In late 2015, reports emerged that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had written to the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, expressing concern about the 'absence of a tourist strategy' in the historic Italian city, as well as reservations about a number of recent and proposed developments. This echoed the dismay felt by many residents and activists over the impact of mass tourism which had intensified during the past three decades. Emblematic of this problem were the large coachloads of 'click and run' tourists who only stopped briefly at the most popular attractions for a few photos and a gelato. The pressure on sensitive cultural assets was the most obvious issue. However, high living costs and reduced amenity were forcing residents, including many traditional artisans, from central Florence while private companies were taking over historic properties for commercial purposes. Nardella was determined to preserve the city's unique heritage but, at the same time, knew Florence relied on tourism for economic sustenance and also needed new infrastructure to prosper into the future. This case can be used to discuss issues relating to sustainability and planning, economic benefits and costs, and competing policy instruments. Although Florence is a city with unusual characteristics, there are many analogous situations around the world. At its heart, the case describes a public official facing limited resources and many constraints who has to deal with increasing numbers of 'users', some of whom incur much higher costs and bring far fewer benefits than others. This is a dilemma that is familiar to administrators across many domains and jurisdictions, and has broad applications for classroom use.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.