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Study: Annual card boosts visits to Finnish museums by one third

The pass provides entrance to over 300 museums throughout the country for a year.

Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

A new poll assessing the Museum Card, a pass with an annual fee that allows people to visit hundreds of museums in Finland on an unlimited basis, suggests that the card has been successful in improving museum visitor numbers and revenue. Finnish museums that are a part of the card's network have reported record visitor numbers every year since the Museum Card was introduced in 2015.

The Museums Association-commissioned study of the Museum Card's performance determined that museum attendance improved by roughly a third for museums accepting the card.

A poll with over 13,000 respondents found that people without a Museum Card visited a museum once or twice a year on average, compared to people with the card who reported an average of seven museum visits. Several Museum Card holders even reported frequenting museum exhibitions more than 10 times a year.

"Owning a Museum Card clearly has an influence on the museum attendance culture," says Juho-Petteri Huhtala, one of the researchers behind the results.

Improved revenue

The Museum Card was a hit in Finland as soon as it was launched, but many naysayers predicted that it would cut into museum profits. Researchers found that this was not the case.

Cardholders pay a yearly fee to use the Museum Card, and this means that they can walk into over 300 museums without paying an additional entrance fee. But the museums that are part of the network still receive compensation for every cardholder visit. Cardholders also tend to bring in more paying customers in their wake. More than half of the people that visited a museum by using their Museum Card reported arriving as part of group of two or more.

Respondents to the study estimate that they also spent about 10 or so euros on other museum services during their visit, in places such as the museum gift or coffee shop. This sum was the same for both cardholders and non-cardholders, but the poll indicated that Museum Card owners tended to spend money on the other services because they visited the museums more often.

"The study showed that the Museum Card brought the museums both direct and indirect benefits," Huhtala said.

From 5.2 to 7.1 million visitors

The Museum Card was launched in May 2015. Since that time, the museums that are part of the network have reported record visitor numbers every year. In 2015, 5.2 million people visited Finland's museums, while in the following year, this number grew to 6.6 million. In 2017 and 2018, the number rose to 7.1 million.

"We could justifiably talk about a 'Museum Card phenomenon'. People getting fired up about museums inspires others to hop on the bandwagon. Finland's museums are now sailing high," said Seppo Honkanen, the Museum Card's development director.

Figures show that there are 265,000 Museum Cards on the market, 185,000 of which are currently valid.

"About half of all registered museum visits are currently free, but the Museum Card specifically increases the number of paid museum visits as well," Honkanen said.

The 2019 Museum Card study was conducted by Aalto University in conjunction with the Nordic Institute of Business and Society think tank, with the support of the Finnish Museums Association.

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