Fresh interest in sites

Everybody expected the number of museum visitors would rise dramatically in 2004, the year the Olympic Games were held in Athens, but the number of tickets sold actually fell by 5 percent. The surprise came a year later, accompanied by a rise in tourism. In 2005 – from January to the end of October – the number of tickets sold for archaeological sites and museums rose by 30 percent over the previous year. The news from the Archaeological Receipts and Expropriations Fund (TAP) is equally pleasing, with a rise in revenue of 11 percent from publications and productions and a 50 percent increase in sales of other items. The only disappointment was a decrease in sales of the replicas for which TAP is renowned, which were down by 10 percent. TAP President Ekaterini Romiopoulou says she knows what caused the decrease. «The Organization for the Promotion of Greek Culture (OPEP) has its own products on sale at its new outlets,» she said yesterday. «That has confused the public.» The increase in the number of tickets sold for museums (2,152,000 visitors) as well as archaeological sites (6,500,000 visitors) is a result of revamping and new exhibitions. According to the figures Romiopoulou presented, the overall number of visitors by the end of October was 8,627,188, compared with 7,226,000 in 2004. She attributes improved revenues to refurbishment, regular management checks and the implementation of existing decisions that state dues be paid to TAP. But the enduring obstacle for TAP is still the matter of expropriations, on which the Culture Ministry decides and for which the fund has to pay, whether it has the resources or not. Romiopoulou criticized earlier administrations, noting that in 1993 the fund had a surplus of 7 billion drachmas (20.5 million euros). She insisted that she would not take out a loan, unlike her predecessors, who contracted three loans for which TAP must pay interest of 15 million euros a year until 2015. The fund has other burdens. It is the sole supplier of funds to various projects (to which it has given 40 million euros so far), and it also contributes 1 percent of its revenues to the ministry employees’ Solidarity Fund. Yet TAP’s budget «is always balanced,» the president said. Referring to the doubling up of TAP and OPEP products, Romiopoulou commented that TAP’s products – unlike those of OPEP – have to get approval from committees of archaeologists. And she dropped hints that OPEP products, being made of «cheap material» (polyester instead of clay, like TAP’s), are of lower quality, which will likely spark further debate. Meanwhile, TAP is bringing out new products (paperweights, T-shirts, cloth bags bearing the logos of museums and posters) and has declared that it is determined to carry out a thorough reorganization.