France Announces Unprecedented $3.2 Billion Culture Budget

Terrorism, flooding, and strikes have led to a drop in tourism and visitor numbers.

Soldiers on patrol outside the Louvre in Paris. Photo: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images.

France has announced the largest cultural budget in the country’s history amid falling museum attendance, which is linked to a drop in tourism resulting from last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

French minister for culture and communication Audrey Azoulay pledged to increase government funding for culture in 2017 by 6.6%, to €2.9 billion ($3.2 billion). Azoulay also announced that a cross-ministerial fund would set aside money to bolster the security infrastructure of French museums.

According to the Art Newspaper, this unprecedented cultural spending includes a 5% increase in museum funding and separately, a substantial 12% increase in acquisition funds for regional and national museums.

“I know the difficulties confronting museums today, between a drop in attendance, particularly linked to the drop in tourism, and a rise in security expenses,” Azoulay said in a speech at the culture ministry’s budget presentation.

France’s tourism industry, which according to the BBC makes up 7% of the country’s GDP, was badly affected by a major terrorist attack in Paris in November, which claimed 130 lives, and an attack in the southern city of Nice on Bastille Day in July, which killed 86 people.

In June flooding forced several Parisian museums to close. Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images.

In June flooding forced several Parisian museums to close. Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images.

The British broadcaster reported that flooding and strikes in Paris made the downturn worse. In the first six months of 2016, the French capital recorded 1 million fewer visitors compared with the same period last year, resulting in a €750 million ($841 million) drop in revenue.

The drop in tourism has translated into a decline in museum visitors. In August, artnet News reported that between January and June the Louvre recorded a 20% drop in attendance compared to the previous year. At the time, a museum official told artnet News, “If you have less visitors in Paris, there are less visitors at the Louvre,” adding that, “It’s quite the same across the board.”

The French government hopes that supporting its cultural institutions financially will help attract visitors and restore confidence in the country as an exciting and safe tourist destination.

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