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Tourism From China Leads to Upturn in Russian Museum Visitors

It is a problem that many institutions in the West would like to have. Several museums and art galleries in Russia have faced such an influx of Chinese tourists that they are struggling to cope. Some Russians have noticed that the country’s major museums are now more likely to be visited by Chinese people who are holidaying in the country than a domestic audience. Although increasing visitor numbers is something that most museums would like to achieve, there is a physical limit to the amount of people any institution can cope with before the visitor experience is compromised. To some, this level of attendance is now close to being reached in Russia.

It has been established that in excess of 750,000 tourists from the People’s Republic headed to the Russian capital, Moscow, in 2018 alone. St Petersburg, often regarded as Russia’s second city, hosted approaching half a million Chinese tourists in the first part of the following year. In fact, the Chinese consul in the city said that it expected that well over a million – perhaps one and a third – tourists from China would have travelled to St Petersburg in 2019 by the time the official figures are calculated. Although it is true to say that not all Chinese tourists to Moscow and the Baltic coast city would head to a Russian museum or art gallery, the fact is that many of them do so these days. This is something that is causing the authorities in the country something of a headache.

A Logistical Effort

Due to the high numbers of Chinese visitors favouring Russia as a tourist destination in recent years – even outstripping previous favourites, such as the French capital, for example – the Russian authorities have taken steps to make it easier to process them all. One idea taken by the city authorities in St Petersburg, for example, has been to bring into play an electronic visa system for several countries including China.

In addition to these region-wide measures, some of the most popular visitor sites have had to take their own steps to deal with logistics of so many attendees. One such step came about at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo in St Petersburg after a very busy day last year. The powers-that-be at the museum put staff on an alert due to the number of visitors who wanted to gain access to the site, many of them Chinese tourists. According to the country’s Deputy Minister of Culture, Alla Manilova, this crisis day occurred toward the end of September in 2019. She said that it was not merely an issue associated with public safety – always a concern with large crowds, of course – but was down to the quality of museum visits.

“The ministry had been getting large numbers of mass complaints about Tsarskoye Selo,” Ms Manilova said. She said that mass complaints were made to her department about the museum because local residents were not even able to get into the museum because so many organised Chinese groups were being escorted into the palace.

Ticketing Arrangements

The Tsarskoye Selo is a state-run museum site which means that public interest in the way has been run has been consistent. According to its director, Olga Taratynova, the average waiting time for people to obtain tickets to get into the museum was approaching four hours at this time. As a result of the large number of visitors heading there, Ms Taratynova said that the palace museum had plans to bring in a timed ticketing system that would help to ease the pressure on the institution at peak hours. A similar measure was also announced by the city’s State Hermitage Museum.

Nevertheless, only a few days after announcing this system, which would rely on the personalised identification of ticket buyers, the Deputy Minister of Culture appeared to knock it down, stating that no such ‘restrictive measures’ would come into force. Some have seen this as the Ministry not wanting to make waves with its Chinese visitors and potentially arrest the tourism boom the country is enjoying. More recently, the Russian Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, went on to say that St Petersburg’s museums were merely suffering from ‘growing pains’ as a result of their success.

Tourism From China Leads to Upturn in Russian Museum Visitors

It is a problem that many institutions in the West would like to have but several museums and art galleries in Russia have faced such an influx of Chinese tourists that they are in danger of becoming oversubscribed. Some Russians have noticed that the country’s major museums are now more likely to be visited by Chinese people who are holidaying in the country than a domestic audience. Although augmenting visitor numbers is something that most public institutions around the world would like to achieve, there is a physical limit to the amount of people any museum or gallery can cope with before the visitor experience is compromised. To some, this level of attendance is now close to being reached in Russia.

It has been established that in excess of 750,000 tourists from the People’s Republic headed to the Russian capital, Moscow, in 2018 alone. St Petersburg, often regarded as Russia’s second city, hosted approaching half a million Chinese tourists in the first part of the following year. In fact, the Chinese consul in the city said that it expected that well over a million – perhaps one and a third – tourists from China would have travelled to St Petersburg in 2019 by the time the official figures are calculated. Although it is true to say that not all Chinese tourists to Moscow and the Baltic coast city would head to a Russian museum or art gallery, the fact is that many of them do so these days. This is something that is causing the authorities in the country something of a headache.

A Logistical Effort

Due to the high numbers of Chinese visitors favouring Russia as a tourist destination in recent years – even outstripping previous favourites, such as the French capital, for example – the Russian authorities have taken steps to make it easier to process them all. One idea taken by the city authorities in St Petersburg, for example, has been to bring into play an electronic visa system for several countries including China.

In addition to these region-wide measures, some of the most popular visitor sites have had to take their own steps to deal with logistics of so many attendees. One such step came about at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo in St Petersburg after a very busy day last year. The powers-that-be at the museum put staff on an alert due to the number of visitors who wanted to gain access to the site, many of them Chinese tourists. According to the country’s Deputy Minister of Culture, Alla Manilova, this crisis day occurred toward the end of September in 2019. She said that it was not merely an issue associated with public safety – always a concern with large crowds, of course – but was down to the quality of museum visits.

“The ministry had been getting large numbers of mass complaints about Tsarskoye Selo,” Ms Manilova said. She said that mass complaints were made to her department about the museum because local residents were not even able to get into the museum because so many organised Chinese groups were being escorted into the palace.

Ticketing Arrangements

The Tsarskoye Selo is a state-run museum site which means that public interest in the way has been run has been consistent. According to its director, Olga Taratynova, the average waiting time for people to obtain tickets to get into the museum was approaching four hours at this time. As a result of the large number of visitors heading there, Ms Taratynova said that the palace museum had plans to bring in a timed ticketing system that would help to ease the pressure on the institution at peak hours. A similar measure was also announced by the city’s State Hermitage Museum.

Nevertheless, only a few days after announcing this system, which would rely on the personalised identification of ticket buyers, the Deputy Minister of Culture appeared to knock it down, stating that no such ‘restrictive measures’ would come into force. Some have seen this as the Ministry not wanting to make waves with its Chinese visitors and potentially arrest the tourism boom the country is enjoying. More recently, the Russian Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, went on to say that St Petersburg’s museums were merely suffering from ‘growing pains’ as a result of their success.

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