ImagineSydney: the economic & social potential of a playful city

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Imagine Sydney Play: the economic & social potential of a playful city

15 February 2019: Sydney-siders participating in social, cultural and sporting events – during the day, and increasingly at night – are generating significant business and employment activity, and driving major economic opportunity.

A new Deloitte report – Imaginesydney: Play – focuses on how, when and where the city plays, where potential for future development lies, and how government, business and people can benefit from the arts and culture, food, experiences, live events, and opportunities to get outdoors and be active.

According to Deloitte Managing Partner, Sydney, Nicola Alcorn: “So many things contribute to making a city a desirable place to live. Good employment prospects, affordable housing, safe spaces, reliable transport, accessibility and opportunity are all key, but these fundamentals don’t paint the full picture of why some global cities have a reputation for being wonderful to live in.

“Every city also has a vibe, a feeling, something you can’t quite put your finger on, that generates a sense of pride amongst its citizens and that makes people want to visit, stay, raise a family, study, work – and ‘play’.

“We’ve explored the value of play to Sydney’s economy, and how the arts and culture, the energy of the streets at night time, food, experiences, live events, and opportunities to get outdoors and be active, also present untapped potential.”

Arts & culture

Alcorn said the research showed that, not only do Sydney residents enthusiastically participate in a wide variety of artistic and cultural activities, they also understand the importance of having a thriving, creative arts sector.

“From fostering community links, to shaping local identity and providing a source of pride, we see the arts and culture sector as an integral, essential ingredient of our thriving, creative, global city,” she said.

The total economic visitation value of arts and cultural infrastructure and events in NSW is $1.4 billion per year, the value of this to broader society is $484 million per year, and more than 46,000 people are employed in the sector.”

Report co-author and Deloitte Access Economics partner Kathryn Matthews said: “A more innovative workforce is built on exposure to the arts and culture, and the richness of a city’s arts sector is crucial to attracting and retaining talent.

“Business can support this through sponsorship and patronage of the arts, but there is also huge scope for business to move beyond just monetary support. This might include looking at ways for their employees and artists to work together, learning about fostering creativity, and applying this to solving complex problems or executing on ideas.”

Sports & recreation

“Sydney spends $3.2 billion per year on sport and physical recreation, and having good access to facilities and resources contributes to the health of a city on a number of fronts and, from an economic perspective, healtheir people tend to be more productive,” Alcorn said.

“Combining development with green space as our cities increase in density is ceretainly a balancing act. Access needs to be protected and expanded and, where cost is involved, kept affordable.”

The night time economy

Night time economies are increasingly recognised as driving growth in cities – Sydney’s night time economy is currently valued at more than $27 billion and supports more than 230,000 jobs.

“The lights, sounds and social exchange at night contribute to a city’s atmosphere, and strong night time economy, defined by vibrant social venues, as well as food, shopping and even sporting events, attracts people, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and generates jobs,” Alcorn said.

Matthews said: “The night time economy currently makes up 3.8% of Australia’s economy, but this figure is 6% in the UK, suggesting there is real upside potential for Sydney. If we aimed for 6%, and nurtured and supported night time infrastructure and activities more effectively, we estimate the annual value of Sydney’s night time economy could be more than $43 billion across increased spending, and more employment and tourism.”

Alcorn said that safety and security should always be paramount, but it was equally important that Sydney thinks beyond this.

“Businesses, for example, should be encouraged to create entirely new retail, service or entertainment offerings for night time customers, and partner with arts and culture and community groups to support extended opening hours and local events,” she said.


The ImagineSydney series seeks to contribute to the conversation around creating smart, flourishing and productive communities, and strategies that will drive economic and social development in Sydney. It includes two other reports:

  • ImagineSydney, Create offers new solutions to unlocking the city’s future growth potential, and concluded that if just 10% of Sydney’s businesses did something new and innovative every year, gross regional product could increase by $25 billion
  • ImagineSydney, Live finds that a more accessible 30-minute Sydney could deliver a $10 billion annual economic dividend for the NSW economy.

Media Contact:

Simon Rushton
Corporate Affairs & Communications
M: +61 450 530 748
T: +61 2 9322 5562

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