With over 50 million visitors and a combined revenue of almost 200 million euro (beating 2016’s takings by 20 million), 2017 was a record year for Italian museums. While certainly cause for celebration, Italy’s cultural heritage industry still lags decades behind should it want to function as a profitable business, according to Giuliano Volpe, president of High Council for Heritage and Landscape (MIBACT).
In comparison, the Louvre’s 8.6 million visitors (making it the first in the world) drew in 205 million euro that same year. This has led to speculation as to why sales are below international standards while visitor numbers are increasing, and the question of how does a museum that welcomes just over double that of the Uffizi Galleries receives five times its earnings?
Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt believes the key lies in the handling of merchandising and the museums’ additional services. In France, greater attention is dedicated to museum bookshops, in-house publishing, on-site tour guides and rentable audio guides.
This discrepancy has also been attributed to the regional management of Italian museums, in which directors traditionally weren’t concerned by visitor numbers and were reliant on the State. With a recent reform eliminating these posts and 80% of earnings remaining in the museums, the aim now is to create an integrated management system of museums on a national scale.
Despite shock numbers, comparing figures side-by-side isn’t wholly accurate, since France’s centralised mindset, which directs all its resources to the Louvre and its 33 state museums, is unlike the handling of the 450 institutions across Italy.