Interview with Evelio Acevedo

Today on TSTT we have Evelio Acevedo, head of one of the leading museums in Madrid and Europe, and considered a gentleman of art in the Spanish cultural universe.

Mr. Acevedo, how did a professional with high responsibilities in banking and finance become managing director of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in 2012?

These are the vicissitudes of life. The last global financial crisis cut short the banking model that had worked until then and Barclays, where I was working at the time, was forced to abandon its operations in continental Europe almost entirely. For me it was time for reinvention. A public call for employment at the Thyssen Museum and a broad professional experience suited to the needs of the institution in those difficult times were found, and so the closing of a stage became an attractive opportunity in the cultural sector, in the field of public administration and, most especially for me, in relation to art. Painting has always been one of my great hobbies.

The relationship between art, culture and tourism is undisputed, but what do you think are the pillars for generating and promoting a programme aimed at tourism from a cultural institution such as the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza?

We have drawn up a strategic plan that guarantees the continuity of our actions to attract national and international tourism. It is essential to know the visitor, in all the broad spectrum of his or her diversity, and to adapt our offer to his or her interests in a consistent way.

Our collection of paintings, one of the most complete in the world in terms of pictorial movements, authors, periods and even geographically, is a great experience in terms of knowledge and enjoyment of Western civilisation. Attracting and entertaining the visitor with our history, with the stories told by our paintings, is a proposal to be taken into account.

What do you consider to be the main trends in cultural tourism, specifically in art centres such as the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza?

Madrid's main offer for visitors is culture, in its broad spectrum, from museums to tapas bars. In Madrid, it is clear that tourists are looking to enjoy everything the city has to offer. The Thyssen Museum is known for offering a quality programme with a wide range of content. Two factors that are increasingly setting the trend in tourism.

After the pandemic, do you think that tourists and travellers have a greater need or desire to enjoy art?

During the pandemic, museums were not only entertainment, but also accompaniment for those in confinement. Afterwards, the opening of museums had a very important psychological effect on the way to the normalisation of our lives. All this meant that art, culture in general, is now more valued and more appreciated by the public.

Let's talk about the digitalisation of museums, and specifically the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. How do these digital processes influence the promotion of the Museum?

Digitalisation allows us to reach people anywhere in the world. Web displays, digital marketing, social networks, etc. allow us to reach more audiences and respond to their interests and needs, whether for leisure, entertainment or educational purposes. Moreover, digital content enriches and expands the role of museums in today's society.

As we have told other important players in the international tourism industry, what does the digitisation of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza mean to you?

Starting with the operational aspects, for years we have been offering a digital platform to make it easier for tour operators, incoming agencies, hotels and other tourism agents to operate with the museum. A simple and efficient channel for contracting and settling our services. In addition, the information on our website, telematic meetings, all this makes our accessibility and communications much more fluid.

What is the Museum doing, through creative solutions, to attract national and international tourists?

From competitions to support the creativity and artistic talent of young audiences, our Versionathyssen, to online guided tours, not face-to-face, but interacting with a guide and experiencing the visit live, enriched with digitised content (restoration studies, X-rays, reflectographies, gigapixels, ...), in other words, everything you don't have on a face-to-face visit. We are making visits with groups that connect from New York, Bogota, Germany or anywhere in Spain.

In relation to the Museum, what is the difference between national and international tourists?

The differences have become smaller, both are very well informed about what we offer, they are already more planned, they buy their tickets online, they love our shop, eating or having a drink in the cafeteria, they are very similar.

The difference is made more by whether or not they live in Madrid. Visitors from Madrid come more for the temporary exhibitions, while for those from abroad the permanent collection is their main objective. This is logical, it happens in all cities.

What actions are you developing to promote the idea that every tourist who visits the Museum becomes an ambassador for the institution?

Our priority is their satisfaction, the quality of the visit and of everything we offer them. We want their time at the Thyssen Museum to be an absolutely enjoyable experience that encourages them to come back and recommend us. Fortunately, the internal and external surveys in this regard are very positive.

Are the purchases made by tourists in the Museum shop an important source of income for the institution?

Of course they are. It is a shop to buy a souvenir, but above all it is a gift shop. Not only visitors to the museum, many people come to buy things for themselves or to give as gifts. Access does not require an entrance fee to the museum. The online shop, which really took off during the pandemic, is doing very well.

What are the main attractions associated with the museum to meet the expectations of tourists?

A visit to our permanent collection is a very complete journey through almost eight centuries of European and North American painting, where the main artists and pictorial movements of Western civilisation are present. It is a unique collection in Spain and, I dare say, in the world. We are a museum of a very appropriate size so as not to exhaust ourselves during the visit and to enjoy it even more with shopping in the shop and relaxing in the cafeteria and on the terraces.

In your opinion, what are the main changes and advances that the cultural tourism offer will undergo in the coming years?

I think the orientation towards quality tourism is very clear. Not only luxury tourism, but also more standard tourism, but at the same time more demanding in terms of the quality of what is on offer and more respectful of consumption and environmental impact.

Given the grandeur and beauty of the works contained in the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, what, in your opinion, are the main treasures that attract tourists to the Museum?

The completeness of our permanent collection with iconic works and artists, the diversity and originality of our temporary exhibitions, the museum's commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability, are all very attractive factors for today's diverse tourism.

What differentiates the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza from other museums in Madrid?

In terms of content, the difference is determined by a unique permanent collection, which ranges from the Italian primitives of the late 13th century to the 20th century and is an extraordinary source of inspiration for our temporary exhibitions. This is complemented by the contemporary art which, for the past four years, we have been offering together with TBA21 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary'21).

On the other hand, our way of doing things also sets us apart. We are agile; we respond well to the expectations of both our audiences and our sponsors and collaborators; we pursue efficiency and excellence in everything we do.

Finally, why should tourists and travellers coming to Madrid visit the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza?

We are a friendly museum where visitors can enjoy art and more, and because we want them to feel good. Do you know what the most frequent testimonial of those who visit us is: "my favourite museum". We are committed to continue being so.

Thank you

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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