Managing unprecedented crowds at the Vatican Museums

Client profile
The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces collected or commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including the Sistine Chapel. The mission of the Vatican Museums is to be a place of beauty and welcome. Welcoming new forms of art, opening their doors to people from all over the world, and serving as an instrument of dialogue between cultures and religions, as a tool for peace.
Challenge – visitor flow negatively impacting overall experience
The Vatican Museums receive six million visitors per year. Although the museum aims to open its doors to people from all over the world, it was not built to accommodate its unprecedented crowds. The volume of people in the Vatican at any one time and the resulting level of noise posed the risk of destroying the overall visitor experience.
The Vatican Museums needed a solution to better organize their visitor flow by minimizing noise, allowing tour leaders to speak quietly, and minimizing the radio frequencies used inside their galleries. They also needed a solution to differentiate their offer and target the different segments of their audience, mainly their family visitors, as families face the challenge of keeping their children engaged while walking through long lines with large crowds.
Solution – a better visitor experience for everyone
Since 1997, Antenna International has served as the official audio tour and group tour provider of Vatican City. Over the years, Antenna has provided the following services as a solution to the Vatican Museums needs:
  • Group Tour System. In 2003, Antenna launched the Group Tour™ System. In 2013 the Group Tour System become universal for all visitors in groups, completely revolutionizing the operations at the Vatican Museum.
  • Staffing. Group Tour system operations are handled by 101 staff members in the Vatican Museums. The team is led by two dedicated Senior Operations managers and six supervisors who concentrate on different areas such as inventory, stock management, and technology. Every day, the staff produces a daily schedule of frequencies and channels to be assigned to each booked group per time slot in every time stage, to streamline the process when the groups arrive the following day. There are more than 18,000 receivers and 1,400 transmitters allocated for the Vatican Museums.
  • Audio Guide. The audio guide for the Vatican Museums covers the entire Museum including the Sistine Chapel. Since 2012, all content is available in 10 languages, with at least eight hours of content per language.
  • Family Tour. In 2011, Antenna introduced a Family Tour designed especially for children 5 – 12 years old to enjoy with grown-up family members. This tour is available in 4 languages and takes children on an educational and entertaining experience by way of an exciting treasure hunt. Children are encouraged to engage their creativity and imagination to uncover mysteries and solve riddles.
  • Equipment. 3000 X-plorer + and Wands units with multi-lingual content are available on site. The operation is managed by an operations manager, who acts as the first point of reference for the Vatican’s staff, one supervisor, and fifteen sales distribution assistants.
Result – increased tour sales, Vatican City state approval, and satisfied visitors
In 2014, after the introduction of the audio guide’s online selling, the take-up rate increased by 42%, reaching 14% of the global attendance (23% on the individual).
In 2017, The Governorate of the Vatican City State expressed their experience working with Antenna to be competent and professional by the members of the company’s staff involved in its provision. With regard to Antenna’s service, The Governorate of the Vatican City State has found visitors of the Museum to be generally satisfied, evaluating an overall positive review.
In the past year, visitor feedback has been very positive. Comments include:
  • “My tour group was timed perfectly…the queue for individuals was so massive I would have lost half my day at least. Then, it was so crowded inside that it was quite overwhelming, so I was glad to have a guide speaking in my ear to point out the important bits and keep the visit feeling focused.”  Visitor, London, United Kingdom
  • “…Informative audio guide and a whole range of exhibitions from paintings, statues, busts, material and more!” Visitor, Canberra, Australia
  • “We were a little concerned that our kids would be really bored… We decided to get the children’s audio guide for each of our kids. Amazing! Other museums would be good to take note and do this in their museums as well. The audio was top-notch – engaging information and characters…” Visitor, Provence, France

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Vatican Museums
Country: Italy
City: Vatican City
Institution Type:
Year Founded: 1506
Content Type: Groups

Partner with Antenna

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We are innovative storymakers and creative technologists devoted to visitor-first experiences.

We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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