Revolution in the management of autonomous museum ticket offices: they will go back in-house

Yesterday the General Directorate of Museums sent a circular to autonomous museums that effectively sanctions a revolution: no more ticket offices entrusted to external concessionaires. They will go back in-house and will be managed by a single platform called AD Arte. Here is the text of the circular.

Revolution in the management of museum ticketing: the circular that the General Directorate of Museums sent to autonomous museums yesterday introduces a novelty that actually reorganizes the sector after a good 30 years. In fact, the management of the ticket offices will return to the museums and will no longer be entrusted to external entities: this is what the circular says in which the new platform “AD Arte,” with which the ticket offices will be managed, is presented.

“It is represented that the AD Arte platform (in the APP and website versions),” reads the text of the circular (which we quote in the passages below in almost full form), “will allow for the direct management of the booking and sale of admission tickets and will make available reporting useful for administrative and accounting reporting. The General Directorate of Museums will also provide the necessary instrumentation for ticket verification and validation.” The circular also asks museums to report whether institutions currently have WiFi coverage or an Internet connection for visitors. The new platform is designed, the text of the circular continues, “as a support tool for all institutes of the National Museum System, in order to also overcome the difficulties that emerged from the survey just conducted on ticketing. It will remain the responsibility of individual institutes to organize and manage activities related to ticket control, accounting reporting and periodic payments to the State Treasury.”

The General Directorate of Museums will provide any useful support for adherence to the platform, agreeing, “when necessary, specific solutions to ensure, without interruption, the ticketing service even in cases of transition from the existing operators.” The circular also points out “that the prolonged outsourcing of additional services and/or ticketing services in management is not consistent with the principles of Euro-Unitarian law on public contracts, transposed into national legislation as it has evolved over time and in particular to the provisions on the renewal and extension of existing contracts.” The Directorate General then invites museums to communicate by May 19, 2023 , more information “about the nature of the existing contractual relationship and the procedure put in place by which the winning company was identified, as well as the measures initiated or to be initiated to interrupt the current regime of extension or renewal of the concession, according to the modalities consistent with the current regulatory framework.” That’s not all: also by May 19, the museums will have to send the concessionaire, the circular goes on to say, “a communication in which the date on which the existing concessionary relationship will cease must be indicated.” A reasonable amount of time will then have to elapse (the circular says, for example, 90 or at most 120 days) from the date the communication is sent to the day the concession ceases. During this period, functional activities to ensure seamless ticketing and enhancement services will have to be initiated.

Regarding direct entrustments to Ales SpA, there is provision for “the application of the social clause ex art. 50 Legislative Decree no. 50/2016 aimed at promoting the employment stability of the staff employed.” Finally, the circular informs that the AD Arte platform will be connected to the pagoPA payment node.

The likely consequences of the circular

The circular initiates a substantial reform of the external services that had been in place since 1993 under the Ronchey Law: now, therefore, ticketing will return to internal responsibility. Things will be easier for museum visitors: one platform means one place on the web to buy museum tickets. And it will probably also mean finally having very detailed profiling of each individual museum visitor’s data.

However, there are points to be clarified: first, what the sudden termination of all existing contracts will entail. Will the Ministry of Culture have to pay penalties? And if so, how onerous will they be? Then there is the problem of the staff of external companies, often hired on contract for the duration of the contracts: they could therefore be hired directly by the Ministry, and if so, new competitions would have to be held, or the MiC could make use of the in-house company Ales. Indeed, the repercussions are not insignificant, with concessionaires suddenly finding themselves deprived of an important part of their revenues. Indeed, we are talking about a sector that generated 242 million euros for all state museums in 2019, much of which ends up in concessionaires’ coffers. The net figure is provided only for autonomous museum institutions: to give an idea, in 2019 autonomous museums collected as much as 197.8 million euros from ticket sales, 26 of which remained with the state, while 172 went to concessionaires.

Then there is the issue of training: it will take time for the platform to be broken in and for ministerial employees to learn how to use it. In the transition phase it will all be up to the existing forces, which in many institutions are already stretched thin, so will there be even more work for ministry employees? The timeframe, in fact, is not very long: the Directorate General hopes that everything will be resolved in three months, giving four months as the maximum time for the end of the transition.

Finally, it should be noted that the circular was sent only to the autonomous institutes. One wonders, therefore, what will happen to the museums that belong to the Regional Directorates, which weigh less in economic terms (we saw this with the data above: 45 million euros out of 242), but are the majority in absolute terms (there are 44 autonomous museums out of 515 in all). Will the ticket offices of the non-autonomous museums continue to be outsourced, or will they too be looking at a switch to the new AD Arte platform?

Pictured: the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Photo: Guido Cozzi

Revolution in the management of autonomous museum ticket offices: they will go back in-house
Revolution in the management of autonomous museum ticket offices: they will go back in-house

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