Records set as Southbank foot traffic returns in big numbers

Records set as Southbank foot traffic returns in big numbers
David Schout

Pedestrians have returned in their droves to Southbank as locals and visitors re-embrace dining and drinking following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Examination of data from foot traffic sensors located on Southbank Promenade — the suburb’s busiest area — have revealed strong numbers on both weekends and weekdays.

The post-work crowd on Friday, December 3 was the highest in Southbank since pandemic restrictions began in March 2020.

A total of 3406 people were counted passing through the promenade between 5pm and 6pm that day, higher than at any time on a weekday since Victorian restrictions first came into place almost two years ago (excluding the data anomaly of New Year’s Eve).

Unsurprisingly, people had also returned in strong numbers on Saturdays and Sundays.

On the first weekend of December, a total of 67,461 pedestrians passed through Southbank Promenade according to the sensors.

On the corresponding weekend in 2020 — when Melbourne was similarly relieved of most COVID-19 restrictions — that figure was at just 37,729.

Yarra River Business Association executive officer Tim Bracher said there were positive signs in the early numbers.

“It’s very encouraging that Melburnians are throwing off their reluctance to come into the city and Southbank, which was the first hurdle that we had to overcome,” he told Southbank News.

“There’s a lot of stored-up cash out there, ready to be spent.”

Mr Bracher’s own examination of the data, which is publicly accessible via the City of Melbourne, noted that figures in November were generally up between 50 to 150 per cent on the same time in 2020.

November 2021 figures were almost similar to what they were in 2019, roughly four months before COVID-19 began to impact Melbourne.

However, he noted that those pedestrian figures were “well down” on that of 2017 and 2018, which reflected a “tightening of the economy and disposable income”.

He predicted that it would take hospitality venues some time before returning into the black.

“It’s going to take two to three good seasons to get food and beverage traders back on an even keel,” he said.

“And, of course, things will not fully return until there is unrestricted inbound tourism once again on Southbank.”

Recent strong midweek numbers were driven in part from the City of Melbourne’s latest Melbourne Money dining scheme, which offered a 30 per cent rebate on Monday to Thursday meals throughout the municipality.

After launching on November 15, more than 100,000 claims were made in the first fortnight.

Surveys conducted afterwards revealed that more than nine in 10 diners (92 per cent) said the scheme was one of their main reasons for spending time in the city.

Around 40 per cent said they also went shopping during their visit.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the scheme’s flow-on effect was considerable as Melbourne bounced back from a difficult economic period.

“There are currently more pedestrians in the city than at any time in the past year, which highlights the huge success of this scheme in generating enormous momentum in the city,” she said •

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