Paris' Louvre museum sees 70% plunge in visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions

Metal barriers block the access to the pyramids of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, on Jan 7, 2021.
Metal barriers block the access to the pyramids of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, on Jan 7, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - The Louvre, the world's biggest museum, suffered a drop in visitor numbers of over 70 per cent last year as Covid-19 restrictions kept art lovers away, it said on Friday (Jan 8).

Receipts fell by more than 90 million euros (S$145 million) compared with 2019.

The Louvre, which closed for six months during French coronavirus lockdowns, saw visitor numbers plunge to 2.7 million in 2020, from 9.6 million in 2019 and 10.2 million in 2018, which was a record year.

Visits by foreigners, notably from the United States, China, Japan and Brazil, who usually make up three quarters of total visits, all but dried up, especially during the usually busy summer months.

The museum managed to limit the damage with its blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that attracted 1.1 million visitors and ended before the first French lockdown in spring.

The Louvre also used the downtime to boost its digital offering, with the number of online subscribers growing by over a million from 2019 to 9.3 million, and the louvre.fr website registering 21 million hits.

It also found new ways to raise cash, including with the worldwide distribution of the documentary A Night At The Louvre: Leonardo Da Vinci, destined for movie theatres, and Bid For The Louvre, which it said had raised 2.4 million euros through the auction of works by living artists and of "once-in-a-lifetime experiences".

A livestreamed New Year concert by DJ and songwriter David Guetta, part of a fundraising drive, attracted 16 million views.

The French government, meanwhile, reported on Friday that income from tourism had dropped by 61 billion euros, or 41 per cent, in 2020 to 89 billion.

Tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne called the annual shortfall "a shock", but said that France - the world's number one tourist destination - had weathered the pandemic relatively well.

"France has been more resilient than other world destinations," he told France Televison, thanks to visitors from neighbouring countries and French people holidaying at home.