Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Charging tourists?

Yesterday's Evening Standard, London's freebie newspaper, had a little item on the subject of museum charging, something this blog has mentioned before. This time it was the Victoria and Albert Museum that was discussed. It seems (though one can never tell with the Standard whether what they report does seem to anyone except themselves and the security guard the hack in question managed to corner) that the V & A is thinking of charging tourists for entrance and not charging British visitors. The Standard thinks this is an excellent idea as anything would be better than charging people who live here for going to museums. Two reasons are advanced: foreigners are used to paying, anyway, as they do at home; and British visitors will stop going if they have to pay. It is also undoubtedly true that we already pay through various taxes.

There are a few problems with this idea. The first and most obvious one is the bureaucracy that the museum will have to set up to deal with the various kinds of people who visit it. Whatever they may take in through the entrance charges will go largely on that bureaucracy.

Will they take in all that much. The South Kensington museums, which include the V & A, unlike the large institutions have proportionately fewer tourists as, for some reason, British visitors do go to them in large numbers. Tourists quite often put reasonable sums into the collection boxes anyway. A tourist who might put in a fiver would probably decide not to do so if he or she has already had to pay at the door. There will be precious little gain as a reader of this blog, who happens to be an accountant reminded me.

Finally, the big question: will they be allowed to charge visitors from the EU or is that discrimination that the ECJ will not allow? Will it only be Japanese and American tourists who will have to pay?

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