Returning to the city: what our audience is feeling right now

Our recent audience survey shows our audience is eager to re-enter the city and support local businesses

During an agonising year, we’ve been in and out, open and shut, and struggling under lockdown and ever-changing restrictions in both New South Wales and Victoria – just waiting for the word that it’s safe to return to the city’s bars, pubs, cafés and restaurants. As we re-open, are people ready to go back to these businesses? 

We surveyed our audience in September of 2021, during which both Melbourne, Sydney and regional NSW and Vic were under lockdown restrictions and dates for re-entry were unclear or still being revealed. The survey had a total of 6,900+ respondents and we found that our audience is keen to re-enter the city and support local businesses along the way. 

Summer in the city

One indicator of reader confidence in going back out into central metro areas was how often people imagined themselves going into the city when possible. The majority of people (58%) surveyed said they planned on going to the city at least once a week or more. 

When asked in our last Time Out Australia Survey in November 2020, 31% said they rarely visit the city, whereas in September 2021 only 19% said they rarely visit the city. The reduction indicates more people plan on visiting the city CBD in comparison to last year.

The Time Out audience is planning not just to be in the city – they're planning to enjoy it. Dining out, socialising, entertainment and shopping were the highest chosen reasons for visiting amongst readers, whereas work was placed fifth. 

Our audience responded that their favourite forms of entertainment included restaurants and dining out (83%), socialising (69%), day trips (62%), drinking out (60%) and shopping (47%). (Respondents were asked to select all that applied to them, so the percentages are indicative of total user positivity around these and a ranked order of interest, rather than forced choice between options.)

Shopping in person

With access to retail limited across both Sydney and Melbourne in September, we asked our readers about shopping habits when they are able to shop in person to get an understanding of how they value different shopping experiences. The majority of respondents still prefer shopping in centres and malls for their retail needs, but this is closely followed by a support of local independent retailers (59%) and market stalls (46%), which shows that consumers are valuing Australian-owned businesses as highly as big global retailers. This is likely because there is a stronger sense of community following the lockdowns. (Please note we allowed readers to select multiple options they prefer, which is indicative of a variety of shopping options being used by our readers.) 

The Time Out Audience

Our readers use Time Out as a point of recommendation for a variety of experiences. We allowed readers to select multiple options. The majority of our respondents said they use Time Out for food and drink recommendations (85%) but are also looking to find the key things to do, whether it’s entertainment ideas and inspiration (66%), local travel ideas (62%) or arts and culture (45%). 

Turning interest into action

Our audience is a highly engaged group that takes action after reading our content. A stunning 93% of our audience say they’ve visited a business after seeing it on Time Out and 71% say they’ve bought tickets to an event after discovering it through Time Out. Not only is our content leading to action, it’s also sharing the word around, with 70% of respondents saying they’ve started a conversation about what they read.

In a post-lockdown Australia, people want to go out again and enjoy their city and experiences, and are looking to Time Out for recommendations for where to go and what to do. It’s a positive time for local and small businesses to be supported by the community around them, and our readers are ready to hear about the best places to be.

If you want to reach our socially curious audience, speak to Group Account Manager Hye-Joo Woo today (

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