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Museums to revamp bookstores and cafeterias under new management framework

by Antonello Cherchi

Next year will mark a turning point for customer and recreational facilities in Italian museums– such as cafeterias, restaurants and bookshops. In January, a framework agreement will allow Consip (the state agency that acquires assets and services for public facilities) to directly carry out this activity.

The agreement “will be ready by January,” said Consip CEO Domenico Casalino. The plan was later confirmed by the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. The change will bring the current system– according to which each museum individually puts its services out to tender – to an end.

The possibility to set up additional services and facilities in the museums, and tender them out to the private sector was first introduced in Italy in 1993, but the practice has progressively lost momentum. Figures speak for themselves: last year, such facilities were 335 (they were 409 in 2005), customers were 9.1 million (in 2006 and 2007, they were more than 9.4 million) and revenues reached just €45.7 million (in 2006, they had exceeded €46 million).

Tickets sales, on the other hand, have been growing steadily (126 million last year, vis-à-vis 118 million in 2012), as have visitors. Returns for recreational facilities seem meager, especially when one looks at how things work in other major museums abroad.

Consip is taking up the gauntlet with an ambitious attitude. “Our objective is to take income up to €2.5 billion,” said Mr Casalino. “That will be achieved by tender notices that will create a network among art venues and additional services. This will optimize the management and increase revenues. Then, within the framework agreement – which will be developed in a tailored way for various areas of the country– we are going to choose the operators that will take part in the updating plans of several museums.”

The reform of recreational facilities and services was approved together with another ministerial project, which selected 20 Italian “super-museums” that will be given full self-government powers.