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News Article

'Da Vinci Code' helps Louvre break visitor record

Paris museum passes 7 million visitors

The Louvre Museum in Paris hit record attendance figures of around 7.3 million during 2005. The visitor numbers were boosted by soirees for young people, successful exhibitions, and Dan Browns bestselling 'Da Vinci Code', which features a murder in the famous art museum.

The 2005 visitor numbers compare with 6.7 million in 2004, says administrator Dider Selles. Selles said Dan Brown's mystical thriller "The Da Vinci Code" was in part responsible for drawing fans to the Louvre, though likely "not in gigantic proportions." Some travel companies offer Da Vinci code tours that make stops at the Louvre.

Other factors boosting attendance were Friday night soirees that are free for those aged under 26, and exhibits including a show on Romanesque art from France, which drew 205,000 visitors, and a retrospective on the Romantic painter Anne-Louis Girodet, which brought in 150,000 people. More galleries have also been opened to the public, with only 13% of the Louvre's rooms now closed, compared with 25% in 2001.

About one-fourth of everyone who visits Paris makes a stop at the Louvre, Selles says. One-third of Louvre visitors are French, and Americans are next, at about 18-20 percent.

Further boost in visitors expected

While the book of the "Da Vinci Code" may have attracted some extra visitors to the museum, more dramatic results are expected after spring 2006, when a movie based on the novel is released. The movie stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, and was shot partly in the Louvre, where the curator is discovered murdered. The Louvre is one of the locations being considered for the film's European premiere.

"There is perhaps a 'Da Vinci Code' effect, but in my opinion it will be truly stronger when the film comes out," Selles said in a telephone interview with Associated Press.

Tourism inspired by books has generally been more associated with more literary figures than Dan Brown, and usually occurs where a particular location or area is strongly associated with authors born in the location and who set their novels there. An example is the Yorkshire (England) village of Haworth, which has built a tourism industry based on the Bronte novels dating from the 1860s and 1870s (Barnard, 2002). Tetley and Bramwell (2002) also examine the features of Haworth's literary landscape that enable visitors to experience its literary connections during visits.

Dan Brown's impact comes from the sheer numbers of readers his books have attracted. Before the Brown phenomenon, perhaps the best-known tourist impact of a modern book (and later film), was that of Alex Garland's 1997 novel "The Beach," set on a pristine Thai beach and telling the story of a backpacker weary of overrun tourist spots in Thailand. Written as a satirical critique of backpacker culture, the book and the following film starring Leo diCaprio helped attract increasing numbers of low-budget travellers to the beaches of Thailand. It is somewhat ironic that a book which satirized backpackers and depicted a utopia in disintegration, became cult reading among the young travellers it depicted and may have accelerated the growing impact of tourism on the environment and culture of Thailand's coasts. The shooting of the film of The Beach also aroused controversy when the pristine Maya beach, located in a national park on Phi Phi Lae island in southern Thailand, was transformed into a stereotype of a 'tropical island beach' on Garland's imaginary island (Cohen, 2005), causing lasting change.

"Movies have always played a major role in promoting destinations" said Thai tourism official Seree Wangpaichitr when 'The Beach' was filmed. "In spite of controversies regarding portrayal of facts of fiction, movies create images that stay in people's minds."

One such image from the 'Da Vinci Code', that of the Louvre curator lying with arms and legs outstretched and a five-pointed star drawn on his chest in blood, may help the Louvre break visitor records again in 2006.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 06 January 2006
  • Subject(s)
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Tourism