Sydney economy reaps benefits of Chinese New Year

Sydney economy reaps benefits of Chinese New Year

An exponential increase in direct benefits to the economy has confirmed Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival’s status as the largest and most successful celebration of the Lunar New Year outside Asia.

Attendees of the City of Sydney’s 2018 Chinese New Year Festival spent $70 million, with visitors to the Lunar Lanterns exhibition generating $52.8 million dollars alone.

The boost in visitor spend is significant, up from $7 million in 2010 and $12.7 million in 2016.

Sydney Chinese New Year Festival 2018 Opening Weekend, Circular Quay, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday 17th February 2018. Photo by Damian Shaw / City of Sydney

The good news for the festival continues, with the City announcing the engagement of a new curator. Valerie Khoo, founder of the Australian Writers’ Centre, visual artist and former journalist/editor, will work with the City on the 2019 Chinese New Year festival.

The 2018 festival ran for 17 days from 16 February to 4 March, with events and attractions across Sydney that drew more than 1.3 million people to the city.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the figures were a fantastic result for the event, which first began as a small community festival in Chinatown 22 years ago.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24: City of Sydney CNY18 Guide Dogs and Delegation on February 24, 2016.

“This is an incredible achievement for this event and for the hundreds of community and staff members who spend so many months preparing,” the Lord Mayor said.

“This community celebration encourages people to get out and explore our city, supports local restaurants and retailers, and provides a stunning variety of performances and cultural events.

“I’m very proud of the role City staff play in putting this much-loved festival together with our community, and results like this are worth shouting about.

“With Valerie Khoo on board as the new curator, and a panel of some of Sydney’s top marketing and cultural advisors and business representatives, I look forward to seeing more and more Sydneysiders get involved.”

Valerie Khoo 2

Highlights from the 2018 festival for the Year of the Dog include:

  • More than 1.3 million visitors attended more than 70 events over 16 days
  • More than 977,000 visitors enjoyed the Lunar Lanterns exhibition, up from 957,000 in 2017 and 735,000 in 2016
  • More than 18 hours of live performances by 34 community groups took place over six nights, featuring 414 performers from local Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Indonesian community groups
  • More than 3,000 paddlers took part in the largest dragon boat racing competition in the southern hemisphere
  • Since 1996, the City has produced more than 120 events for the festival, supported 838 associated events and hosted 15 delegations from China to be part of the celebrations.

The City unveiled five new lanterns created by Chinese–Australian and Australian artists, as part of the Lunar Lanterns exhibition for the 2018 festival. The hero lantern – an animated 8-metre tall dog by Song Ling – sat beside the Sydney Opera House, while two 3.8-metre-tall dog lanterns created by Fan Dongwang, kept guard at the entrance to Dixon Street Mall.


A pig lantern, by John Deng, was located near the Overseas Passenger Terminal and featured 1,000 individual squishy pigs. A colourful 13-metre tall dragon, by Guan Wei, sat outside the MCA and Kevin Bathman’s huge tiger rested atop a Circular Quay ferry terminal.

Chinatown came alive with a host of sights, sounds and smells in celebration of the Lunar New Year. From lion dancers to food and art tours across Haymarket, unique celebrations transported visitors to the charm and magic of traditional Chinese culture.

More than 400 performers and international delegates featured in the festival, taking part in traditional, contemporary and folk dances, choral performances, martial arts and lion dances.

Three thousand paddlers from across Australia took part in the annual Dragon Boat Races at Darling Harbour. The biggest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the two-day regatta consisted of more than 100 races running every 10 minutes over two days.

Dragon Boat eye dotting ceremony, Darling Harbour, Saturday 11th February 2017. Photo by Damian Shaw / City of Sydney

Stalker Theatre, one of the country’s leading physical theatre companies, teamed up with performing artists from South Korea for the Australian premiere of the aerial theatre show, Frameshift. Performers delighted audiences with a blend of breakdancing and aerial manoeuvres across a 15m high scaffolding structure and circular track that served as a dance playground for the contemporary production.

The City’s Charity Partner, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, raised more than $60,000 from several events it hosted during the festival. For the first time, an audio tour took vision-impaired visitors on a guided tour of the Lunar Lanterns exhibition. A total of 60 guide dog collection boxes, individually painted by artists and celebrities, featured as part of the organisation’s 60th anniversary commemoration and were later auctioned for charity.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore hands out red packets in China Town, Chinese New Year, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 16 February 2018. Photo by Damian Shaw / City of Sydney

More than 80 associated events ranged from a traditional tea ceremony at the Art Gallery of NSW and congee breakfasts in Chinatown to art exhibitions and a Chinese opera demonstration.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 226,900 Chinese tourists visited Australia during the 2018 Chinese New Year Festival, up 58 per cent from 2017. Sydney Airport reported an increase of 28 per cent from last year in its visitor arrivals from China during February.

And, according to the Australia China Business Council, the total Chinese visitor numbers to Australia is expected to reach 3.3 million a year by 2026.

View the 2018 Sydney Chinese Year Festival opening night video.

For media enquiries or images, contact Senior Media Advisor, Elaine Kelly. Phone 0477 362 550 or email

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Anusha Muller. Phone 0408 494 545 or email