Hong Kong museums received a record 6.9 million visitors in 2017, up by more than 50% on the previous year, after many stopped charging entry fees.
The Hong Kong government waived entry fees to permanent exhibitions at the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum in August 2016.
The increase in attendance was felt most by the Hong Kong Museum of History, which saw a 90% increase in visitors.
Director of Leisure and Cultural Services Michelle Li Mei-sheung told the South China Morning Post that the increase in attendance was a result of the free entry. She also revealed that the museum’s had generated less income, despite the visitor increase.
“Money is not key, it is to promote culture,” she added.
Visitor satisfaction remained high, with 70% stating that they would return within a year.
The most popular exhibition of the year was Eternal Life – Exploring Ancient Egypt at the Hong Kong Science Museum. More than 850,000 visited before the exhibition closed in October. The Science Museum still charges for permanent exhibitions but reduced its fee by 20%.
The Hong Kong government is active in promoting and subsidising leisure activities. Earlier this month it emerged that it would bail out the loss-making Ocean Park with a HK$310m ($39.6m) cash injection to lift the park out of the red.
The government is also the majority shareholder in Hong Kong Disneyland, which kicked off construction of the multi-year transformation of the park last October. It is adding a Marvel-themed area that will feature attractions based on the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D as well as a Frozen-themed area that will include characters and stories from the film.
Taxpayers will fund $700m of the $1.4bn expansion with Disney covering the rest.
Image: c. Hong Kong Museum of History.