Sydney has become the latest Australian city to make a significant effort to attract people – particularly stay-at-home office workers – back into its struggling CBD on Fridays.
As Covid-weary Sydneysiders work from home either by choice or by direction from their corporate bosses, shops and hospitality outlets have been feeling the pinch. Some credible estimates suggest that CBD business is still running 70 percent below its pre-Covid level of activity, especially on Mondays and Fridays.
Now the NSW Government has stepped in to offer help via a planned $50-million ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ voucher scheme that is expected to go live before summer.
People will be offered $100 vouchers to spend in the city centre
Under the TGIF scheme, up to 500,000 people will be offered vouchers totalling $100 to spend at dining and entertainment businesses located within the city centre 2000 postcode on Fridays. However, the vouchers will not be used for alcohol, tobacco or gambling.
NSW residents will be able to apply for the vouchers via the Service NSW app.
Dominic Perrottet, the NSW treasurer, said the vouchers were “a targeted program designed to get more people back into the heart of the greatest city on earth”.
“It’s about making Friday’s fantastic and fun and at the same time helping the Sydney CBD, which has been hit hardest by Covid with a reduction in CBD workers and the absence of overseas visitors for more than a year.”
Retail body says vouchers will help to generate more foot traffic
The idea has been broadly welcomed, with the Australian Retailers Association CEO, Paul Zahra, saying the vouchers will help generate more foot traffic through the CBD and deliver flow-on benefits for retailers.
“The Sydney CBD isn’t the thriving hub it used to be, with people choosing to work from home and a lack of tourists preventing retail businesses from trading at their full potential,” Zahra stated.
“Small businesses, in particular, are in deep pain and, while the CBD office occupancy rate has been steadily improving, there aren’t as many people doing the things they would be normally – like grabbing a coffee from a nearby café, shopping during their lunch break or having dinner and drinks in the city after work.”
Sydney’s TGIF plan builds on similar concepts in other Australian cities to revive CBD business, particularly on Fridays. Melbourne, for example, has ‘FOMO Fridays’ and Brisbane offers a ‘Fridays in the City’ concept.