Vivid Sydney revives CBD hotels & bars

After an extremely tough two years, the launch of Vivid Sydney has reignited the hospitality sector in the CBD. Restaurants and bars across the city are full, while CBD hotels have experienced their best weekend occupancy figures since 2019.

Vivid Sydney 2022 has attracted around 1.2 million visitors since Lights On less than two weeks ago, recorded the largest opening weekend and is on track to match previous visitor numbers over the long weekend.

Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Minister for Tourism and Sport and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the Queen’s birthday weekend is historically Vivid Sydney’s biggest and busiest weekend.

“Vivid Sydney visitors have turned out in record numbers, with weekends being the most popular. It’s fantastic to see the crowds, and we’re looking forward for another bumper long weekend,” Mr Ayres said.

“Vivid Sydney is transforming Sydney and having a huge impact on the recovery of our visitor economy and creative industries. Friends and families are out enjoying our Harbour City, restaurants are busy and our hotels have seen bookings spike to numbers we haven’t seen in years.”

Vivid Sydney attracted more than 435,000 people on its opening weekend, up 8% on the same weekend in 2019 – and an all-time record.

Last Saturday night saw more than 222,000 visitors, the second-largest audience ever on the Vivid Sydney footprint and its expected more than 500,000 will attend over the four nights of the long weekend.

Hotel bookings jump above 80%

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO Michael Johnson said the lights extravaganza had seen hotel bookings jump to above 80% for the first time since the pandemic began with visitors flocking into the city from across regional NSW and other states.

Data for the last week of May (which included the launch of Vivid Sydney) showed revenue per available room was up 65.5% against the same week in May last year. Occupancy peaked at 82.8% on Saturday, May 28 and could have been higher if labour shortages and hotels capping did not have to occur.

“This is a far cry from last year when entire floors of hotels were closed – indeed some accommodation hotels were actually shut – due to the lack of visitors,” said Johnson.

“Destination NSW and the State Government should be congratulated for staging an event which is giving the struggling tourism accommodation sector such a boost in the quiet winter months.

Accommodation Association CEO Richard Munro said the run-away success of Vivid has once again highlighted the chronic hospitality labour shortage.

“It’s ironic many hotels have to turn travellers away because they don’t have enough staff, after two years of having staff but no travellers,” said Munro.

“Capped visitor numbers mean some venues can’t take full advantage of Vivid’s popularity.”

TAA and Accommodation Australia will be working closely with the new Federal Government on this issue and have welcomed the Australian Government’s recent $10million initiative towards promoting Australians back into the hospitality industry.

Data from US research house STR also reveals Sydney hotels in April posted a gross operating profit per available room of $US52.08, which was 82% of the pre-pandemic comparable.

Vivid Sydney Later initiative ignites bar scene

Restaurants on the Vivid Sydney footprint have recorded more than 300,000 patrons since the festival began, 19% higher than at this point in 2019. More than 82% of attendees are purchasing food and beverages on the footprint.

Many venues are also staying at full capacity after the Vivid Sydney lights are turned off at 11pm. 

“The economic flow-on effects to pubs, restaurants and other small businesses in the CBD will be in the millions over the three-week event,” said Johnson.

Twelve of Circular Quay’s most popular bars and restaurants are opening for extended hours during Vivid Sydney as part of a new initiative dubbed Vivid Sydney Later.

Participating bars including Double Deuce, Mary’s Underground, Apollonia and Maybe Sammy, which will stay open to 2am every Wednesday to Sunday throughout the festival. Restaurants include Bistecca, Lana, Besuto, Tapavino, Grana, Londres 126, Bar Mammoni and Bouillon l’Entrecote will stay open until midnight on these nights.

Vivid Sydney is the largest festival of Light, Music and Ideas in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting 435,000 people across the 2022 opening weekend. The festival transforms Sydney’s CBD into an illuminating fusion of creativity, innovation and technology until Saturday 18 June.

Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Minister for Tourism and Sport and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said: “We want visitors to Vivid Sydney to enjoy everything the festival and our Harbour City has to offer, including the opportunity to enjoy a fabulous meal after the Vivid Sydney lights are turned off for the night.

“Sydney is a diverse and creative city and there is no better time than Vivid Sydney to experience the best of our night-time economy, from culture, entertainment, retail and dining.”

24-Hour Economy Commissioner Michael Rodrigues added: “I regularly get feedback that the public want more late-night dining options in Sydney and this partnership will allow more people to dine out in the fantastic surroundings of Vivid Sydney.

“The NSW 24-hour economy strategy commits to enhancing the offer around major events and this initiative is one part of delivering that commitment. Sydney’s night-time economy is in full revival mode after the pandemic and offering greater choice and options for evening dining will add to the city’s buzz.”

The festival’s renowned Light Walk stretches continuously for 8km in 2022, all the way from the Sydney Opera House to Central Station – the longest in the festival’s 12-year history.

Vivid Sydney Later ensures visitors in the Circular Quay area between Philip Street, Bridge Street and Harrington Street have access to memorable late-night drinking and dining options to round out their experience.

Justin Newton, CEO of Hinchcliff House which houses Grana, Lana, Apollonia and Bar Mammoni said: “Sydney has always come alive for Vivid Sydney, and it’s great to see the city streets filled with people again. It’s been well documented how tough it has been for hospitality businesses over the last couple of years, so this support from the NSW Government is a real pick-me-up for the sector, as well as a vote of confidence. As Hinchcliff House is a recent addition to the city, it’s terrific
to be able to offer great Sydney dining experiences, well into the night.”

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