July 10, 2013
In today's blog, JRA's CEO Keith James offers his insights on the value of art, and how it can (and should) be incorporated into museum design.
Last week, JRA celebrated the opening of our latest project - the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania. While some might consider this colorful facility to be a brand attraction, at heart it’s really an art experience, a place where children and their families can spend an entire day exercising their imaginations with a mind-boggling array of crayons, markers, paint and clay.
Image courtesy Crayola Experience
Our involvement with the development of this wonderful project has provided our team with a unique insight on how important art is not only to the Crayola brand and the tens of millions who use the company’s products around the world, but how important art is to each of us on a daily basis.
“Art” can be defined in a variety of different ways and has different meanings and levels of importance for all of us. For some, it could mean our children’s refrigerator drawings. For others, it could mean a Rodin sculpture, an interpretive dance performance or a local poetry reading. There is no certainty.
What is certain, however, is that our economic “new normal” has made art education and development easy targets for those charged with balancing school and government budgets. These “non-essential” programs are often made to prove their “value” in order to retain their funding. Unfortunately, these battles are lost more than they are won, resulting in a slow deterioration of the public’s access to art and appreciation of its value.
There is hope, however, as those of us who are fortunate enough to plan, design, produce and operate leisure destinations and cultural facilities have the unique opportunity to not only slow this deterioration, but completely reverse it. How? By making a conscious effort to integrate and showcase the value of art within visitor experiences.
To find out how we can turn the tide, check out our full Value of Art article in
, and join us next week as we begin our interview series "Picking up STEAM" with STEAM Journal Editor, Sara Kapadia.
June 21, 2013
This month, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and economic consultancy AECOM released the 2012 Theme Index/Museum Index: Global Attractions Attendance Report. The report tracks annual theme park, water park and museum attendance globally as well as within three geographic markets: The Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
The new Dumbo's Flying Elephants ride at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Courtesy Recommend.com.
On a global scale, theme parks saw a 5.2% increase in attendance from 2011. Walt Disney Attractions dominated among global theme park groups yet again, with attendance almost 2.5 times greater than the number-two operator, Merlin Entertainments Group (owner of LEGOLAND, London Eye and Madame Tussauds among others). Universal Recreation Group, Parques Reunidos and Six Flags rounded out the top five. Overall, the top ten global operators saw a 6.7% increase in attendance, most of them reaping the benefits of such major reinvestments as Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land, the Magic Kingdom’s new Fantasyland attractions and Universal Hollywood’s Transformers the Ride. With the recent addition to the mix of Transformers: Orlando Edition and SeaWorld’s Antarctica, and with Harry Potter II and Shanghai Disneyland set to open in the next few years, this momentum promises to continue for years to come.
Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
Not surprisingly then, Disney parks swept the top eight places on the global theme parks attendance list, with Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea showing the strongest growth (8.5%). California’s Disneyland was the only park in the top 25 to show a decrease in attendance (and a modest drop of 1.1% at that), and that decrease was mostly a result of Cars Land, which drew guests to Disney’s California Adventure to the tune of 1.4 million new visitors. Florida again ruled the roost geographically, as home to eight of the top 25 theme parks and four of the top 20 water parks worldwide.
The Americas showed a resurgence in growth after a more sluggish 2011. North America welcomed a 3.6% increase in theme park attendance, and the top Latin American theme and water parks enjoyed an attendance increase of 2.6%, or 336,000 visits. Encouragingly, theme park attendance has risen 7% from 2007-08, the tipping point years for the Great Recession. Growth was more evenly distributed among the North American parks this year, as the “Harry Potter Effect” has ebbed since the attraction’s blockbuster 2010 opening. According to Brian Sands, AECOM Vice President for Economics, Americas, “as this part of the world continues to pull out of recession, we should see a return to people taking longer vacations and traveling further.” He sees continued increases in technology, discounts and ticket packaging, VIP experiences and new types of attractions as the trends that will continue to drive this market forward.
Moving across the Pacific, the Asia/Middle East market continues to be an exciting one to watch. Asia’s leading international and domestic operators experienced double-digit growth, and water park growth out-paced North America. While AECOM’s Senior Vice President – Economics, John Robinett, did not want to commit to a date when Asia would become the highest-visited attractions market in the world, he did point out that the Shanghai Disneyland opens in 2015, potentially resulting in an explosion of attendance growth. Overall, attendance increased by 5.8% to a record 108.7 million visits, and two operators, OCT Group and Haichang Group, cracked the top 10 global theme park groups list for the first time. Songcheng Park in Hangzhou China experienced the greatest attendance jump (14.2%) with Universal Japan (14.1%) and Hong Kong Disneyland (13.6%) close behind. Chris Yoshii, VP of Economics, Pacific and Beth Chang, Regional Director, Economics, attributed the strong numbers to a hungry Chinese tourist market hungry for new attractions: “As a driver of global tourism, the mainland Chinese tourist is fast becoming the most sought-after visitor in the world and will continue to be so for many years to come.” Yoshii and Chang also credited developers such as Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa, who are leveraging theme parks, casinos, hotels and other entertainment venues to create attractive multi-day, multi-stay packages.
Hangzhou Songcheng Park. Courtesy TripAdvisor.com
European theme parks showed more stagnant growth than its American and Asian counterparts, mostly due to challenges with the ongoing recession and a 2011 fraught with challenging weather. In the United Kingdom alone, 17% of the population changed their holiday plans in 2012 to avoid the rain and cold, which coupled with the exodus from the Olympics made for a tough year for London’s attractions. However, the UK’s Merlin Entertainments Group saw a 16% jump in attendance among their various properties, mostly attributed to the sheer variety of their attractions and the transformation of many of their parks into family resorts. France’s Parc Asterix and Puy du Fou provided other bright spots. Parc Asterix increased the footprint of their park by 10%, including a new themed land and coaster, which resulted in an 8% jump in attendance. According to the report, Puy du Fou’s attendance benefited from the Thea Classic Award the park received from the TEA in 2012. But to spur more dynamic growth in future years, the parks need to get creative with their reinvestments to help offset some of their more persistent challenges, especially as regards climate. “More parks might look at what they can do with certain kinds of investments, and making the most of holidays, to offset bad summer numbers and even overcome negative trends,” said Natalia Bakhlina, Associate Director, Economics Europe. As with the other attractions markets, the themes of reinvestment and strategic re-thinking take center stage.
Courtesy Parc Asterix
In addition to covering global theme and water park attendance, the 2012 Index welcomed the introduction of museums into the fold for the first time. When asked why AECOM began to track museums, Robinett pointed out the similarities between cultural and commercial attractions. “Increasingly, museums are focusing on the guest experience, operations and marketing in ways that mirror commercial attractions,” Robinett explained. As government funding continues to erode, earned revenue sources have become increasingly important, so any measures aimed at attracting and retaining visitors are crucial to success. “Museums can achieve dramatic attendance growth through reinvestment and improvement of the guest experience,” said Robinett. “It’s just as true for them as it is for theme parks."
The Louvre. Courtesy Wikipedia.org
When asked about the lessons learned from the inclusion of museums in the Index, Robinett said it shines a different and more hopeful light on the European themed entertainment market, as the continent is known more for its cultural assets than the trills and chills of theme park attractions. European museums welcomed 72 million visitors in 2012, compared with theme park attendance of 58 million. Indeed, European museums held nine of the top 20 spots on the index, the Louvre solidly on top with attendance of 9.7 million visitors.
While American museums grabbed three of the top five spots on the Museum Index, Asia and the Middle East have emerged as burgeoning markets for museums. World-class cities such as Dubai, Singapore and Jakarta see world-class cultural attractions as indicators of success and sophistication, and China has pledged to establish 1,000 museums in the next 10 years, with Chinese museum attendance projected to reach 1 billion by 2020.
National Museum of Scotland. Courtesy Wikipedia.org
As Robinett remarked above, reinvestment serves as much of a catalytic role in museums as it does in theme parks. The Louvre recently added an Islamic Art Wing, and the National Museum of Scotland recently completed a £47M renovation that tripled attendance. Stateside, the California Science Center saw a significant jump in visitorship as a result of the new space shuttle Endeavour exhibit. “There is plenty of motivation to [reinvest] when one takes into account [museums’] value to the local community as an educational force, local economic engine and development catalyst,” said Linda Cheu, AECOM Vice President. “Everyone stands to benefit from a fuller understanding of just how much museums contribute.” She cited the 2012 World Culture Report, which stated, “cultural prowess are increasingly seen as interlinked,” a theme that we recently explored in our “Business of Culture” blog series.
Overall, the economic picture of museums and theme parks certainly looks rosier than five years ago. Through strategic reinvestment and creative marketing, museum and theme parks can capitalize on this momentum and hopefully secure a sustainable and profitable future.
Next week, we’ll introduce a new member to the JRA blogging team, and explore Issues in Design.
May 30, 2013
Seated from left: Mark O'Neill and Edward J. Friel
As reported in InPark Magazine today, last week the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) welcomed 5,000 attendees to its Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo. Throughout the course of the MuseumExpo, guests were treated to a variety of engaging educational sessions, ranging from career development to international collaboration to technology. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be covering the two we had the pleasure of attending and look forward to hearing what our readers have to say about their sessions.
Kicking things off on Tuesday was “Glasgow Museums: Building a Sense of Place That Reaps Huge Economic, Social and Cultural Benefits.” Given our recent blog series, we were interested to hear how museums had transformed this Scottish city from a post-industrial wasteland to the 1990 European Capital of Culture. Participating in AAM’s “Big Idea Session” of the day were Edward J. Friel, Professor at Niagara University, and Mark O’Neill, Director of Policy & Research at Glasgow Life, an organization who’s vision is “to inspire Glasgow’s citizens and visitors to lead richer and more active lives through culture, sport and learning.
O’Neill began by offering some of Glasgow’s history. In 1900, the city was Europe’s fourth largest, but its population has dropped by more than half since. When heavy industry collapsed in the 1970s, the government actually told companies not to invest in Glasgow because it had fallen so far from its former glory. Two hundred thousand Glaswegians were in poverty, including 70,000 children, and the country’s citizens suffered from low life expectancy and poor education.
Despite enduring this depressive time of economic contraction, Glasgow’s citizens still patronized its arts and cultural assets, and the city still invested in them. The local government spent roughly $30 US per person on museums, and 50% of Glaswegians visited museums every year. Visitation spiked in the 1980s, due to Glasgow investing even more heavily in cultural assets such as the Burrell Collection, which in its first year welcomed 100,000 visitors. Museums were part of a cultural civic story ingrained in Glasgow since the Victorian era, when parks, arts, and literature where seen as integral aspects of a civilized life. But Glasgow needed to reinterpret that relationship for the 21st century.
Glasgow Cathedral. Photo: Wikipedia
Those interested in building this 21st century cultural infrastructure asked Glasgow, “don’t you want a Guggenheim?” The response was a resounding “no”: the city wanted to concentrate on its existing arts assets. These assets included the Open Museum, an innovative, free service that takes museum objects – not replicas – on the road for the community to see and touch. In addition to emphasizing hands-on interactions with museum materials, Glasgow invested in “sites of meaning making” and adaptive re-uses of existing buildings. Its historic Glasgow Cathedral (also called St. Mungo’s) now welcomes 200,000 visitors per year. The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is housed in a re-purposed city commerce building and aims to recruit traditional art goers to contemporary art. Its permanent galleries feature themes that resonate with global and Glaswegian artists alike, and its changing exhibits are inspired by what the city owns. GOMA is now the most visited modern art gallery in Scotland.
Kelvingrove Museum. Photo: Wikipedia
Kelvingrove Museum is one of Scotland’s most popular free attractions, with 22 galleries and over 8,000 objects. When the museum was refurbished between 2003 and 2006, O’Neill’s goal was to “modernize it without improving it worse.” His team wanted to emphasize Kelvingrove’s commitment to education and give the Glaswegians a sense of ownership over it. Foregoing a geographical or historical approach for an “object-story” approach, objects were organized by theme (e.g., “Souvenirs of War”, “Glasgow and the World”) and were put into context by “intro galleries” to make the art more approachable. The museum even applied this guest-centric approach to its archives, offering behind-the-scenes tours, the philosophy being that the objects are those of the people, and therefore, the people should have access to them. As a result of these transformations, Kelvingrove has attracted 3 million visitors per year since its re-opening in 2006. “The museum is deeply rooted in its own history,” said O’Neill, “but now that history can be shared with the world. Together we can create stories that make our lives more meaningful.”
So, we’ve heard about the before and the after, but how did Glasgow’s cultural journey evolve? It evolved by examining what culture meant to the city and how it could be better harnessed and promoted. “Places market their culture,” said Edward J. Friel, “but different types of social scientists define culture differently.” He defined it as a fundamental need for belonging – when we don’t have that sense of place, we are dispossessed. More and more, he continued, people are finding their place in cities, sparking the need to create sustainable communities. The key to creating such communities, he said, was to identify the nature of problems, finding solutions for those problems and then brokering support for the solutions. Cities need to own their difficulties, which Friel says is exactly what Glasgow did: “people lost their civic pride when industry collapsed.”
In his work helping to re-gain that Glaswegian civic pride, Friel and his colleagues needed to identify Glasgow’s “assets of place” and identify the city’s tourism product supply chain. In 1983, tourists traveled to Edinburgh and then turned north. As Friel put it, “the only people who came to Glasgow were those who were lost.” To combat this perception, Friel’s team assembled seven different public/private organizations, each with their own civic regeneration mandate, including the Creative Glasgow Tourist Board (publicity/promotion), Glasgow Action (economic development), and other organizations tasked with making the city clean, green, safe and welcoming for tourists. These organizations devised an event-led strategy, which, combined with the investments in arts infrastructure, led to the city being named the European Capital of Culture in 1990. A £1.5 million advertising campaign, featuring glossy pics of five different everyday Glaswegians, were emblazoned with sassy taglines such as “Glasgow: Scotland with Style” and “Glasgow: The New Black.”
While the tourist market laughed at these ads at first, it was Glasgow that was left smiling in the end. Between 1983 and 2003, hotel bookings exploded from 1,100 rooms to 17,500. Tourism employment also skyrocketed from 1,500 to 68,000. And convention income went from zero (yes zero) to $50 million. The momentum hasn’t stopped in the last decade. Glasgow welcomes 3.57 million tourists per year, and its Riverside Museum, Scotland’s museum of transport and travel, was recently named the 2013 European Museum of the Year. The success of all seven organizations working together was spurred by an overwhelming goal. “We needed to be service leaders, to serve the community we lived in,” said Friel. “We were winning for Glasgow.”
Next week, we shift from economic development to technology, as we explore how three museums are incorporating gaming into their exhibits.
May 15, 2013
Are robots the new docents?
And there you have it.
Over the past six weeks, we’ve analyzed the impact of museums and other cultural assets on economic development in communities around the world. We began by examining whether arts institutions leave a positive mark on residential property values. We continued by visiting a boutique hotel that channeled its passion for visual art into a core business strategy. We then explored how creative placemaking has transformed urban planning from New York to Manila. Next, we reviewed Richard Florida’s Creative Class Revisited and the theory that the arts attract talent, which then attracts businesses, investment and capital. And last week, we studied the arts’ contribution to regional and national tourism dollars (and pounds and euro), and how destination-marketing organizations are leveraging these cultural institutions to their full advantage.
Assuming these positive correlations are solid (and we’ll debate that point below), external forces such as decreased government funding, continued overall economic stagnation and increased job automation could impede upon these advantageous economic relationships. Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, investigates the technology angle in her article, “Will You Lose Your Museum Job to a Robot?” She bases her February 2013 post on the Associated Press’ IMPACT report, which forecasted the effect of technology on employment. The authors’ thesis is that, while technology is creating jobs, it’s rendering more and more positions irrelevant; therefore, the millions of jobs (including museum jobs) that evaporated in 2008 are unlikely to return. Merritt quotes author Martin Ford, who says in the report that “there’s no sector of the economy that’s going to get a pass. It’s everywhere.” If Ford’s theory is correct, museum staff such as docents, ticket agents, collections managers and even food service workers could become obsolete. While Merritt concludes by saying she does not see museums laying off staff because of technology, she does concede that as the economy recovers, museums may choose to invest in hardware and software instead of in their workforce.
When I asked Philip M. Katz, Assistant Director for Research at the American Alliance of Museums, what he felt is having the biggest impact on museum's economic health, he de-emphasized technology and instead focused on the slow post-recession recovery and the steady decrease in government support over the past few years. “Museum staffing has certainly felt the pinch of the economy,” said Dr. Katz. “For several straight years, museums have been downsizing (or at least freezing) their staffs. But very little of this, I think, can be attributed to increases in technology. If some technologies (such as CRM software) are replacing museum workers, other technologies (such as app development and web content creation) are creating new employment opportunities.” He referenced a rejoinder to Merritt’s post written by Nik Honeysett, head of administration at the J. Paul Getty Museum. In the response, Honeysett counters that the cost of providing the kind of technological infrastructure that would replace museum staff would most likely outweigh the benefits of human-based customer service.
Dr. Philip M. Katz
Katz then pointed me toward AAM’s most recent “Annual Condition of Museums and the Economy” report. To compile this report, AAM surveyed its institutional members, including zoos and aquariums. The results were mixed. Museums as a whole served more visitors between 2009-2012 even as their budgets were level or declining. While they showed some financial improvement in 2012, any growth was small and uneven. Only 52% of museums reported an increase in annual attendance, while 28% reported audience decline. Sixty percent of museums reported some level of economic stress. While this is a sizable percentage, it is the lowest one since the survey began in 2009. Nevertheless, museum directors said that “fundraising continues to be difficult” and that “corporate support cannot be planned or anticipated with any accuracy.
While governments that support the arts see an average return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 they appropriate (not an AAM calculation, Katz points out), the arts and culture continue to find themselves on the governmental chopping block. Only 14% of museums surveyed saw increases in government funding, and 31% saw funding declines (and that’s on top of declines suffered in the previous three years). While museums are inching toward sustainability, one director said, “we had a balanced budget in 2012 but only because of reductions in pay or benefits for staff and reductions in programming for the public.” Reductions in staff, salaries and programming could all result in a diminished impact for museums on their surrounding communities.
Perhaps a bigger question than what might adversely affect the arts’ future impact on economic development, however, is whether these cultural institutions have any real direct impact on property values, employment or tourism now. If there is a causal connection, couldn’t it just be a chicken and egg relationship? Are the arts really a catalyst for economic growth, or just a byproduct of it? At a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts/Brookings Institute panel entitled “The Arts, New Growth Theory, and Economic Development”, Dr. Stephen Sheppard, who has provided research fodder for several posts in this series, asserted, “there is a pervasive causal connection between per capita culture production and per capita GDP in US metropolitan economies.” In other words, positive shocks to culture production create positive shocks to GDP. Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser disagreed with Sheppard’s definitive line of thought, countering, “it’s a mistake for arts to try to sell itself as an economic development policy,” and adding that most research on the subject was inconclusive. As a non-academe, I cannot even begin to offer my econometric philosophies on the subject, so I turned again to someone who lives this type of research on a daily basis. Dr. Katz generally agreed with Glaeser that there were no clear positions on the subject and that additional research was needed to provide definitive answers. “But perhaps it’s enough,” he said, “that we’re finally asking the right questions.”
With that in mind, I’ll conclude this series with a quote from Dr. Glaeser, which I believe best sums up the debate over the impact of culture on economic development:
We do nobody a service by claiming we know all the answers, but we do everyone a service if we argue for proper scientific evaluation, because I think we, all of us, should be confident enough in the value of the arts to be confident that those studies will show, in a convincing manner, the impact that the arts can have on our lives.
So let’s keep the dialogue going.
May 10, 2013
Common sense dictates that in order to bring tourists to your town (or state or country), you have to have something for them to see. But how does that break down to dollars and cents? In the last “Business of Culture” post before our (epic) conclusion, we’ll examine the financial impact of “cultural tourism” in the United States and abroad.
In the MASS MoCA study from our “Museums and Property Values” post several weeks ago, Dr. Stephen Sheppard writes that “one of the major advantages of a cultural institution compared with other industrial sectors is that cultural institutions create additional local annual revenue by bringing non-local visitors to town.” Findings from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) seem to support that statement. Americans visited museums 850 million times in the past year, and more people visit museums than all major pro sports events and theme parks combined. Museums rank among the top three family vacation destinations, and 78% of all US leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities. Museums also affect the duration of visits: visitors to historical sites and cultural attractions stay 53% longer and spend 36% more than any other kinds of tourists.
When expanding the playing field to include all arts and cultural institutions, the correlation between museum visits and tourism revenue is even stronger. According to Americans for the Arts’ study “Arts & Economic Prosperity IV”, the average arts attendee spends $24.60 per event, in addition to the cost of the admission ticket, on items such as meals, lodging, retail and child care. In 2010, 39% of arts patrons were non-local attendees, who spend on average twice as much as their local counterparts. Of these non-local attendees, 59.4% reported that the primary reason for their trip was a specific event, and 28.5% spent at least one night away in the location where the event took place. Over 52% of audience respondents said that if the event had not taken place in the location where they were surveyed, they would have gone somewhere else to attend a similar event.
Image courtesy Americans for the Arts
This phenomenon of cultural tourism is not limited to the US. The United Kingdom’s Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) found that eight of the top ten UK visitor attractions in 2012 were museums, and these eight museums received over 31 million visits last year. Museums and cultural attractions are main contributors to the UK’s status as the seventh largest international tourism destination, and the total value of cultural and other tourism to the UK economy in 2009 was £115.4 billion, or 8.9% of GDP. VisitBritain.com states that “the number of jobs that tourism supports is forecast to increase by 250,000 this decade, from 2.645 million to 2.899 million” and that “one in twelve jobs in the UK is either directly or indirectly supported by tourism.” One can infer from the statistic above that a large percentage of those tourism jobs are at cultural in nature, forging yet another link between those institutions and employment.
But how are Convention and Visitors Bureaus making the most of this relationship between museums and tourism? Even in Los Angeles, a city not exactly known for its cultural assets, visitors can find museum exhibits, theatre performances, classical music concerts and more through Discover Los Angeles’ “Experience Builder”. Guests to the website simply click on “Culture”, choose which cultural experiences they’d like have on their visit, and then add their choices to their “MY LA” profile. Meet Minneapolis also takes full advantage of the city’s status as a Top 20 location for culture. Visitors to their website will see the museum category prominently displayed on the homepage, which is no wonder, since museums generate an estimated $53 million in economic activity statewide. Cultural Tourism DC offers a Heritage Walking Tour app, so visitors can make the most of their stay in America’s #1 museum city. And in Ontario, Canada, where cultural tourists make up 22% (9.5 million) of all overnight visits, arts and culture experience bundles are heavily publicized online.
In theory, one need only see the long lines outside the museums on the Smithsonian Mall in Washington D.C., the V&A in London or the Prado in Madrid to surmise that, for domestic and international tourism alike, museums mean big bucks (or quid or euros) for tourism. But how will increased technology and decreased government funding affect these robust tourist numbers? Will museums continue to have such a seemingly profound affect on property values, placemaking, employment and tourism in the face of these challenges? Do all the numbers we’ve thrown around over the past four weeks really point to a positive, causal relationship between museums and economic growth, or is it all just smoke, mirrors and coincidence?
In next week’s conclusion of “The Business of Culture: The Impact of Museums on Economic Development”, we’ll pose these questions and explore a variety of possible answers.