The gondola was a major means of transport in Venice for centuries. It was also the most common watercraft then. In those days, a gondola could be owned by four men. Three gondoliers also known as oarsmen and the fourth person who was stationed at the shore to manage the booking and administration of the Gondola. The gondolier profession is managed by a guild that issues about 400 licences. The licences are given after a training period of six months and an exam which is based on the knowledge of venetian history, landmarks, language skills and practical skills for handling the gondola in the narrow venetian canals. Gondoliers dress in a blue or red striped top, red handkerchief, a brimmed straw hat and dark pants. They can earn up to $150,000 per year.

In the United States, the gondolas are operated as tourist attractions in several cities including New Orleans, Charles river in Boston, New York Central Park and the Providence River in Rhode Island.  They are also operated in parts of California. Since the year 2011, Gondola national competitions have been held featuring top American gondoliers. These competitions involve short sprints and slalom races.