NEW YORK • Visitors to the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Big Apple are encouraged to pay a suggested entry fee, but few bother to do so.
Now, they will have to pay US$25 (S$33) to gain admission - if they do not live in New York state.
The move, starting on March 1, is a first in half a century.
Since 1970, this cultural landmark on New York's Fifth Avenue had asked only for a "suggested" donation of US$25 an adult, which Met president Daniel Weiss noted was "uncommon".
Under the new policy, the fee - which will be paid largely by tourists - will fetch a ticket that lasts for three days.
It also covers entry to the museum's annexes - Met Breuer for modern and contemporary art, and The Cloisters for mediaeval and decorative arts.
"We think that is an extraordinary value," Mr Weiss added.
In order not to penalise students from New York and the surrounding region, they will be asked to pay only what they can.
Students and seniors visiting from other regions will pay reduced fares of US$12 and US$17, respectively. Entry will be free for children under the age of 12.
The move follows months of talks with New York City Hall.
Mr Fred Dixon, president of the city's destination marketing organisation NYC & Company, said City Hall accepted the new policy of this "catalyst" of cultural tourism, confident that it would not negatively impact visitor flows.
"The role the Met plays (in tourism) is tremendous," he noted.
Mr Weiss, who assumed his current post in 2015 to bolster the museum's finances, said while 63 per cent of visitors paid the full suggested price in 2004, only 17 per cent did so last year.
So, while attendance kept increasing, admission revenues were flat.
Pointing to "a significant diminution in the effectiveness of our policy", he stressed that "admission revenues would still be one of the lowest of all art institutions we have seen in the last 12 years".
Admissions would still account only for a fraction of the Met's annual budget of US$305 million.
They make up 14 per cent of the revenue.
Even with the new mandatory fee, they would still represent no more than 17 per cent of revenue, according to Mr Weiss.
The Met receives relatively minimal public subsidies - compared with the world's other top public institutions, such as the Louvre in Paris.
It obtains most of its revenue from donations, which cover half of its annual budget.