Museums, Zoos and Parks

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 7,300 firms operating museums, zoos and parks in the US earn revenue from contributions, gifts, and grants (public and private sources); admission fees; investment income; and resale of merchandise. Museums preserve and exhibit objects of historical, cultural and/or educational value. Historical sites involve the preservation and exhibition of sites, buildings, forts, or communities that are related to events or persons of historical significance. Zoos exhibit animal life displays. Natural parks are natural areas designated for the enjoyment of the public.

Dependence on Donations

Museums, natural parks, zoos, and related organizations are highly dependent on contributions, gifts, and grants, which account for 35% of revenue.

High Value Exhibits

Many museums, zoos, and historical sites house valuable, sometimes irreplaceable, objects or animals.

Industry size & Structure

The average museum employs 19 workers and generates about $2.6 million annually. The average historical site employs 13 workers and generates about $1.2 million annually. The average zoo employs about 64 workers and generates about $7 million annually. The average natural park employs 14 workers and generates about $1.6 million annually.

    • The museum, natural park, and zoo industry consists of about 7,300 firms that employ about 128,200 workers and generate $17 billion annually.
    • The museum industry is fragmented; the top 50 companies account for about 45% of industry revenue. The historical site, zoo, and natural park industries are more concentrated, with the top 50 companies accounting for 60-66% of industry revenue.
    • Museums account for about 65% of industry revenue and 70% of firms. Zoos and botanical gardens account for 23% of revenue and 9% of firms. Historical sites account for 6% of revenue and 13% of firms. Natural parks account for 5% of revenue and 8% of firms.
    • Large organizations include the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Diego Zoo.
                                  Industry Forecast
                                  Museums, Zoos and Parks Industry Growth
                                  Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                                  Recent Developments

                                  Mar 7, 2023 - National Park Visits Up in 2022
                                  • Recreational visits to parks in the National Park Service system were up 5%, or 15 million visits, in 2022 over 2021, reaching 312 million visits, according to the US National Park Service. Service-wide visitation remained lower than in 2018 and 2019 but has generally climbed back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, 38% of visits were at recreational parks, 32% were at historical and cultural parks, and 30% were at nature parks. National parks with the most visits in 2022 were Blue Ridge Parkway (15.7 million visits), Golden Gate National Recreational Area (15.6 million visits), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12.9 million visits), Gateway National Recreational Area (8.7 million visits), Lincoln Memorial ( 7.8 million visits), George Washington Memorial Parkway (7.3 million visits), Natchez Trace Parkway (6.5 million visits), Gulf Islands National Seashore (5.6 million visits), Lake Mead National Recreational Area (5.5 million visits), and Vietnam Veterans Memorial (4.8 million visits).
                                  • Half of American travelers aged 50-plus say they are curbing their travel over cost concerns, according to research by AARP. A little more than a quarter say financial worries due to inflation are causing them to be hesitant to spend on a vacation. American adults anticipate spending about $6,688 on travel in 2023, less than the $8,369 projected for trips in 2022. Funds that would go toward travel are being redirected to paying bills and reducing debt; a third say they are saving for future travel. The age group altering their travel the most are those age 70 and older who expect to spend over 40% less on trips in 2023 over 2022. Health concerns related to travel are declining. About 80% of adults aged 50 or older believe it is safe to travel again, an increase over 77% in 2021. Only a quarter of adults 50-plus cite COVID-19 as a barrier to travel, compared to 50% in 2021. Museums, zoos, and parks will likely benefit from any future rebound in travel.
                                  • An investigation by ProPublica has found that several US museums and universities hold the remains of an estimated 100,000 Indigenous people in their permanent collections, according to ARTNews. The “Repatriation Project” examined an apparent lull in national repatriation efforts following the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The act required museums backed with government funding to review their collections for Indigenous remains and initiate their returns. According to ProPublica’s investigation, some museums used a legal loophole that allows them to label items as “culturally unidentifiable” to stall contacting tribal representatives. In October 2022, the government released some proposed changes to the act designed to ask museums to defer to tribal representatives regarding the significance of unidentified materials that are the subject of return requests. Some museums say they are taking the required steps; for example, New York State Museum said it was in talks with an Indigenous tribe representative to carry out its returns under NAGPRA.
                                  • Diversity at museums in the US and Canada increased in 2022 compared to earlier surveys, according to a 2022 survey by the Mellon Foundation, as reported in Artforum International. The survey of some 330 museums was conducted in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors. According to the 2022 survey, 36% of museum staff were people of color, compared to 27% in 2015. People of color accounted for 47% of building operations staff, 35% of public engagement staff, and 20% of museum leadership and conservation staff. People of color in leadership roles doubled between 2015 and 2022. The study also reflected gender percentages, with women accounting for 60% of museum staff and men 40%. The percentage of women in museum leadership roles grew from 58% in 2015 to 66% in 2022. Regarding the survey results, Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander said, "Though progress remains slow and uneven, the demographics of museum employees across the country are becoming more reflective of the diverse communities their organizations serve."
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