Sydney’s tourism renaissance

International visits soar to 82% of pre-pandemic levels, led by student surge

Sydney has retained its status as a vibrant global destination, showcasing a remarkable tourism resurgence.

Our latest data shows while English-speaking visitors lead the comeback, a record-breaking surge in international students adds a dynamic twist, propelling Sydney into a new era of cultural and educational prominence.

The city insight reports keeps its finger on the pulse of local economic activity. View the highlights below.

Tourism from English speaking countries has rebounded strongly, while some Asian markets have recovered more slowly.

Sydney’s tourism rebound

International tourist arrivals have reached 87% of pre-pandemic levels, with over 230,000 visitors arriving in August.

Visitors from English speaking countries, including New Zealand, the UK and US, have recovered strongly at 95% of previous levels. But important Asian markets have been slower to return to Sydney, with Chinese tourism at just 50% of 2019 levels.

Group travel, traditionally popular with travellers from Asian markets, has declined. Only 7.4% of visitors are travelling in group tours in 2023 compared with 16.9% in 2019.

Travellers are spending 11% more of dining and entertainment than pre-pandemic.

Visitors staying longer

While overall tourism numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, visitors are staying in Australia for longer at 13.2 nights on average, 3 nights longer than in 2019.

One possible explanation is international visitors in 2023 are more likely to be visiting friends and relatives. This travel purpose is the primary motivation for 23% of international travellers, compared with 15% in 2019.

International student numbers are at record levels, with over 192,000 enrolments in inner Sydney.

International students hit record numbers

International student numbers have strongly rebounded and now exceed pre-pandemic levels. There are now 192,218 students from overseas enrolled in inner Sydney, 11% more than in 2019.

International student growth has been particularly strong from China and India, with the number of new students enrolling to study in NSW from these countries doubling from 2022. India has overtaken Nepal to become the 2nd largest origin of new international students in NSW.

Students seeking higher qualifications

Among new students enrolling to study in NSW, there has been a shift towards higher education courses. 47% of new international student enrolments are in higher education qualifications, up from 35% in 2019.

This shift in qualifications will likely have an impact on the broader economy, with more highly-skilled international students graduating in coming years.

Vivid Sydney saw a 40% increase in after dark public transport use in June.

The Vivid effect

Public transport use, one of the slowest areas to rebound from the pandemic, increased by 8.7% from June to October. June was particularly strong on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, with public transport use after 6pm 40% higher than usual.

Want to dive into more detail about Sydney’s business and economic recovery? Explore our November City Insights snapshot.

Posted . Last updated .

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