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  • Subject area(s): Hospitality
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Description of the background and current situation

The situation in Venice is very clear, change is needed in order to save the city. Over the years, multiple threats have been identified throughout different research studies, threats such as; the rising water, the cruise ships, mass tourism, the local residents fleeing the city and all the negative impacts that these threats have on the city and its culture (Fletcher & Da Mosto, 2004). In the past, but also at present, the question has always been how can we safe Venice? but after the fieldtrip in Venice last November, I am not convinced that this is the right question to be asked.

Plenty of promising approaches to safe Venice have not been adopted (Fletcher & Da Mosto, 2004; Ammerman & McClennen, 2000). The only question that remains from that for me is; why? Why are there so many research projects and studies around how to safe and protect Venice as a city and in more particular, how to safe its beautiful and unique culture, but nothing concrete has been implemented so far? (Fletcher & Da Mosto, 2004).

The local authorities in Venice have seem to adopted a certain response-style; everything is in the process and it is all a matter of finding the right balance (UNESCO Venice office, 2016). But when the situation continues like this, where more time is spend on being in the process of finding the right balance, than to actually take action and take matters into own hands, it is very likely that it is going to be too late to safe Venice.

1.2 Are we asking the right question?

At this moment most research is focussed on how to safe Venice, but is that the right question to ask? How can we safe a city, for which so many different approaches and opportunities have been identified, but where no one is making an effort to step up and implement them? (UNESCO Venice office, 2016). This makes me wonder whether or not we might be asking the wrong question at this moment. It seems to me, due to the lack of implementation of easily handed approaches and solutions, that a better question would be does Venice want to be saved?

Do the local authorities and the Italian authorities have an interest in saving Venice? And what about the local residents, do they want to safe their city? For me it seems that the  major problem is a lack of responsibility, a lack of will, a lack of urge, a lack of motivation and definitely a lack of cooperation.

In my opinion, the question of how can we safe Venice? completely depends on whether or not Venice wants to be saved and this paper will mainly focus on that issue. After the identification of the research objective and questions, there will be a more in-depth look on the responsibility problem and on the different causes of this problem. In the end a conclusion will be drawn and SMART-formulated advices will be provided.

Chapter 2: Objective and research questions

The objective of this paper is to get an insight and understanding of why the available approaches and opportunities are not implemented by the local authorities, in order to provide advices and recommendations on how the local authorities can be motivated to step up to the Italian authorities and take their responsibilities in order to safe Venice.

It is important to get this insight and understanding of why the available approaches are not implemented by the local authorities, because without this understanding, it is impossible to identify how they can be motivated to save the city of Venice in the future. Is there a lack of responsibility, of ability, will, urge, motivation and cooperation? What causes these different lacks? And how can we motivate the local authorities to step-up to the Italian authorities and to work for better cooperation with them and the local residents?

This last element is identified as the central question of this paper: How can we motivate the local authorities to step-up to the Italian authorities and to have a better cooperation with them, with the local residents and a better cooperation among the different local authorities themselves?

In order to answer this central question, it is important to first get an understanding and answer to the different sub-parts of this central question:

1. Identification of the lack of responsibility, ability, will, urge, motivation and cooperation.

2. What causes these different lacks?

3. Are there comparable cases where there is good governance for the protection of a city?

Chapter 3: Explanation and theory

3.1 Identification of the problems

The case of Venice reminds me of a story that my father once told me. It was about a drowning person, just lying there in the water. Lifeguards and rescue teams were already present, the Coast Guard came to have a look and even the air force was flying over the sea by helicopter. They all have the resources and knowledge to save the drowning person, but they decided to all just stand there and watch how this person drowns. The drowning person could have been saved easily, the authorities that were present could have joined their forces; their available resources and knowledge. However, they decided to just stand there, without acting, without trying, waiting for someone to take the responsibility or initiative.

That situation reminds me of Venice. The local authorities have the resources and knowledge to save the city and are even handed some of the most promising approaches and opportunities to save the city. However, just like in the case of the drowning person, they decide not to act, not to implement anything and thus, they are not trying to save the city.

Lack of responsibility

The lack of responsibility is something I have noticed and experienced multiple times during the fieldtrip in Venice. For example; during the meeting at the UNESCO Venice office, the speakers constantly stated that they are not responsible for protecting and maintaining the cultural heritage of the city. They are just in Venice to advice and will not intervene in the other local and Italian authorities their practices, even though there are many threats and harms against both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the city (UNESCO Venice office, 2016). Then there is the Mobility Office of Venice, another authority that is lacking to take responsibility. During this meeting, the two speakers have mentioned several times, up to nine times to be precise, that certain tasks do not belong to their responsibility, but fall under other local authorities their duties (Mobility office Venice, 2016).

Lack of ability or will

The book “The Science of saving Venice” by Fletcher and Da Mosto is the result of a three-year research project and identifies many problems concerning Venice. One of the issues they discuss is that most people in Venice do not have the ability and knowledge to solve problems. One can think of knowledge such as; solving the water and flooding issues or preventing the damage of the historic buildings. Besides that, the book mentions that it is not directly within the power of the people in Venice to stop the local residents fleeing the city, a certain sense of disempowerment has been created here. Another important and noticeable statement in the book is that many people in Venice do not have the “will” to use their “ability” (Fletcher & Da Mosto, 2004).

Lack of urge

Despite multiple protests of local residents and many research studies explaining the urge to take action in order to safe Venice, nothing much is done. Maybe the local authorities in Venice do not take their responsibility, because there is a lack of feeling the urge to act. The problems in Venice have been muddling along for quite some years now, but nothing serious has been implemented, but there have not been any major consequences either. At this moment, Venice faces multiple threats, but not of such an imminent level that it requires immediate action, that people feel the urge to act now. The authorities in Venice identify that action should be taken, but in the meantime they continue to postpone everything and push it forward; especially towards others (UNESCO Venice office, 2016; Mobility office Venice, 2016).

Lack of motivation

Could it be that the local authorities are not motivated enough, because they hardly receive any money to work with from the Italian authorities? As both the UNESCO office and the Mobility office have mentioned, the Italian government does not provide enough money for the local Venetian authorities to work with. This might be a factor that causes the lack of motivation to act (UNESCO Venice office, 2016; Mobility office Venice, 2016). Maybe the lack of motivation exists because the local authorities are afraid that they will not receive enough credit for their work or that another authority will get all the honour and credit for the work they have accomplished together. Why is none of the Venetian authorities motivated enough to start acting? Why are they all just standing there, without action, without trying, just like in previously given story about the drowning person?

Lack of cooperation

One of the most important questions that remains for me is; why are tasks and decisions constantly passed on to other people, but is no one making an effort to work together? An example of this is something I have seen during the fieldtrip in Venice. It concerns the protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, which should be one of their key tasks. However, they constantly shear this task in the direction of the Italian government and do not put any effort in organising some sort of meeting where they can come together, unite their forces and cooperate to solve the problem (UNESCO Venice office, 2016).

This does not only apply for the local and Italian authorities, but for every other important stakeholder in Venice, such as the local residents of the city. These residents are fleeing towards the mainland in huge numbers, they organise protests and are not happy and satisfied in the city. I believe that they have legitimate reasons for this, but then again, no one takes the effort to hear them out, listen to their ideas and maybe even work together in solving some part of the problem.

What is it in Venice that everyone is constantly trying to operate on its own, while together they can accomplish much more and together they might even be capable of implementing some effective  measures. During a trip to Riviera de Brenta we listened to a speech of the Major of Comune di Campagna Lupia and it was noticeable that he actually works on getting all the different authorities and stakeholders together and involved. He even makes them want to cooperate to get the best result (Unione dei Comuni, 2016). Why is Venice not following this as an example?

3.2 What causes these different  lacks?

Whatever the reason, when people fail to take their responsibility, it is very likely that they will fail in their jobs, fail in their teams and fail to grow and succeed as individual human beings. All of this makes it important to address the issue of taking responsibility. People seem to avoid their responsibilities for reasons ranging from a simple fear of failure all the way to a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the problem (Waitley, D., 2016).

What can we identify as common causes of a responsibility lack, a lack of will and a lack of motivation? We can think of things such as being afraid to fail, not being good enough, losing face, disinterest or receiving too much criticism (Solomon, L., 2015). Other things that could cause these different lacks, which I have identified during the meetings in Venice are; not having enough employees to work with, not having enough money available, not enough knowledge, skills and resources to find appropriate solutions or simply having the wrong people in the wrong positions (UNESCO Venice office, 2016; Mobility office Venice, 2016).

In order for people to be able to successfully take their responsibility, they need to start with reviewing their practices; identify the ones that make you unhappy and note what your contribution is to those practices. Once this is all identified, it is likely that employees are more willing and motivated to work on problems, since they have identified exactly what the problem is (Solomon, L., 2015). An example of Solomon his reviewing approach: “I am unhappy with the lack of trust within the team” – my contribution: ”Do I make it safe for people to offer their ideas and say what they really think? Am I willing to be imperfect, or am I the only one with the right answer? What am I doing to extend trust?”. Another example: “I am unhappy with the communication in my team” –

my contribution: “What am I doing to model the behaviour I want? Have I established a pattern of communication that activates the best performance within the team??” (Solomon, L., 2015).

When there is a problem in Venice and the local authorities are asked or confronted individually about it, they each point the finger at one of the other local authorities, their teammates, instead of admitting that it was their own procrastination that caused them to fail. This behaviour is likely to have a significant negative impact on the other local authorities in Venice, causing them not willing and motivated to work together. Just hoping that the problem goes away or trying to remove these people from their jobs, are no ideal options and the situation might even get worse. Instead, the local authorities in Venice should aim to provide their employees with the skills and resources they need in order to successfully perform their jobs. Once this is provided, it is more likely that people step up to take the responsibility for their own actions and decisions (Waitley, D., 2016).

A theory of Perceived Responsibility and Social Motivation by Weiner (2015) from the University of California, Los Angeles states that the primary causes of failure are a lack of ability and effort. These causes are linked with stability and control; stability relates to depression affects and control relates to particular feelings and behaviours. According to this paper, a lack of good and supportive control from the top may cause the feeling of inability and not being worth the effort. I believe this is somehow what I have seen and experienced in Venice. Because there is a lack of responsibility and control from the Italian authorities, the local Venetian authorities are lacking to put in any effort.

3.3 What can motivate the local authorities to step-up to the Italian authorities?

In order to motivate the local authorities to step-up to the Italian authorities and to have a better cooperation between them, the local residents, but also among the local authorities themselves, it is important that the local authorities of Venice review their practices. As mentioned in the previous sub-chapter, they need to identify the ones that they are unhappy with and note down their own contribution to these practices. Once this is identified, it is easier for the employees of the local authorities to be more willing and motivated to work on the problems, since they now know exactly what the problems are (Solomon, L., 2015).

After all the practices have been reviewed and the problems have been identified, it is time for the local authorities to provide their employees with the skills and resources they need in order to successfully perform their jobs. Once the local authorities in Venice have these skills and resources at their disposal, they can also start to share their knowledge and resources with the other local authorities in Venice (Waitley, D., 2016). One of the most useful and needed resources for the local authorities is the availability of money, however it needs to be identified how much money they exactly need and expect from the Italian government. Another element here would be the division of the responsibility; every employee needs to know exactly what he or she is responsible for and which tasks come with their responsibility.

Besides that, in order to motivate the local authorities, I think it is important to have someone responsible for organising and leading the meetings between the different local authorities. Someone that invites them and steers them in the right direction. This person will convince the local authorities of the usefulness of cooperation and makes them realise that they cannot solve all problems by themselves, but that together, with the other authorities, their chance of succeeding is much more likely. It is also of great importance that the urgency of acting now is stressed, because when no one starts stepping-up, it will be too late to safe Venice. We need to let the local authorities know that they are not alone, but that they are all together in achieving the same goal; saving Venice. Knowing that you have some by your side may make the local authorities more comfortable in their position and more motivated to show themselves from their best side to the other local authorities.

In order for the local authorities to have a better cooperation with the local inhabitants of Venice, they need to start realising that their help could be of great use. The local residents experience the Venetian problems from a different perspective, this could contribute to finding more suitable and customized solutions. To stimulate the cooperation between the local authorities themselves, but also the cooperation between them and the Italian authorities, it is necessary to identify what they expect from each other. Once this is known, it will be easier to put these elements up for discussion, but at the same time, they already know what they have and what they need.

In my opinion, only when they get all of this sorted and done, we can start to acknowledge that Venice really wants to be helped and be saved. And as mentioned before, only when they “want” to be saved, we can continue to look at “how” we can safe Venice.

3.4 Example of good governance and cooperation for protection of a city

Why is Amsterdam a good city to compare with Venice? mainly because they are experiencing some of the same problems in terms of the cruise ships, tourism streams and the involvement of local authorities, but both cities are handling them completely different.

Amsterdam is a great example when it comes to the protection of the city against mass tourism. Unlike Venice, the city of Amsterdam is currently working on banning cruise ships that wish to arrive at the Passenger Terminal at the Piet Hein Kade, in the city centre of Amsterdam. According to the new city councillor, there is no room for large cruise ships at the heart of the city centre and there is no space for all the touring cars lining up to transfer passengers from the port to Dam Square or the Red Light District. As the councillor mentions: “there is just no room for it, the city centre must be relieved”. The plan is to divert cruise ships to the ports of Sloterdijk, Ijmuiden and Rotterdam (Ollongren, K., 2016). An addition to this plan is made by the city councillor on the 20th of December 2016. The plan is to also ban the small public and private boats from the canals in the Red Light District, because they cause nuisance for the local residents in that area, especially at night. With this accepted measure Amsterdam responds to the wishes of the local residents (Ollongren, K. 2016).

The city of Amsterdam is also working on declining the tourism streams in the Red Light District, the P.C. Hoofdstraat, the Kalverstraat, the Jordaan (9 straatjes) and Dam Square. The city guards and law enforcement are currently closing streets with fences when they become too crowded. Once they are closed, they put up large signs to divert people in different directions (Van der Laan, E.E., 2016). I had never experienced this before, but on the 3rd of December I was in Amsterdam, on the Kalverstraat and suddenly the city guards were closing the street with fences. I was under the impression that something had happened, but the guard said it was new city policy, a precautionary measure, to manage the tourism streams in the city.

Next to that, Amsterdam is changing the tourist tax. At this moment overnight stayers are paying 5%, from 2017 on, the city will have two different types of taxes; 6% inside the centre and 4% outside of the centre. This will not encourage every tourist to stay outside of the city centre, but it will generate a higher tax income for the city, which will mainly be invested in the infrastructure of the city (Corduwener, M., 2016). Where in Venice the revenue from the tourist tax mainly disappears (most likely in the pocket of the Italian authorities), the city of Amsterdam uses the money to invest in areas that will not only benefit the city and its inhabitants, but which also creates an advantage for the tourism industry.

In order to successfully accomplish all of this, the municipality of Amsterdam is working together with the province of Noord-Holland, the DMO IAmsterdam, the port authority, the NS (national railway of the Netherlands) and WIJAmsterdam (the local resident association) (Ollongren, K., 2016).  Venice could definitely see and follow Amsterdam as an example cooperation wise, because they involve the different authorities in their decision making and they are all working together to make the city of Amsterdam a better place. No one is putting responsibilities in someone else’s hands, they all stand up together, work together and consult each other on best practices for the city of Amsterdam.

Chapter 4: Conclusion

Tourism is an interesting industry to study and work in and it hurts my heart that in such a beautiful and special city as Venice, no one takes the initiative to step up and save the city. It makes me both angry and sad to realise that all the effort that has been put into research and studies, has all been for nothing if nothing changes in the city on the short term. The authorities in Venice need a wake-up call, there is a need for someone to tell them the harsh truth, in such a way that they cannot longer ignore it.

In my opinion, there is not only a lack of collaboration between the local and Italian authorities, but also a lack of interest in saving the city. During the fieldtrip in Venice, everyone has mentioned the importance of saving the city, but they all seem to avoid their responsibilities in doing so. They just put it in someone else’s hands and stop caring about it. It is time for the local authorities in Venice to start acting like responsible people, like adults, instead of running away and closing their eyes like a little child. If it continues like this, where no one makes an effort to do something about protecting and saving the city, Venice and its culture will be destroyed and with that, the authenticity and uniqueness of a very interesting city will get lost and that would be a real shame.

So how can we motive the local authorities to step-up to the Italian authorities and to have a better cooperation between them, the local residents, but also among the local authorities themselves? It is important that the local authorities of Venice review their practices; they need to identify the ones that they are unhappy with and note down their own contribution to these practices. Once this is identified, it is easier for the employees of the local authorities to be more willing and motivated to work on the problems. Besides that, it is time for the local authorities to provide their employees with the skills and resources they need in order to successfully perform their jobs. Once the local authorities in Venice have these skills and resources at their disposal, they can also start to share their knowledge and resources with the other local authorities in Venice. To stimulate the cooperation between the local authorities themselves, but also the cooperation between them and the Italian authorities, it is necessary to identify what they expect from each other. The local authorities of Venice need to start realising that the help of the local residents could be of great use. These local residents experience the Venetian problems from a different perspective, this could contribute to finding more suitable and customized solutions.

So are we asking the right question? Because we can only safe Venice when the city wants to be saved. I believe, that when Venice works on implementing the advices which are carefully written down in the next chapter, they show and put effort in wanting to be saved.  And when Venice wants to be saved, we can continue to look at how we can safe Venice.

Therefore I conclude that at this moment we are asking the wrong question. We first need to focus on the problems inside and between the different authorities of Venice, before we can start or go back to work on measures of how we can safe Venice.

Chapter 5: SMART-formulated advices

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. It is important that goals, as well as advices are SMART-formulated, because it makes them easier to accomplish and it guarantees that there has been a deep and serious thought process behind each of the advices (Top Achievement, 2015).

Specific: an advice that is specific formulated, has a greater chance of being accomplished than a general one. It is of great importance when setting a specific advice to answer the six “W” questions: who is involved? What do we want to accomplish? Where? When? Which requirements and constraints are there? And why? (specific reasons, purpose or benefits that come with this advice) (Top Achievement, 2015).

Measurable: an advice should contain concrete criteria in order to measure the process towards successfully implementing the advice. By measuring, one stays on track, reaches target dates and by that one will be more motivated to successfully fulfil the complete advice. In order to establish criteria, questions like; how much? And how many? should be asked (Top Achievement, 2015).

Attainable: once advices have been established, it is important to figure out ways to make them successfully come true. Attitudes, skills and financial capacity need to be developed in order to reach them. An advice can be successfully attained when a plan with different steps is created and a certain time frame is set to carry out those steps (Top Achievement, 2015).

Realistic: it is of great importance that the advice is realistic, in order for people to be both willing and able to work on it. The advice is probably realistic when one truly believes that it can be accomplished within the set time frame (Top Achievement, 2015).

Timely: as mentioned before it is important to set out a time frame. Without a time frame there is no sense of urgency and this is currently lacking in Venice as well (Top Achievement, 2015).

1. The first advice and point of action is to stress the urge to start acting now. This has to happen on the short-term, preferably within the coming two months. The authorities need to become aware that the problems in Venice need to be resolved quickly, the sooner the better, or it will have major consequences for the city and its future. Not only the cultural heritage will get lost, but also the uniqueness and magic of the city may disappear.

2. The second advice and point of action is to appoint a cooperation coordinator, someone who is responsible for organising, leading and steering meetings. Within the coming six months he or she will have to identify all the different local authorities of Venice and organise a meeting with them. It is important that this meetings starts with reviewing their practices as previously stated and they need to identify and put down in writing what the different local authorities want, need and expect from each other and they need to divide their responsibilities.

3. Once the local authorities have identified what they want, need and expect from each other and everyone is aware of their own responsibilities, the third advice I like to make is to organise a meeting between the local Venetian authorities and authorities such as the Veneto Region, but possibly also the city of Amsterdam and other authorities which are a great example of good practices. This advice is made because I think it is important for the local authorities in Venice to see for themselves how good practice and cooperation between authorities works. They cannot only use this as an example, but they will also be able to learn from them, ask questions and share experiences.

4. The fourth advice and point of action would be a meeting between the local authorities and important Venetian stakeholders. Not only the local inhabitants should be invited, but also major players in the transport, hotel and restaurant sector etcetera. This meeting will mainly about sharing ideas and opinions so the local authorities can incorporate these into their action plan.

5. Once all the previously points of action have been completed, the last point and maybe the most important advice will be to organise a meeting between the local authorities and the Italian authorities. I think the local Venetian authorities will need around a year to sort out all the previously mentioned advices and point of actions, so the meeting with the Italian authorities will be last in line, because it is of great importance that the local authorities are completely prepared and aware of what they want, need and expect from the Italian authorities.

Does this mean all problems in Venice will be solved? No, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. These advices and points of action will show that not only the local authorities in Venice, but also the major stakeholders and local inhabitants can unite their forces and cooperate to save the city of Venice.

And as mentioned before;

Only when Venice “wants” to be saved, we can continue to look at “how” we can safe Venice.

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