CBDs blossom at night as offices stay empty

Weeknight visitors to major city centres are helping fuel a business revival as workers continue to stay away from CBD offices.

In all of the country’s biggest cities, visitor peaks at night during the week have topped pre-pandemic levels, while some state capitals are also seeing new highs in weekend trips.

Research by DSpark for the Tourism and Transport Forum found visitor levels at the weeknight peak in Sydney were 16 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels, while weekend visits were up one per cent.

In Melbourne, the weeknight peak was 11 per cent higher, although weekend visits were still slightly below those from before the pandemic.

The figures came despite the numbers of CBD workers being only at 52 per cent and 56 per cent of pre-COVID levels for Sydney and Melbourne respectively.

The key attractions

The forum’s chief executive, Margy Osmond, said the arts and entertainment industries were to thank for increases in visitor numbers.

“We’re seeing a national trend of more people wanting to head out into the city on weeknights and weekends, whether it’s to go and see a show or attend one of the major events being hosted around the country,” she said.

DSpark analysed mobility data for millions of people in the cities, finding CBD worker numbers remained well below pre-pandemic levels in every major city as people continued working from home.

Perth had the highest proportion of workers heading back to the office, with city staffing levels at 71 per cent of the pre-COVID figure. This was followed by Adelaide at 68 per cent and Brisbane at 59 per cent.

Ms Osmond said the share of people working from home – particularly in Sydney and Melbourne – was causing pain for city centre businesses and people needed to be encouraged to go in for work during the week.


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