Cyprus to make museum visits free

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Cyprus is to allow free access to all its museums “very soon” with new regulations that will be fast-tracked for a quick parliament vote, boosting visits and upgrading the overall tourism package.

The Council of Ministers decided on Thursday to allow free access to all state museums, extend their opening hours and operating days, and consider accommodating special events at a limited number of venues or monuments.

Transport and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said that it is “unacceptable” that our country, with about 4 mln tourists a year under pre-Covid-19 circumstances, would have about 1 mln visitors to archaeological sites, yet museum attendance was a mere 83,000 last year in all the 12 national museums.

“About 40,000 of these visitors were to the Cyprus Museum [in Nicosia], while the Paphos and Larnaca museums remain shut, traditionally attracting some 6,000 and 3,000 visitors a year, respectively. This is very disappointing,” Karousos told state CyBC radio on Friday.

He said that his office is already talking to the junior ministry for technology and innovation to seek ways to boost interactive services at museums and archaeological sites.

We need to find ways to make the museums more attractive to tourists as well as locals, he said.

In 2019, while the total number of visitors to all Museums, Archaeological Sites and Monuments amounted to 1,285,538, visitors to the 12 state museums was only 82,476.

“We have thousands of exhibits, some are outstanding, but they are poorly displayed. We need to improve our museum shops and even introduce virtual shops.

All these will actually boost revenues, especially if we also add a donation box, where people can contribute with small or big amounts if they are pleased with what they have seen, just as is done with a lot of major museums, such as in the U.K.”

Karousos said that the new regulations would also include the operating hours of museums, as at present only the Cyprus Museum is open on Sundays.

Consultations with tour guides and tour operators have also led to the ministry considering to make ‘some’ of its forts and castles available for rent for events, such as weddings, “but under some very strict conditions.”

He said this measure could help tremendously boost revenues, which in turn would be re-invested in making museums more attractive and accessible to all.

Local tourism promotion agencies of all towns issued a joint announcement, welcoming the changes, saying these were “long-standing for decades”.

They said that they look forward to the extension of opening hours to include other significant archaeological sites and monuments.