Vivid Sydney festival director Gill Minervini says it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the increase in turnout in 2023, drawing a crowd of more than 3.28 million people to the event which ran over 23 nights and included seven presentations of the largest drone show in the southern hemisphere.
Restaurants, cafes and bars enjoyed a surge in patronage with the number of meals up 6 per cent at 745,000, while hotels in the CBD recorded a 12 per centage point lift in vacancy rates year-on-year at 78 per cent, rising further to 90 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights.
"After COVID-19, we proudly raised the bar in 2022 growing the festival’s attendance by seven per cent. This year we surpassed those figures. I’m still pinching myself," says Minervini.
"We’re extremely proud and very grateful to all our artists, performers, musicians, speakers and chefs. Without them, our program would not be anywhere near as successful.
“Vivid Food has been the standout in 2023. More than 190,000 people checked out Vivid Fire Kitchen which is just incredible, with many of our Vivid Food events receiving rave reviews, selling out or achieving very high attendance."
NSW Minister for Jobs and Tourism, John Graham, describes the preliminary figures for Vivid Sydney as "extraordinary" with the event showcasing the city, at its finest, to the world.
"Australia’s largest festival has grown by around 30 per cent. That’s an increase comparable to the population of the Gold Coast," Minister Graham says.
"These figures show how popular Vivid Sydney is, how it captures imaginations and shares with visitors and Sydneysiders alike the best talent from our creative, entertainment and hospitality industries."
He says the atmosphere over the past three weeks has felt vibrant and electric.
"The program this year went from strength to strength. The new Vivid Food program was a huge success. The music program featured some iconic artists, including an important tribute to Archie Roach AC," he says.
"The drone show captivated audiences young and old. And of course, the immortalising of John Olsen’s work on the Sydney Opera House Sails was a timely tribute, a meeting of two Australian icons."
The seven 'Written in the Stars' drone shows boosted festival attendance on the traditionally quieter mid-week and Sunday nights, and were viewed by more than half a million people.
While there had been complaints from the public about the ticket cost of the Lightscape event in the Royal Botanic Gardens, which used to be free but this year would set a family back $128, the number of free drone shows put on by festival organisers increased from one in 2022 to six scheduled and one surprise final night show in 2023.
The festival also included the longest ever free Vivid Light Walk at 8.5km with 57 mesmerising light installations and 3D projections from Circular Quay to Central Station.
The sold-out ‘Vivid Residence’ event showcased one of the world’s best chefs, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, in a takeover at Aria Restaurant right on Sydney Harbour. Vivid Fire Kitchen at The Cutaway, a smoke and fire themed food adventure featured a line-up of street food vendors, restaurants and original dining concepts in Barangaroo attracted 190,000 people.
Vivid Sydney also delivered strong returns for Harbour City businesses in Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour, King Street Wharf, Barangaroo, Walsh Bay, The Rocks, East Circular Quay, West Circular Quay and the CBD over the 23 nights. Restaurants across the festival footprint reported 81 per cent of attendees purchasing food and beverages - more diners than any Vivid Sydney festival to date.
Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO and interim Accommodation Association CEO, Michael Johnson, says the growing success of Vivid Sydney year upon year is a credit to the NSW Government, Destination NSW, the events team, and all in involved.
"The impact it has on the city of Sydney is unparalleled and to see our hotels at times reaching 90 per cent occupancy during Winter is a remarkable achievement," Johnson says.
"The implementation of new activations such as additional drone shows, and the new Vivid Food Pillar allowed our stunning city to shine brighter than ever before.
"Vivid Sydney is a magnificent event as it not only draws millions of people to the city but encourages them to spend the night in one of our many incredible hotels."
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