Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival Tourism

Sydney is the capital of the New South Wale of Australia, and it is best known as a vivid, charming and lively city and with its famous icons, such as Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. In addition, Sydney has started to build a new image of “gay capital of the South Pacific” (Kates, 2003). Since the late 1970s, Sydney has begun to hold Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras every year during end of February and early March and has also become a holiday destination for lesbian and gay tourists.

There are various cultural activities and entertainments that allow participants to have fun and allow visitors to have a better understanding of gay and lesbian culture while they are celebrating the liberty of homosexual behaviour. Activities included film festival, community events, a fair day of local merchants, sporting events, art exhibits, dance parties, theatre productions and parade (Kates, 2003). The parade is hold in the CBD of Sydney; the festival normally goes for three and a half week.

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In this paper, the issues on social and economic impacts that have occurred by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival will be discussed in detail.

Social Impact

Social impact of Sydney Mardi Gras can be divided into positive impact and negative impact. For the positive impacts are community cohesion & identity, entertainment & socialisation opportunities and community growth and development. In opposition, negative impacts are inconvenience and crime or bad behaviour.

According to the research information, which is done by the University of Melbourne (Kelley, H, 2001), the data has shown that back in 1984, homosexual behaviour is not yet be accepted morally.

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However, Australian’s attitude toward homosexual started changed dramatically after 1984. The survey it has been done in the middle 1980s, 64 per cent of Australian believe that homosexual behaviour is ‘always wrong’, however, in the 21th century (the survey was done in 2001, data might change after years), the per cent drop from 64 to 48, and the percentage for the answer ‘Not wrong at all’ rise from 16 per cent to 28 per cent. Even though there are still a group of people who against toward homosexual behaviour, however, one thing can be pleased is that Australian’s attitude toward homosexual become friendlier each year, this can be proof by the number of participants in The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival.

The number of participants and visitors increase rapidly from hundreds of people to hundred thousand and more and more people start to pay attention on the event. When the people in Sydney start to celebrate homosexual behaviour in 1978, and the size of the event become bigger each year, this witness the transformation of people in Sydney’s attitude on homosexual behaviour, which representing the people of Sydney possess a positive attitude toward homosexual behaviour, and will assist the city of Sydney to build a positive image for gay and lesbian tourists, since the tourist believe that Sydney does not have any discrimination on homosexual behaviour, instead of that Sydney community is welcome and willing to celebrate it (Markwell, 2001). Additionally, the festive give individuals a chance to embrace their identity as gay or lesbian, likewise, the local community also embrace their open thought on homosexual behaviour. Every year, not only the people in Sydney, but also with people coming from all Australia, they gather together to celebrate what they believe in and offering gays and lesbians an opportunity to speak out to other societies (Tourism Australia, 2009). One of the marchers who is interviewed by ABC News (2009) said “But tonight we’re just coming out and having a bit of fun in showing everyone the gay and lesbian community is part of the Australian community.”

The Sydney Mardi Gras Festival is a popular and successful event that has an ability to attract people from other city or even other country to come to Sydney to join the event, it all has to give the credit to the local community, the people of local community provide a great support of the event. Every year, there are thousands of volunteers and local community group to assist organising the event. In order to create a fascinating event, volunteers and community group members has to be fully prepared; therefore, they have to develop special skills in order to be qualified to do jobs. According to the office website of the Sydney Mardi Gras (2010), it says that specific skills are needed for the event such as RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol), a heavy vehicle or forklift drivers license and experience in communications. Furthermore, the Sydney Mardi Gras is not only celebrating and entertaining, but also it also takes charity seriously. Sleaze Ball is one of Sydney Mardi Gras events; it is specially design for fundraising, the money donated from people who join the event will goes to the charity.

Since Sydney Mardi Gras has been a successful event, it attracts many tourists from other states and countries (tourism will be discussed in more detail on economic impact section). Even though, people who come to join Mardi Gras are all from different culture backgrounds and religion, however, they are all passion on the same thing and believe. It is a great opportunity for them to meet new people from different culture background, and they can share they thought, experience and believe, and also allows them to look homosexual behaviour from different culture’s perspective view.

For all of events, there are always some positive and negative impacts; one of the negative social impacts is inconvenience. During the event, especially larger scale’s event, several issues need to be considered such as traffic, road closures, noise and crowding. Since the number of people participates in Sydney Mardi Gras festival is huge, which means that if the crow management and parade route is not well design, this will be a serious issue on the day of the event. Since majority of the event venue and the parade’s routine are in the CBD, and the road closures will influence the traffic in the event surrounding area. As a result, traffic jam will occur and since several roads are close for the event, this will make the people detour to avoid the event. In addition, the main Parade Route is in Oxford Street and Flinder Street, and there are residential apartment within this area. (Sydney Traffic Committee, 2009)The field notes that are taken by Steven M. Kates (2003), he states that “20 gay men and lesbian celebrants in the hotel room as they watched the parade from the two balconies, drank alcohol, talked, laughed, and consumed illegal drugs during the evening.” During the parade, the noise population will be local resident’s temporary issues.

Another negative social impact is crime or bad behaviour. There are many entertainments and activities in the Mardi Gras Festival; one of the highlight of the festival is Mardi Gras party. According to a field note that are taken by Steven M. Kates (2003), in his journal, he mentions that “Drugs such as speed, cocaine, and Ecstasy provide the energy for dancing to rhythmic techno music until the early hours of the moming at the Mardi Gras party and connecting with the bare-chested, sweating men there.” According to John p. Walters’ (2000) paper, it states that drugs and alcohol is often related to crime, but drugs and alcohol always used by people who is seeking for more excitement. However, drugs abuse and alcohol will lead to behaviour disorder; people losing their ability to control themselves, this will result in rise in the crime rate, such as generating violence, steal, sexual assault and robbery. HIV is another serious issues derive from drugs and alcohol, unprotect sexual act will increase the risk for transmitting HIV, and the people who participate in the party, their health will be treated and this will become secret worry for the society.

Economic Impact

Every year on February, large amount of tourism come to Sydney for the Mardi Gras, ever since Sydney has created an image of ‘international gay and lesbian capital’, Sydney has become one of the most popular places for homosexual tourists. Even if the world’s economic may be is facing recession, but the event scale for Sydney Mardi Gras is getting larger each year, start from thousand of visitor to most recent one, hundreds of thousands of people come to join the 2010 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. ABC News has made a comment on 2009 Sydney Mardi Gras, it said’…the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras provided the perfect antidote to economic doom and gloom.’ The Sydney Mardi Gras not only is not affected by the economic, conversely, the event is beneficial for the local economy. The major economic impact for Sydney Mardi Gras is increase income due to the growth of tourism market, other impact such as operating cost for event preparation.

Firstly, each year, the Australia government estimated the Sydney Mardi Gras will contribute on nation economy net income approximate tens of millions of dollars (Marsh and Levy 1998). Even though the Sydney Mardi Gras itself may not make any profit, however, it certainly affecting the local economy by attracting domestic and international tourists to come to Sydney. Markwell (2001) stated that during the end of February, domestic and international tourists are attract to Sydney for Mari Gras; the peak period for this season is days around the parade and parties at the end of festival. The majority target market for Sydney Mardi Gras are tourists from United States, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Moreover, this market is also growing in the Southeast Asia, the number of the tourist from Southeast Asia region is increasing recently. Tourism Australia (2010) provide the information on the number of tourists for the first Sydney Mardi Gras was approximately 1,500 people, in the most recent Mardi Gras 2010, from the New Mardi Gras Annual Report(2010) states that, total visitors was 21,779 and 8,700 were from overseas.

There is no doubt that tourist is good for local economic, according to the annual report for Travel to Sydney (2009), it states that in 2009, visitor spends average $236 per night when they are in Sydney, it is only include accommodation, transportation and activities such as ‘eat out at restaurants’, ‘sightseeing’ or ‘shopping’. Markwell (2001) also mentions some examples of expenditure that tourists will be spend on the Sydney Mardi Gras festival. He states that there are 80 events at the festival and about 15 percent of it is free, some popular events require tickets to entry. The event such as dance party, it cost AU$114.00 in 2001. It is quite expensive if a person wants to attend all of events of Sydney Mardi Gras, especially, some events require special outfits, therefore if a couple want to attend the event, the expense on buying outfit, waxing, tanning, gym training, hairstyling, and party drugs will cost a lot of money. Attending all events already costed fortune, for tourists, there are extra costs for them, such as accommodation and transportation. Markwell (2001) also states that homosexual tourists are willing to spend all those money; because of Mardi Gras events can assist them to define their gay and lesbian identity. In 2010 Sydney Mardi Gras, there were 8,700 people from overseas, the Sydney local government would at least earn 2 million per a day just from the Mardi Gras visitor.

C. Michael Hall (1996) believes that in order to promote an event or a place to tourists as their destination for vocation, it is very important to leave a good impression and unforgettable experience. To achieve that, event has to be fully prepared and organised. Since the scale of Sydney Mardi Gras is huge, to produce a memorable, fantastic event require a huge amount of fund, therefore, government support and sponsor are essential. According to New Mardi Gras Annual Report (2010), it states that for 2010 Sydney Mardi Gras sponsorship income was over $800,000 and government supporting fund was $300,000. That money will flow to the local community eventually that can stimulate the local economic growth. Additionally, an huge scale event such like Sydney Mardi Gras need a certain amount of workforce, even though there are thousands of volunteers each year, however, there are always job vacancy, which can improve the local unemployment rate.

As the paper has mentioned earlier, the local government cannot expect to make profit out of the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival. The revenue for 2010 Sydney Mardi Gras is 4,241,283 and expense is 4,826,910, apparently, the outcome for this year is deficit, the event organisation does not make any profit out of this event. However, looking in long-term, the Sydney Mardi Gras has assist Sydney to build an image ‘global gay-friendly destinations’ (Markwell, 2001), this result in expansion on homosexual tourism market.


In conclusion, this paper has discussed how the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has become an important role in the Sydney major event. As it have a strong impact on Sydney’s social and economics’ dimensions and it is recently referred as “tourism icon” by Tourism New South Wales. Nowadays, Sydney is known as homosexual friendly city. The Sydney Mardi Gras has impact on social and economic on both positive and negative ways. It is excellent that people in Sydney is open-mind with homosexual behaviour, they are not only possess positive attitude toward it, but also willing to embrace them and celebrate it with wonderful events. However, social issues such as inconvenience and crime or bad behaviour are happen every year which may harm the local community’s life quality. Moreover, economic impacts mostly are positive; the Sydney Mardi Gras assist Sydney to expand its tourism market, and in the event period, thousands of people come to Sydney for Mardi Gras, it is beneficial for local economy. Even though, it is difficult to make profit out of the event, however, in long term, Mardi Gras has already assist Sydney to built its reputation in tourism market. Overall, Sydney Mardi Gras

Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival Tourism. (2019, Aug 19). Retrieved from

Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival Tourism essay
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