Sydney is home to many of Australia’s leading cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Australian Museum, the Walsh Bay Arts Center and the Sydney Opera House. Still, the report says Melbourne has long been considered Australia’s number one cultural destination.
Nicolau said Sydney equaled and surpassed Melbourne with its “mix of small and large performance venues that grew after the lockout laws were lifted and councils passed more relaxed rules on entertainment venues and trading hours”.
Anything Melbourne can do, Sydney can do better
Respected public art museums: National Gallery of Victoria vs Art Gallery of New Wales
New cultural infrastructure: NGV Contemporary vs AGNSW Sydney Modern wing and Powerhouse Parramatta
Refurbishing Stage Venues: Melbourne Arts Center vs Sydney Opera House
Major arts festivals: Rising: Melbourne v Sydney Festival; Melbourne Writers’ Festival vs Sydney Writers’ Festival; Melbourne International Film Festival v Sydney Film Festival; Melbourne International Comedy Festival vs Sydney Comedy Festival
Shows of the main stage: Hamilton, Moulin Rouge! Musical, Come from somewhere have or will be delivered in Melbourne and Sydney
But he said parking costs and the reliability of public transport needed to be addressed to attract visitors to the central business district – with the business lobby advocating for free public transport on weekends and more overnight flights from the city to the suburbs.
A spokesman for Arts and Tourism Minister Ben Franklin said the New South Wales Government was committed to making the state “the best visitor economy” in the Asia-Pacific region.
“A key pillar to achieving this goal is investment in tourism, marketing and events programs that support and promote Sydney’s thriving arts and cultural identity as the nation’s capital for major cultural events,” he said in a statement.
Sydney’s arts bosses said the city lacked a cultural brand and the creative sector “doesn’t feel supported” by Destination NSW, the state’s tourism agency.
“Historically, there has been resistance or at least minimal assistance from DNSW, although this appears to have changed with the new leadership,” the report said.
Powerhouse Museum Executive Director Lisa Havila said it was important to “bring First Nations stories to the fore and infuse into our wonderful complex Sydney identity, the cultural diversity, the nuanced experiences that reflect the true nature of our modern identity”.
“It is these experiences that are compelling and distinctive to visitors,” she said.
Labor spokesman Walt Secord said western Sydney should be included in the plan to attract repeat visitors.
“The state government has lazily relied on the international reputation of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge to attract one-off visitors,” he said.
“They have to be brave. We want international visitors to come back for a second and a third time, not just cross Sydney off their bucket list.”
The report calls for the creation of a Sydney arts precinct that would bring together the city’s cultural institutions, such as theatres, museums and major arts companies, under a well-known brand and collaborative body.
“The primary objective of the Sydney Arts Precinct is to attract visitors to the central business district of Sydney and New Wales residents through rich cultural content and experiences,” the report said.
Business Sydney is also calling for a Cultural Economy Commissioner to be appointed to lead a cultural economy strategy to promote Sydney to locals and visitors as more than just a business and shopping destination.
David Beirman, an adjunct research fellow in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, said it would be “madness to ignore” Sydney’s global icons when marketing the city to domestic and international travellers.
In the past, however, state and federal tourism agencies have not paid enough attention to arts and culture, Beirman said.
“Effectively promoting Sydney’s cultural scene can add a day or two to a visitor’s stay in Sydney, with each additional day benefiting other tourism-related businesses and the economy as a whole.”
Destination NSW Experience NSW the campaign, launched last year, features cultural events as well as the state’s natural wonders.
“I think it’s far more useful to raise the profile of Sydney’s artistic and cultural attributes than to spend time and money to declare Sydney the cultural capital of Australia,” Beirman said. “Let the product speak.”
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