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October 10, 2017 - During China’s week-long National Holiday vacation, the Palace Museum made history by completing all ticket sales through its online ticketing system. This significance step in museum management provides visitors with a safe and pleasant experience and serves to prevent safety issues created by over-crowding. The exclusively-online ticketing coincides with the Museum’s termination of traditional ticket sales and includes features such as real-name registration. Future features like ticketing time-slots are currently in planning.
By 1:38 AM on October 2, the daily-allotment of 80,000 tickets was completely sold out via the online platform. At 1:55 PM that day, every ticket for October 3 was already sold out. Since October 10, the Museum has implemented exclusively-online ticketing.
The first online tickets for the Palace Museum were sold on September 25, 2011; that day only 287 tickets were purchased via the Internet. By the end of 2011, the ratio of tickets reserved online was a mere 1.68%. In the following four years, from 2011 to 2014, the number still lingered around 2%. Change came on June 13, 2015, when the Museum started to set a daily visitor limit of 80,000 and implemented real-name registration for ticket sales; 7,506 tickets of that day’s 50,000 tickets were reserved online. Throughout 2015, 17.33% of tickets were booked online, and the ratio climbed to 41.14% in 2016.
This year, the Museum has been leading up to this recent implementation of the new exclusively-online ticketing system. Since July 1, the ticketing area at the Museum entrance has featured signage with QR codes used for online purchasing. In August, tickets sold online made up 77% of all ticket sales. This progressive increase culminated in the exclusively-online sales of October 2.
According to the Museum’s Director Shan Jixiang, the transition to this online ticketing system has not led to a decline in visitor numbers. Rather, visitors have steadily increased with a record-breaking 16 million in 2016. The regular yet growing numbers have resulted in manageable crowds in the peak season and a regular flow in the low season. With these visitor statistics, the Museum can ensure safety and order while providing quality service. Promoting the Museum’s endeavors toward refined management, Director Shan added that visitors’ support of the online ticketing system will enable them to fully enjoy the Museum’s continually improving service.
The Museum’s staff undertook a range of necessary preparations in order to fully implement exclusively-online ticket sales. These arrangements included an upgrade of the previously established ticketing system, improvements to the support facilities, and the development of various methods for online purchase. Over the past few months, guidance has been provided at the Museum entrance to instruct visitors in the use of the new purchasing methods. These measures aided in the gradual transition from offline to online ticketing.
Online Ticketing: Tickets for visiting on the day of purchase can be bought online. Although the ticket reservation system remains unchanged, the Museum has updated its online ticketing website and payment system.
Mobile Access: Tickets can be bought by scanning a QR code at the Museum entrance. The Museum’s official mobile-version website has been updated with easy access to visitors’ Alipay (Zhifubao) and WeChat accounts for convenient purchase without further registration.
Payment Options: Various payment options have been introduced. Payment is now possible through Alipay and WeChat Wallet. The ticket reservation website now supports mobile payment, accessible via the official mobile site.
Upgraded Facilities: The lines at the Museum entrance have been rerouted, and the entrance’s ticketing scanners and related facilities have been upgraded.
Improved Hardware: The ticketing system’s hardware has been upgraded for increased risk resistance capabilities. Dual modular redundancy is implemented for reliability, and new ticket scanners are being used.
Secure Operations: The ticketing system’s overall load capacity has been expanded and balanced with the most advanced configuration. Code optimization and stress tests have also been conducted to ensure proper functionality. Trials have also been run to safeguard the operations of user logins, transaction commitments, regular operations, payments, refunds, and secure logouts. Having undergone single scene and full scene tests, the system can withstand a constant load of 2,000 user links.
Ticket Sales and Services at the Museum Entrance
QR Code Scanning: The Museum has placed signage with QR codes outside the Museum entrance. These codes may be scanned with a mobile device. Staff is also available at the entrance to provide portable QR codes and other relevant consultation and help with purchasing.
Ticket Service and Information: Five information desks have been set up at the Gate of Correct Deportment (Duan men, the gate immediately north of the Tiananmen Gate) to provide consultation services. Each desk is equipped with two or three ticket-service staff and one or two security staff. Each desk is able to accommodate 1,500 visitors each day—a total of 7,500 daily visitors.
Integrated Services: This office is designed to deal with various ticketing needs and assist visitors who are unfamiliar with the online ticket system. Two windows prepare requested receipts for online ticket orders and tickets for VIPs. Four windows are designated for international visitors and visitors unable to make online payments. On October 7, during the online ticketing trial period, the integrated office received 1,313 total visitor inquiries, far below the anticipated number of inquiries, indicating that visitors are easily adapting to the online system.
The target groups of this service office primarily include those who cannot make online payments such as the elderly, international visitors, and other visitors with particular reasons. These visitors may request the office staff to help with accessing online payment options or information about the exclusively-online ticket policy. Visitors whose mobile-device batteries have lost power or who have not brought their devices may also request assistance. In this way, the Museum is always prepared to provide quality service for every visitor, not merely those able to make online payments. In the future, the Museum will subdivide these services to further address visitor needs.
Visitor Guidance: The Museum is also implementing a visitor-guidance plan in promotion of the new ticketing system. Each service spot and staff member plays a role in undertaking specific duties to provide standardized, quality service and helping every visitor to fulfill their desired travel plan.
Daily Quota: The daily number of visitors has gradually increased and has reached a steady trend. Before online ticketing, visitors needed to arrive early and queue for tickets. That mode often resulted in overcrowding. With the exclusively-online ticketing system, visitors can now arrange their visiting time and a trip to the Museum can be more flexibly planned to suit individual schedules. The Museum staff is also better equipped to manage the flow of visitors even during the peak season.
Safe Tourism: Visitors can now enjoy a safer and more enjoyable visit since illegal ticket scalpers, unauthorized tour guides, and unregulated merchants are unable to operate. Since visitors are no longer required to queue at the entrance and due to the newly designed tickets, illegal businesses have no opportunity to draw in unsuspecting customers.
The online ticketing system and daily quota of visitors is designed to ensure service quality and protect visitors’ personal safety; it is not intended to limit the number of visitors. Through these measures the Museum can establish more refined management and better service for visitors. The daily quota of 80,000 visitors and the exclusively-online ticketing system are some of the first steps of this high-quality management and will serve to give direction for further improvements.
Upcoming improvements to the Museum’s management will include a trial period in 2018 during which visitors will buy tickets based on specific visiting times; this trial will utilize big data analysis to better assess visitors’ needs. The plan is aimed at providing visitors with a more enjoyable cultural environment and museum-going experience without overcrowding in the morning and vacant courtyards in the afternoon. The former ticketing offices at the Gate of Correct Deportment (Duan men), will be transformed to better serve visitors and promote the Museum’s vision of “Bringing the Art of the Forbidden City Alive”.
Translated by Wang Mengxi and Adam J. Ensign
Edited by Zhuang Ying