Elton John travels road paved with economic gold to Australia's burgeoning global event destination

09 Jan 2023

Global superstar Elton John is heading to Newcastle this week on a yellow brick road paved with gold for the local economy as the revitalised city cements its transformation into an event powerhouse.

The international music icon will kick off his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour of Australia and New Zealand with two concerts in Newcastle on 8 and 10 January, which are expected to inject around $12 million into the local economy.

His visit will launch a lucrative period for the seventh largest city in Australia, with major events set to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators to Newcastle, provide global exposure and deliver an economic boost worth tens of millions of dollars.

Events include an extended run of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Come From Away at the historic Civic Theatre in February, the season-opening race of the Supercars Championship on March 10-12 and Australia's largest annual surfing festival, Surfest, which attracts some of the world's top surfers and will culminate in a thrilling finals showdown on 25-26 March.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in the past decade, Newcastle has been transformed into an innovative global city, capturing the attention of investors, event promoters and visitors from around the world.

"We are a city on the rise, with more than $1.85 billion in new developments approved in Newcastle during the last financial year and record levels of private investment delivering entertainment, tourism and hospitality options alongside major residential and retail developments," Cr Nelmes said.

"Newcastle's revitalisation has driven our burgeoning events and tourism economy, which continues to grow off the back of a strategic focus and investment by City of Newcastle.

"Events deliver both an immediate and ongoing benefit for the community and economy, with greater visitation, investment and liveability outcomes. Ongoing investment in events and tourism is integral to building a thriving, diverse and robust economy."

Newcastle's record of hosting national and international events stretches back to 1985 when Surfest was launched as the richest professional surfing competition in the world.

But its evolution as an events city shifted gears when City of Newcastle and the NSW Government helped secure the Supercars Newcastle 500 for five years from 2017.

Since then, it has opened up further opportunities to host and deliver national and international events on a significant scale, including the 2018 A-League grand final, 2020 SAANZAR Rugby Championship and the 2021 World Surf League Championship Tour event.

This was capped off last year with the staging of Van Gogh Alive, which saw 84,000 people flock to the city to experience the immersive, multi-sensory display of the painter's iconic artworks. Newcastle was the first regional city in Australia to host the event.

Promoter Andrew Kay said he would return to the city with more major events following the success of the 2022 season.

"We were absolutely thrilled by the reception we received in Newcastle and the Hunter. With over 84,000 tickets sold in just five weeks, the region has shown its appetite and appreciation for quality events," Mr Kay said.

"Van Gogh Alive was welcomed by the entire community and businesses with whom we partnered, including the City of Newcastle. We will be back with more major events.”

Venues NSW and McDonald Jones Stadium CEO Kerrie Mather was equally positive about Newcastle's ability to host major events.

“The stage is set for an historic week in Newcastle when the one-and-only Elton John comes to town for the very first, and final, time," Ms Mather said.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have Elton John kick off his farewell tour of Australia and New Zealand in Newcastle, and we can’t wait to see McDonald Jones Stadium come alive during his two shows that must be seen live.

“Elton John at McDonald Jones Stadium will be the perfect way to celebrate the start of the new year and is just a taste of the major events to look forward to over the coming 12 months.”

International hotel brands Crystalbrook and QT have recognised Newcastle's expanding tourism appeal, investing millions of dollars to open five-star hotels in the city, while the upcoming expansion of Newcastle Airport will pave the way for more international events.

“From 2024 our expanded terminal will have the ability to welcome hundreds of thousands of international passengers annually as a result of airfield upgrades that will cater to larger aircraft,” Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said.

“This will enable direct flights between Newcastle and destinations in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

“Newcastle’s future as an international tourism and major events destination is bright, and the Federal Government’s $55 million funding towards the expansion of Newcastle Airport’s terminal and $66 million towards the airfield upgrade will be instrumental in transitioning Newcastle from a thriving regional centre to an emerging global city.

“Combined with the arrival of two new luxury hotels, Newcastle’s appeal as a host destination for large-scale international events is becoming even more attractive.”


  • Prior to COVID-19, Newcastle’s tourism industry contributed $1 billion to the local economy each year, with more than five million international and domestic travellers visiting in 2019.
  • City of Newcastle worked with Venues NSW to secure the historic Elton John concerts for Newcastle as part of a Major Events Partnership.
  • This partnership also saw McDonald Jones Stadium (home of the Newcastle Knights and Newcastle Jets) host a round of the 2022 FOX Australian Supercross Championship, while the Newcastle Entertainment Centre hosted a sold-out international netball fixture between Australia and England.
  • Elton John's two concerts will attract more than 30,000 visitors from outside the Newcastle LGA, including over 2500 interstate visitors and more than 100 international visitors. It has an estimated economic impact of $10 million - $12 million.
  • The Supercross had an audience of more than 15,000 people with over 13,000 from outside the Newcastle LGA and almost 500 interstate visitors, with an estimated economic impact of $3 million.
  • Venues NSW estimated that events at both McDonald Jones Stadium and Newcastle Entertainment Centre will drive $50 million dollars of economic impact into the Newcastle LGA in the 2022/23 financial year.
  • Van Gogh Alive attracted 84,000 visitors over five weeks, which eclipsed its attendance totals during its season in Canberra.
  • The World Surf League's 2021 Championship Tour event in Newcastle had an estimated benefit of more than $15 million to the local economy, while also showcasing Newcastle to a global audience of more than 10 million viewers.
  • The 2018 A-League grand final delivered an estimated $1.7 million windfall in visitor expenditure over the weekend.
  • The 2017 Matildas v Brazil match in Newcastle attracted an Australian crowd record for a women's soccer match of almost 17,000 people and generated half a million dollars for the city via 330 bed nights.
  • Each Supercars Newcastle 500 event delivers an average $36.2 million in economic output and creates 149 jobs.
  • The TV audience for Newcastle 500 event in 2017 peaked at more than 1.8 million viewers with an average of 1.3 million people tuning in to the three-day event.