Within the city

  • 265 cruise ships visited in 2012/13
  • 27,500 people stay in hotels on any night
  • 47,000 local jobs are in the tourism sector
  • Visitors in 2012 spent $5 billion

First stop Sydney

Sydney is Australia’s leading destination for tourists and the gateway to NSW, attracting 10.5 million visitors in 2012 – 4.3 million of those stayed within the City of Sydney’s local area. Those visitors made a significant local economic impact delivering a direct spend of more than $5 billion in 2012 with around $1 billion spent on shopping and $2.8 billion in hospitality (excluding prepaid accommodation).

Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world contributing significant economic growth and diversification across a wide range of employment opportunities – more than 6.8% of local jobs are within the tourism industry.

On top of 26,700 people directly employed in the industry there are 20,300 people indirectly employed, making up a total of 47,000 jobs or 11% of the City’s local workforce, based on the model developed for the Tourism and Transport Forum and census data from 2011.

Close to half of all visitors from overseas including business travellers come to Sydney first, confirming Sydney’s status as Australia’s only global city. In 2011/12, over 2.5 million business visitors from abroad and around the country stayed in Sydney.

Domestic day trips are also very important economic contributors with 20.3 million people spending $2.3 billion in Sydney in 2012 – an increase of 7% on the previous year.

An economic development priority

At the end of 2012, metropolitan Sydney’s accommodation providers recorded 78.9 million visitor nights, which is forecast to increase to 105 million nights in 2020/21. The central Sydney area is home to 60% of metropolitan Sydney’s hotel rooms and around 27,500 people stayed within the City on any given night in 2012.

Because visitors spend their money on a variety of activities such as accommodation, transport, shopping, restaurants and attractions, the impact of this growth will flow to a wide range of businesses across the metropolitan area.

On any given day, the City also attracts 610,000 day visitors and students. Combine this with the combined shopping spend of international and domestic visitors and they make an estimated 20-25% of the City’s retail turnover.

As an industry in NSW, tourism is greater than agriculture, forestry and fishing and it supports many business types from shops, cafés and hotels through to petrol stations, laundries and market gardeners.

The sector generates more than $30 billion to the state every year, contributing approximately $36 million a day across metropolitan Sydney.

Based on market trends developed by the Tourism Forecasting Committee, international visitor arrivals are predicted to reach 8.4 million in 2022, a large increase on the 2012 forecast, which was 6 million visitors.

Cruise ship arrivals continue to be the fastest growing area in the tourism sector. The 2012/13 season was the busiest on record with 265 cruise ships docking in Sydney Harbour.

The combined economic impact of the cruise ship industry contributed $350 million to the NSW economy in 2010/11, which is forecast to grow to $1.1 billion in 2019/20.

The tourism sector has been identified as a priority within the City’s Economic Development Strategy due to its job creation potential and economic growth contribution, as well as the increased knowledge and cultural awareness it creates with other countries.

Encouraging further growth

The City’s priority focus on the tourism sector is due to it:

  • being an industry that continues to provide jobs and much needed economic stimulus, even during difficult financial times
  • helping distribute information about our country’s history, civilisation, traditions and customs to international visitors
  • benefiting the wider community by enriching the diversity and cultural vitality of the city in turn improving lifestyles.

The City has also identified numerous opportunities for developing tourism in Sydney to further reinforce Sydney’s position as Australia’s premier tourist destination. Existing opportunities include:

  • marketing Sydney to new and emerging markets such as China, Korea and India
  • the redevelopment of the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct at Darling Harbour
  • further expanding Sydney’s diverse events, attractions and experiences so they continue to rank among the best in the world
  • meeting the increasing demand for greener accommodation, high quality tourism facilities and infrastructure.

Strengthening partnerships

The City has an important role to play in developing a stronger visitor economy. We will work with industry and government partners to create an economic environment that allows tourism to diversify, grow and develop.

The City will focus its activities in 3 core areas:

  • Destination development: encouraging the development of tourism-related products and infrastructure.
  • Destination management: enhancing the quality of the visitor experience.
  • Destination marketing: strengthening partnerships to increase visitor numbers.

To deliver on these focus areas, the City cannot act alone and seeks to create strong partnerships and networks with industry, government and others so that more can be achieved through our combined efforts. We recognise the excellent work that our partners are taking forward within the tourism sector and will look to support them in developing this crucial part of the City’s economy.

Major projects

Some of the key projects we intend to undertake to grow, diversify and sustain the tourism sector in partnership with government and other stakeholders include:

  • encouraging the development of new hotels, including a more diverse range of hotels to accommodate the growing number of Asian visitors, through our visitor accommodation action plan
  • improving key areas of Sydney by transforming George Street to include light rail, more space for pedestrians, outdoor dining, open public spaces and to increase public transport and cycling options
  • attracting more conferences and business events to Sydney that will increase business-related visits
  • promoting Sydney as a destination of choice in domestic and international markets through specific marketing campaigns
  • continuing to support major festivals and events that increase visitors coming to Sydney
  • improving the quality and consistency of information provided to tourists at key arrival points and information kiosks
  • continuing to introduce initiatives that respond to visitor and resident safety at night by diversifying the late-night economy.

The City's Tourism Action Plan sets out how we will work with partners to maintain and further develop the vibrant tourism sector in Sydney. Following significant public exhibition, the plan was adopted by Council in December 2013 alongside the Economic Development Strategy and the Retail Action Plan.

Last updated: Monday, 21 September 2015