Going digital can help museums boost profile and income

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Museum gallery art

Cutbacks and an evolving backdrop are forcing museums to adapt their business models. The digital channel, used in a smart and effective way, can help them boost visitor numbers and thus their own income.

Going digital, though, is no longer a matter of choice - it is necessary in order to play into changing consumer demands. ABN AMRO presents these conclusions in its report 'A digital agenda for more visitors and own income' (in Dutch only: Digitalisering kan musea helpen bereik en inkomsten te vergroten), which has been published today.

Museums have to review their strategy due to cutbacks

In 2012, the total budget of Dutch museums ran to over 850 million euros. Museums brought in 325 million, and over 500 million came from subsidies. But these subsidies are no longer to be taken for granted. ABN AMRO is expecting continued high pressure on subsidies from local government in particular. On the other hand, there has been an increase in the number of visitors. In 2013 museums attracted over 9.7 million visitors, up 1.7 million on the preceding year - that equals a 21% increase.

This was partly thanks to include the reopening of the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. However, this extra income from growing numbers of visitors is not sufficient to offset the decline in subsidies. This leaves museums no other choice than to review their business models. ABN AMRO does expect an uptick of gifts and bequests to museums of 4% to 5% a year on average. In the bank’s view, therefore, museum managers would do well to focus more in their fund-raising efforts on the tax advantages of gifting to museums.

Strong digital agenda leads to more visitors and own income

Following the example of the travel sector, museums can facilitate their visitors’ check-in by adopting a clever digital strategy. Such a strategy allows museums to spread visitor numbers more evenly, which leads to shorter queues during peak hours and more visitors during off-peak hours. Also, ABN AMRO observes that digitisation opens opportunities to offer personalised museum tours. Encouraging visitors to look at special extra content and images and to share them on social media can do a lot to boost the profile of museums and, ultimately, their income.
 
And there’s more, as Stef Driessen, from ABN AMRO's Sector Banker Leisure, explains. "The digital domain offers great potential to generate more visitors and own income. For example, augmented reality can be used to enrich the visitor experience with virtual information. In the future, with virtual reality glasses, you will theoretically be able to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris and the Guggenheim in New York - all in one day, from your own home. This dramatically increases the number of people that museums can reach out to, and convince to pay them a real visit."

Museums contribute significantly to the economy

With many visitors from inside and outside the Netherlands, prestigious museums give their region an economic shot in the arm of several millions of euros annually. The 15 most visited museums make up 35 per cent of total museum visits in the Netherlands. For companies looking to establish themselves in the Netherlands, the presence of cultural amenities such as museums is an important condition. In addition, traveling museum exhibitions and international art loans can play a role in facilitating diplomatic and business relationships.

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