The Metropolitan Museum of Art Generated $946 Million in Tourist Spending Last Year

Breaking news: Tourists really, really like the Met.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the most popular American museum in 2015. Photo: Wikipedia.

It’s no secret that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a major New York city tourist attraction, but did you know it generated over $946 million in spending in New York last year?

The massive number comes courtesy of a study conducted by the museum’s office of market research, which estimates that a large percentage of that amount was generated by this summer’s three blockbuster exhibitions: “China: Through the Looking Glass,” “The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe,” and “Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends.”

The total makes up a large percentage of the estimated $5.41 billion spent by out-of-town visitors to New York in 2015. The study found that the direct tax benefit to the city and state from tourists visiting the museum was $94.6 million.

The survey was conducted between May 12 and September 7, 2015, during which time the Met hosted about 2.5 million visitors—74 percent of whom came from outside the city. Of these tourists, 83 percent reported staying overnight in New York—75 percent did so in a hotel, rented apartment, or hostel. Visitors also reported spending an average of $1,145 per person during their stay in New York, which was an average length of 6.7 days.

Details of "China: Through the Looking Glass". Photo: Joe Schildhorn.

Details of “China: Through the Looking Glass”. Photo: Joe Schildhorn.

The kicker, of course, is whether or not they would have come to New York anyway, regardless of the Met’s presence. But a whopping 54 percent of those surveyed cited the museum as a “key motivating factor in visiting New York City.” Using a scale of zero to ten, 54 percent of those surveyed gave a rating of eight or above when asked how important the institution was in their decision to visit New York.

The overall number of spending generated is slightly lower for those who reported their trip to the city as “highly motivated” by the museum, but still shockingly large at $511 million. Spending generated by those who reported the specific exhibitions as a key motivator is $341 million.

A similar study conducted in 2014 reported $753 million in tourist spending, while one from 2011 reported $900 million.

It’s worth noting that the museum’s office of market research is operated by the Met itself. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with such massive numbers. The museum also reported record attendance in 2015—6.3 million visitors, the largest number since the institution began tracking the stat over 40 years ago.

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