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National Palace Museum price hike aimed at foreign tourists: museum director

TAIPEI -- After a nearly year-long delay, the National Palace Museum (NPM) is planning to raise ticket prices next April, director Fung Ming-chu said yesterday.

Rising operating costs and increases in electricity and fuel prices have compelled the museum to push for an increase in admission prices, Fung said at a hearing of the Legislature's Education and Culture Committee, which was reviewing the NPM's budget for 2014.

The museum is proposing to raise prices for individual tickets from NT$160 (US$5.40) to NT$250, group tickets from NT$100 to NT$230 and discount tickets from NT$80 to NT$150.

The museum told the committee in March that it intended to raise ticket prices on April 15 but had to postpone the move until July because of strong opposition.

During a subsequent budget review in the first half of the year, the committee demanded that the NPM suspend the planned price hikes.

It argued at the time that the NPM's art belonged to the people and was not a tool to help the museum get rich and said it was not appropriate to consider ticket sales as a source of income.

In defending the planned price hike on Wednesday, Fung said 18 categories of people can enter the museum for free, including students, retirees, teachers, low-income individuals and people living near the museum.

The hefty increase in group ticket prices appeared largely directed at overseas visitors, especially those from China.

Of the museum's 4.36 million visitors in 2012, over 2.8 million people entered the museum as part of a group, of which 2.12 million came from China alone, accounting for nearly half of the museum's annual attendance.

Another 448,000 group visitors came from Japan, 93,000 were from South Korea, 70,000 were from Southeast Asian countries, 68,000 were from Hong Kong and 44,000 were from Taiwan.

The museum expects the number of visitors to reach 4.5 million in 2013.

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