1 December 2023

Tourists line up outside the D'Orsay museum in Paris on August 9, 2022.

ITourists are returning in droves, as in the best days of 2019, even if the Chinese (Covid-19) and the Russians (war in Ukraine) are missing. It is culture that first triggers a trip, so let’s dare to ask a taboo question: at a time when museums and monuments have held up thanks to “whatever the cost”, they are now burdened by inflation and the energy bill and that the public debt is a time bomb, do visitors from abroad have to pay much more for their entry ticket than people residing in France?

Read also: France earned 58 billion euros in 2022 thanks to international tourism, a record

A 2011 report, aiming to offer avenues of funding for heritage, already proposed doubling the price of sites for foreigners from outside the European Union (EU). The economist Françoise Benhamou, co-signer of the document, no longer remembers the exact term to justify the shelving of the measure. “Unfair”, “discriminant”, “indelicate”, “inelegant”. Some must have thought “racist”.

A state that carries the banner of universalism, particularly in culture, is reluctant to discriminate against audiences, especially when communitarianism disrupts creation. Artistic France, reputed to be not very chauvinistic in the profile of nominations or artists put forward, has little taste for “national preference”. Some add that France is not so downgraded that it must align itself with the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, announced for 2023, whose entry has been set at around 4.50 euros for Egyptians and 30 euros for foreigners.

An echo of the ecological emergency

Monuments and museums therefore tell us that a “tourist rate” is not on the agenda. Hear, we have to make an effort, but the State also has the responsibility to make up for our shortfall. The Ministry of Culture, master with that of the economy and finance of a very political decision, informed us that price increases “including differentiated” are being studied for very large state museums and monuments – we could add Notre-Dame de Paris, the most visited site in Europe before the 2019 fire (14 million people per year) – but that it must first identify its gain and impact.

Several reports show that an increased ticket would in no way dampen the enthusiasm of tourists. Christian Mantei, specialist in the subject and president of Atout France, confirms this. Because the triumph of heritage sites is also that of the rise of the middle classes in the world. The further the visitor comes from, the less sensitive he is to the tariff. The vast majority of tourists are “first-time visitors”, ready to pay a high price to discover a place they will not return to. And then paying more when you come from afar echoes the ecological emergency.

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