, choose another day.'"

If Lauterbrunnen follows Venice's lead, the village's mayor, Karl Näpflin, said an app on smartphones would make it easy for day-trippers to pay the entry fee.

"The exception would be guests who have booked an offer such as a hotel or an excursion or who arrive by public transport," Näpflin said, adding that any fee would not be introduced by this summer.

"It's very challenging to implement such an entry fee in a public space such as a village or valley. We don't have much experience and we don't know if it works," said Fabian Weber, a tourism researcher at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

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"My assumption is that it would probably not have a huge impact on the numbers of tourists, but at least it could raise money that could be invested in measures to better manage visitor flows or compensate for damages."

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