2018 global perspective for cultural attractions

Take a big breath – hot on the heels of a year where Kusama selfies, YSL fans and Miami museum goers reigned, cultural and tourism attractions are in for a booming year ahead, with tourism growth and new builds set to delight the industry.

Looking back at the global stage, the past year experienced 3.7% growth on arrivals and 4.1% on receipts, compared to world economic growth at 3.5%. It was a huge year for museum openings, including mega builds The Louvre opening shop in Abu Dhabi and Zeitz, Africa’s largest museum in 100 years, opening its doors in Cape Town. While Kusama mania swept through US art museums, Yayoi had her own dedicated museum open back in Tokyo. Down in south east Asia, Indonesia continued the modern art trend with the opening of Museum MACAN, as did Tate on the other side of the world in Cornwall with the reopening of St Ives. YSL spread its wings on either side of the Mediterranean, opening in Morocco and Paris, which also saw the results of a 5 year revamp of La Monnaie de Paris. Over in Vienna, the Weltmuseum Wien also opened after refurbishment. Back in the United States, Miami had a mostly arts theme going with three big openings including the Bass, ICA Miami and the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science all opening. History reigned supreme on the East Coast with the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and the Museum of the Bible in Washington. Los Angeles saw its own Institute of Contemporary Art reopen, Chicago gained a new American Writers Museum and Ohio a new Military Museum. In Canada, the Remai Modern opened with a 9 figure contribution from Ellen Remai’s foundation and Ottawa reopened its Science and Technology Museum.

So with that said and done, what’s in store for the year ahead? Buckle your seatbelt, put away your tray table and make sure your seat back is upright, as we take you on a whirlwind global tour of culture and tourism in 2018.

The Americas

International tourists entering the United States in early 2017 were down 4.2% (close to 700,000 visitors), which industry commentators put down to social and political climate perception. With cultural and heritage and tourism interest amongst six key dimensions, Germany knocked the United States off the prime spot on the Nation Brands Index, with America falling out the top five, behind France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. The situation is further complicated with the proposed changes to federal funding for the arts straining the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Ahead this year, the United States will be trying to make up for lost ground, with a number of new cultural attraction builds to help along the way. Continuing the theme from 2017, the Institute of Contemporary Art will open in Virginia, alongside the Glenstone in Maryland, while construction continues at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir. Further north in New York, all eyes will be on The Met as it introduces mandatory admission for non residents of New York in March. The city will also be busy on the look out for Spyscape, a new museum looking at hacking, espionage and investigative journalism, plus a world first Poster House and the expansion of London’s Gallery 8 from across the Pond.

Two notably important memorial museums are scheduled for opening with The Legacy Museum in Alabama looking at slavery and incarceration via the Equal Justice Initiative and Pennsylvania erecting a 93 foot high Tower of Voices national memorial to the Friends of Flight 93.  Over in St Louis, the city will cut the ribbon on the new Jefferson Memorial Expansion Museum at the Arch. Seattle’s Space Needle will also be completing a renovation, with the city seeing a new Nordic Museum too.

In Los Angeles, The Main continues with the next phase of its three building, experimental art museum downtown, with a mezzanine gallery and artist in residence studios opening in a few weeks time, while work carries on at the new Academy Museum for the Oscars.

Kids in Indianapolis will be counting the sleeps until the Children’s Museum opens the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, as will those in Wisconsin with a new Farm Discovery Center on the way. Up in Ohio, the next generation of football fans will be getting ready for the Paul E Brown and Massillon Tiger Football Museum. 2018 is also a good year for those who put a theme park visit on their Christmas list, with Disney opening Toy Story Land, Universal’s new Fast and Furious unveiled and a new Nona Adventure Park coming for Orlando.

Despite minor economic decelerations and North Korean tensions in Asia, China is still tracking strong growth of 8.4% to overtake the United States as the world’s largest source of outbound tourism demand. It’s a trend recognized in Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced 2018 as the Canada-China Year of Tourism, no doubt a key trend in the works for the plans at Canada’s new Royal Alberta Museum set to open this year.

In South America, Rio will see the opening of the Museum of Image and Sound while fun lovers will delight in Mexico’s new Amikoo park, featuring the first flying theatre in Latin America.

Europe, Middle East and Africa

Europe’s tourist numbers were down 10%, with the worst affected being Switzerland, Belgium and Britain, the latter particularly with security concerns. However, Visit Britain are predicting 2018 to be a record breaking year of 41 million visitors for their region.

The year starts with the reopening of the Hayward Gallery in Southbank – the end of a two year redevelopment hiatus only a few weeks away, though the British Film Institute had previously scrapped its own plans for a £130 million centre in the area. Museums surrounding Westminster will no doubt be delighted with the Abbey’s £23 million investment to open its galleries for the first time in over 700 years, drawing further visitors to the area. Celebrating their 250th anniversary, The Royal Academy have also invested in a transformative redevelopment which will bring together a major next extension across Burlington House and Gardens.

It’s good news for photography lovers in London. As in New York, Swedish photography museum Fotografiska will open their London offering. The V&A are continuing site growth plans with another new photography center, plus an outpost in Scotland and a collaboration with the Smithsonian planned for Stratford. The former London Olympics site is part of an £850 million cultural and education district dubbed ‘Olympicopolis’, which London Mayor Sadiq Khan has billed as one of the largest cultural destinations within Europe, saying “We’ve not seen anything on this scale in London since the creation of the museum complex in South Kensington over 160 years ago”. Over in Leicester, the National Space Centre has a £5 million expansion underway and Sheffield are not missing out either, with a £21 million arts centre planned for a retired estate at Park Hill.

Despite Berlin’s 2.5 million drop in museum visitor numbers the past year due to economic slow down and leisure competition, construction around Germany’s billion dollar Museum Island continues, with the opening of entrance James-Simon-Galerie planned for 2018. France also has many glasses of champagne ahead, with L’Atelier des Lumières, the first digital museum of fine art in Paris, Bordeaux’s maritime museum Musée de la Mer et de la Marine and Normandy’s Calvados Experience Museum.

While a new Einstein Museum gets underway in Israel, Tel Aviv will open the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Stockholm’s Jaffa based satellite space for the Magain III Museum and Foundation for Contemporary Art and the Tower of David will launch an innovation lab in Jerusalem.

The Middle East continues to shine through with the opening of the highly anticipated King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Egypt, with the staged approach continuing for the management of Beit Beirut in Lebanon.

Asia Pacific

With China reportedly opening a new museum every day, three in particular stand out: a new museum dedicated to Confucius in his Shandong hometown, The Guardian Art Center in Beijing doubling as a modern auction house plus museum and the new West Bund art district’s aptly named Tank Museum in Shanghai, housed in decommissioned oil tanks. The trend for repurposed buildings continues in Hong Kong, where the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts takes up residence in a reimagined police station while work continues on the multi billion dollar Kowloon Cultural District, though the Museum’s experimental Pavilion will stage a series of shows in the lead up to the 2019 opening.

Echoing Indonesia’s investments of 2017, Batam opens its first modern museum and Bangladesh does the same with the Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park. Keeping up Asia’s fascination with theme park construction, Legoland Korea is reported to open this year and Disney’s purchase hasn’t interrupted the construction of the 20th Century Fox World in Korea while Universal builds a $7 billion mega park in Beijing for 2020, with Ubisoft busy preparing their offering for Malaysia.

Down in Australasia, this year sees the end of centenary remembrance for ANZAC in World War I, a significant theme for Australian and New Zealand history museums over the past few years. However, much of the industry’s construction investment is awaiting opening in future years, with Art Gallery NSW’s significant Sydney Modern project on the way, alongside Peter Jackson’s Movie Museum in Wellington, scaled back plans with the Christchurch earthquake rebuild of Science Alive and a delayed Ravenscar House Museum.


In 2018, see Dexibit at SaaStr San Francisco, MCN London, AI Day Auckland, Visitor Service Group London, Museums and the Web Vancouver, American Alliance of Museums Phoenix, Museums Next London and Museum Computer Network Denver.