Pilgrims to stay in Australia after WYD

By Anthony Macdonald from PROJECTeye

Most of Sydney’s World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims won’t be going home at the end of this week, according to a survey released by Tourism NSW tonight.

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NSW Minister for Tourism, Matt Brown, delivered the results of an online survey of 4000 domestic and international WYD pilgrims that showed more than four out of five pilgrims will stay in Australia longer than the week-long duration of celebrations.

The report also showed most pilgrims would not have been to Sydney at all this year had it not been for WYD. This proves the economic sense of the event, according to the Minister.

“As far as our attractions are concerned, we are seeing increased visitation, whether it’s the Bridgeclimb, Toronga Zoo, the Museums – but also the free attractions too,” he said tonight.

“A lot of these pilgrims don’t have a lot of money so they’re wanting to get out and just meet Australians, feel the vibe Sydney has, Sydneysiders they have plenty of mojo, and they’re just loving it.”

Spending boom

The survey results are consistent with the NSW Business Chamber’s prediction of a “bumper” week of trading as the pilgrims spend up in Sydney.

The NSW Shadow Minister for Tourism, Don Page, said a one off event like WYD did not make up for years of tourism-neglect by the Labor Government.

He cited last month’s John O’Neill report that found the state’s tourism market was dwindling.

“Obviously we welcome all these people coming to Sydney,” the Shadow Minister said.

“But in no way does it compensate for the $3.6 billion of lost tourism as John O’Neill documented in his report. This is $3.6 billion that has been lost by the government over the past eight years.”

Melbourne tourism consistent

Shadow Minister Page said Sydney had fallen behind Melbourne when it comes to earning tourists’ dollars.

“Melbourne has a focus on regular cluster events, so every two or three weeks they have events to keep the industry healthy, not just one-offs,” he said.

“For the first time, overnight visitors have a higher expenditure in Melbourne than Sydney. A lot of this is associated with the 11 per cent reduction of the tourism budget in New South Wales, compared to growth of up to 50 per cent in other states.”

But Minister Brown deflected the criticism by saying WYD was proof the government had moved on from the John O’Neill report.

“The John O’Neill report was commissioned by the NSW Government, we knew we could do tourism better, that’s why we commissioned the report,” he said.

“The report has seen a number of changes that have been put in place… big events like this certainly excite the spirit of the city and put us on the international stage.

“We have a great opportunity here so that our pilgrims have a great time as ambassadors. Nothing beats word of mouth as far as advertising is concerned, but also those gleaming pictures.”

The Minister is banking on more gleaming pictures when the Pope arrives on Sydney Harbour by boat today.

“It will be like sending a billion postcards to people right across the world,” he said.

ProjectEye is a content partner for SBS providing critical news coverage of WYD08 from a youth perspective.