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Touring exhibitions do not make a profit, states report

Nicola Sullivan, 04.06.2016
Survey finds that the average budget for a UK touring exhibition is £62,500
Public organisations taking work on tour to UK venues do not make a profit, according to research conducted by the Touring Exhibitions Group (TEG).

The Economics of Touring Exhibitions Survey Report, based on information from 222 museums and galleries, found that respondents valued the wider benefits of touring, including profile raising and audience development, above the generation of income or off-setting of costs. It also found that the recovery of some, but not all costs was common. 

The average budget for a UK touring exhibition is £62,500 but many museums and galleries are producing touring exhibitions with budgets of under £5,000 said the report.

Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents involved with touring said that the average cost is £1,000 for a touring exhibition, while 36% said it costs £1,000-£3,000.
A quarter of organisations use 90-100% core funds to develop touring exhibitions, while 46% raise 50% or more of their costs from external sources. And 67% recoup less than half of touring costs through hire fees.

The report said that 55% of touring exhibitions attract hire fees of under £3,000, while 32% of touring exhibitions are free. The majority of venues that hire touring exhibitions find it difficult to do so in their price range. 

The greatest proportion of venues hiring touring exhibitions is in the North (79%); the lowest is in the Midlands (27%).

Meanwhile, more than half (51%) of organisations offering touring do not feel confident enough to fundraise to support their touring activity. On average organisations involved in touring run one or two exhibitions per year.
It was also found that 32% of organisations developed their last touring exhibition in partnership, and almost all (98%) of those that have developed a touring exhibition in partnership would recommend partnership working to others.
Last year the TEG was awarded £40,000 from Arts Council England’s museum resilience fund for the delivery of a two-year research and training programme on the economics of touring.

TEG has produced a set of recommendations for best practice and a toolkit for developing an economic and production strategy for touring exhibitions.

Links and downloads

Economics of Touring Exhibitions Survey Report (pdf)

TEG recommendations for best practice (pdf)

TEG toolkit (pdf)