Visitors and customers

CBD and Harbour

Studies on pedestrian traffic suggest that the iconic status of CBD and Harbour makes it one of the most visited locations across the City of Sydney local area and Metro Sydney, with visitation strong throughout most of the day.

The city centre is the focal point of Sydney’s tourism activity, providing a significant amount of the city’s hotel and serviced apartment accommodation, with a rapidly expanding backpacker accommodation provision.

Other big employers include professional and business services, and retail.

The area includes significant institutions and tourist precincts, such as the Opera House, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Walsh Bay, the Domain and Hyde Park, the Art Gallery of NSW and Government House.

It is little surprise then that there are more than 10,000 hotel and serviced-apartment rooms in the CBD and Harbour area.

Areas of high commercial density include Darling Park and the Citibank building on Park Street and Martin Place.

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Visitation patterns in the CBD

When considering visitation to CBD and Harbour, analysing the pattern of pedestrian movements in the area is representative of the nature of that visitation. Chart 8 compares and contrasts pedestrian counts in 2 of the area's busiest locations, on Market Street near Pitt Street Mall, and on Circular Quay near the Opera House. This reveals that visitation patterns are broadly similar at the northern and southern ends of the area, and across weekdays and weekends.

As shown in the chart, on a weekday Market Street was observed to have a sustained period of high pedestrian activity from 9am to 9pm, with the highest activity occurring in the early evening between 5pm and 6pm. This pattern was broadly repeated on the weekend, although pedestrian numbers were slightly lower, and activity did not pick up until around 11am (note that the 11pm–12pm figure in this series is an outlier caused by a large event finishing on the day of observation). 

Pedestrian traffic at this location is likely to be driven by several distinct markets. The early morning and evening traffic is likely to be mostly office workers, while traffic in the middle of the day will represent the combination of shoppers and tourists in addition to office workers on their break.

Circular Quay is a location that is driven much more by leisure visitation, including a large number of tourists as well as locals drinking and dining. Consequently, the visitation pattern was very similar to that observed for Market Street on weekends (that is, without the influence of office workers). Visitation patterns were not significantly different between weekdays and weekends, highlighting the strong attraction of this tourism precinct at all times of the week.

Chart 8 – Market St & Circular Quay Pedestrian Counts, October 2013

Figure 10 – Employment Density  

Visitor accommodation

The 2012 Floor Space and Employment Survey details the supply of visitor accommodation available within CBD and Harbour, providing a broad indicator of the capacity of the area to accommodate overnight visitors.

The most dominant form of visitor accommodation within CBD and Harbour is hotel accommodation, with almost 9,500 rooms in 2012, representing almost one half of the City of Sydney’s hotel rooms. CBD and Harbour also contains approximately one-third of the City of Sydney local area's serviced apartments and one-eighth of all backpacker beds. Worth noting is the fact that the backpacker accommodation within the area saw an increase of over 540% in the number of beds between 2007 and 2012.

The significant supply of visitor accommodation within CBD and Harbour highlights its strength as a tourist destination, and the large contribution that this market makes to the local economy.

Table 10 – Visitor Accommodation, 2012

2007 2012 Change % Change
Hotel Accommodation (Rooms) 8,875 9,460 585 6.6%
Serviced Apartments (Units) 1,420 1,491 71 5.0%
Backpacker Accommodation (Beds) 124 795 671 541.1%
Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Contribution of tourists

Table 11 shows data from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) on overnight visitors to the statistical area level 2 (SA2) Sydney-Haymarket-The Rocks in 2013. Being the focal point of tourism activity within the City of Sydney, the area is likely to receive the majority of this visitation, and indeed TRA estimates show that around 83% of the total visitor nights in the City of Sydney are spent in the SA2 of Sydney-Haymarket-The Rocks, which covers the CBD and Harbour area as well as Chinatown and CBD South.

The table shows that interstate visitors have a slightly higher spend per night than intrastate ones ($201 versus $173). While the spend per night for international visitors is significantly lower at $100, their trip duration is much longer, making the overall contribution per trip higher than domestic visitors. Again, given that CBD and Harbour is a focal point for tourist activity in the City of Sydney local area, it is likely that this visitor spending will make a significant contribution to the economy.

Table 11 – Overnight Visitor Characteristics, Sydney – Haymarket – The Rocks SA2, 2013

Visitors (‘000) Visitor Nights (‘000) Average stay (nights) Average nightly expenditure*
Intrastate 1,262 2,274 1.8 $173
Interstate 2,324 5,720 2.5 $201
International 1,884 24,209 12.8 $100
*Estimates for Metropolitan Sydney in 2012/13
Source: Tourism Research Australia

What does this mean for my business?

Studies of visitation to the area highlight the strength of CBD and Harbour as a destination, with pedestrian traffic high throughout the day. This pattern is observed across both weekdays and weekends, with weekdays seeing slightly more traffic due to the presence of office workers. The presence of a number of significant visitor segments, including office workers and tourists, helps support some of the largest concentrations of retail and dining in the City of Sydney.

With a significant supply of visitor accommodation and a number of tourist attractions in the area, it is clear that tourists will contribute a significant amount to the local economy. Analysis of tourist spending data highlights the scale of this contribution.


This information has been compiled from various sources. The publisher and contributors accept no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage arising from the use, error or omissions therein. While all care is taken to ensure a high degree of accuracy, users are invited to notify the City of Sydney of any discrepancies. No part of this information, including maps or data, may be reproduced without written permission.

Last updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2015