The Andalusian government's Ministry of Culture has opened a can of worms this summer. Earlier this month the Culture Minister, Patricia del Pozo, announced that her department is looking at the money raised from sales of tickets to museums and archaeological sites which are managed by the Andalusian government. In Malaga province, the Museum of Malaga, situated in the Aduana palace, the Roman theatre in Calle Alcazabilla, the Antequera dolmens complex and the Acinipo archaeological site and Arab baths, both in Ronda, will be considered as part of the study.
According to data collected by the Ministry of Culture in 2018, fewer than ten per cent of visitors (9.11 per cent, to be exact) come from countries outside the European Union and therefore have to pay for entry to the museum and archaeological sites in Malaga, Antequera and Ronda. Sources at the Ministry consulted by SUR agreed that the simplest thing would be to charge every visitor the same rate as that currently charged to visitors from outside the European Union. In this scenario, the Roman Theatre would bring in more than half a million euros (542,787 euros), a figure calculated by taking into account its more than 360,000 annual visitors.
The site which would bring in the second largest sum in this scenario would be the Conjunto Arqueológico Dólmenes de Antequera, whose 213,610 visitors would produce an income of 320,415 euros. The Museum of Malaga, whose visitor count has increased by 12.99 per cent during the first half of 2019, would receive 217,276.50 euros in ticket sales. This is certainly not an insignificant figure, particularly if you take into account the fact that the museum has a budget of 2.5 million euros and that it faces fundamental expenses such as that of the refurbishment of its temporary exhibition spaces. This project was put to tender with a budget of 182,176.92 euros, but the first round of bidding was unsuccessful and it will have to be put to tender again.
As for the archaeological sites and Arab baths in Ronda, the introduction of a general 1.50 euro entrance fee would bring in annual incomes of 22,000 and 92,000 euros respectively. If the strategy being considered by the Andalusian Minister of Culture goes ahead, this money could also be invested in preserving and protecting the sites.
Patricia del Pozo has confirmed that her department is "analysing and studying" the income from ticket sales with a view to investing this money directly in the upkeep of the museums and archaeological sites managed by the regional government. Nevertheless, she also emphasised that no definite decision has yet been made.
"It is something normal"
Del Pozo has reactivated an initiative which has been debated for several years at the regional Ministry of Culture, and the subject was brought up again during a press interview last weekend. In that interview, the minister pointed out that ticket charges to visit museums and archaeological sites are in fact "something normal which happens in other countries and regional communities", and she said that the money collected would be directly invested in the heritage of the region, on behalf of its citizens.
"The amount collected, whether small or large, will always benefit the people, because it would be used to ensure that the monuments are kept in perfect condition," she said, before adding that she is "conscious" that at present the budget for the maintenance of heritage sites "is minimal". With this in mind, Del Pozo continued: "Perhaps if everybody were to collaborate a little bit, the ministry would be able to to achieve what it currently cannot". She also said that this type of tourism needs to be managed, because "obviously, (the monuments) cannot be subjected to a permanent siege by tourists, because they will deteriorate."
It is important to remember that the measure currently under consideration by the regional government would not apply to the Picasso Museum in Malaga. For the last five years, this museum has received an annual grant of 4.37 million euros from the Andalusian government and it is run by a private foundation, made up of regional government representatives and family members of the Malaga-born artist. For the last six years, the Museo Picasso Malaga has received more visitors than anywhere else in Andalucía, and its number of foreign visitors is especially high. The Museum of Malaga provides a stark comparison. Last year's statistics show that 27 per cent of this museum's visitors came from abroad, and only 3.55 per cent of the total 144,851 visitors to the museum, which is inside the Aduana palace, came from outside of the European Union and therefore had to pay for entry.