Visitors and tourists gather by the Grand Canal during the Venice carnival on February 11, 2023. Image Credit: AFP file

PARIS: The UN’s cultural organisation said on Thursday it had stopped short of placing Venice, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, on its world heritage in danger list.

The Italian city has been in Unesco’s sights because of risk stemming from mass tourism and rising water levels, but at its annual meeting in Riyadh the agency decided against a downgrade.

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Unesco, the United Nation’s educational, scientific and cultural organisation, keeps the world heritage list, which it says is a reflection of the planet’s cultural and natural diversity.

The agency’s World Heritage Committee meets once a year to update it, and many countries consider inclusion on the list is crucial for tourism and the ability to get funding to preserve the sites.

Conversely, countries are eager to avoid being dropped from the list.

“The Committee has taken the decision not to include Venice on the list of World Heritage in Danger,” a UNESCO source told AFP.

The “in danger” qualification is the first stop towards exclusion from the list that features 1,157 sites, of which 900 are cultural, 218 natural and 39 mixed.

Venice is in danger from rising water levels, attributed to climate change, and excessive numbers of tourists, Lazare Eloundou Assomo, UNESCO’s Director of World Heritage, told AFP ahead of the Riyadh meeting.

Italian counter-measures were deemed “insufficient”.

Venice officials agreed Tuesday to test a fee on day tourists to the overcrowded historic centre.

The Venice city council voted in favour of a limited test, to begin next spring, of a long-debated ticketing system.

Critics, however, say it will do little to stem the hordes of tourists who descend each year.

Authorities have debated for years - without taking concrete action - over how best to regulate the millions of visitors to the famous watery city.

They flock there to see sights including St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge and its picturesque canals.