In 2023, attendance at heritage sites makes people forget about Covid

France. Attendance at museums and heritage sites was good in France in 2023, which made it possible to erase the poor figures of the Covid years. With an increase of almost 15% compared to 2022 for all of the top 30 sites, it exceeds that of 2019, the year before Covid, by more than 3%. However, we forget that 2019 was not an exceptional year, disrupted by the “yellow vest” movement at the start of the year, then the transport strikes at the end of the year. So it’s a good score, but it’s not exceptional.

The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris or the Château de Carcassonne [voir ill.] are very representative of the general evolution: a sudden drop during the two years of pandemic during which they were only open in summer and with numerous health restrictions, followed by a strong rise in 2022 and a return to normal in 2023.

Fewer Chinese tourists

These figures can be explained firstly by a good tourist season, particularly with regard to foreign tourists. The final figures are not yet known, but it is likely that France remains the number one tourist destination in the world, despite the still forced return of Chinese tourists. Exit restrictions have been lifted in China since January 2023, but the 2 million Chinese tourists who came to France before Covid did not all return in 2023, upset by an increase in the price of plane tickets following a reduction in the number of flights between the two countries. The Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles, which are part of the almost obligatory itinerary for these tourists, are somewhat affected. They did not find the attendance of 2019

French tourists have long included a cultural outing during their stay at their vacation spot. The major heritage sites such as the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, the Chambord castle or the medieval city of Carcassonne are full and even more so, to the point that overtourism in season affects the quality of the visit. Note that the strong growth in attendance at the Arc de Triomphe compared to 2019 can be explained by the partial closure of the site at the top of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées after the rampages of the “yellow vests” in 2019.

The last factor that influences attendance is the exhibitions. There has been no mega exhibition approaching or exceeding a million visitors like “Leonardo da Vinci” in 2019 (another explanation for the decline of the Louvre) or “Claude Monet” at the Grand Palais in 2010. The latter being closed , the big names have retreated to the Musée d’Orsay, which boosted its visitors with “Manet/Degas” last year in spaces that are still small and awkward. The Musée de l’Orangerie, attached to Orsay, was also a winner with two exhibitions which won over their public (“Pastels by Millet in Redon” and “Matisse, the turning point of the 1930s”). But it is the Museum of Modern Art in Paris which is blowing up the counters thanks to a rich program (Koschka, Anna-Eva Bergman…) and even more so Nicolas de Staël which has not been empty since the start of the September school year. The Louis Vuitton Foundation shows very strong progress compared to 2019 thanks to “Basquiat x Warhol” and “Monet-Mitchell” which are however far from equaling the scores of the “Morozov Collection” and the “Chtchoukin Collection”.

Finally, the drop in attendance at the Center Pompidou can be explained on the one hand by the 18 days of closure due to a dragging out strike movement and a program (Norman Foster, Germaine Richier) that is much less attractive than Victor Vasarely, Dora Maar and Francis Bacon in 2019. Will Vera Molnár, Constantin Brancusi and surrealism planned this year be the hoped-for fireworks before closing in 2025 for five years of work?

Good prospects

2024 should be an excellent year for visits to heritage sites and places throughout France. The Normandy Impressionist Festival combined with the 80th anniversary of the Landing should boost attendance throughout the Normandy region while the Olympic Games should attract more foreign tourists, as should the reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral at the end of the year. More specifically, the celebration of the 60th anniversary of relations between France and China should increase the contingent of Chinese tourists.

© The Arts Journal

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