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Creating Healthy Night-time Economies in World Cities

BOP’s report for Nanjing City Government demonstrates the importance of cross-cutting policies with a compelling cultural offer at the core
12.02.2021

​BOP’s report, “Creating a Healthy Night-time Economy: Key Culture Indicators for World Cities”, was specially prepared for the Nanjing International Forum on Cultural Placemaking and the Night-time Economy in November 2020 in Nanjing. This hybrid event included online contributions from experts and practitioners representing 16 world cities.

The report analyses the major trends shaping the night-time economy in a number of world cities, including Nanjing, Montréal, New York and London. It identifies five principal areas that have the potential to boost the health of a city’s night-time economy:

  • audience and participation
  • an enabling environment
  • assets (culture and retail)
  • attractiveness
  • leadership

These factors form the basis of an ‘NTE Index’, developed and piloted in 11 world cities for this research in order to better understand how world cities perform, and where they may be able to learn from and be inspired by each other. The report also includes nine case studies highlighting innovative night-time economy policies and projects being delivered in world cities.

A city’s culture and its night-time economy are the lifeblood of a city. Firms and workers are often attracted to cities because of their vibrant cultural offer, and the night is when they can experience it. As such, when it comes to regulating and policy making for the night-time economy, it is not simply a question of more or less nightlife, any more than it is a question of more or less culture. A city’s night-time economy policies need to be strategically embedded within a broader socio-economic vision for the city, and a need to provide a rich and diverse cultural experience.

When they are successful, night-time economies make important contributions to the city in terms of economy, image and reputation, and in enhancing the experience of the citizen. The extensive size of the night-time economy in cities such as New York and London is well known, but it is documented in world cities across the globe, and the importance of the night-time economy on overall tourism is well recognised – for instance, Nanjing, was named ‘annual city of night tourism’ by the China Tourism Influence Prize, has seen its tourism industry achieve steady growth, reporting a year-on-year increase of 13.2% in overall tourism revenue in 2019.

Importantly, the role of the night-time economy has been integral feature of developing a world city reputation, i.e. a competitive, fast-paced city. However, as new cities emerge as world cities, and their night-time economies develop, the very definition of world city is also evolving. As city’s move towards investing in enhancing night-life through the promotion of spectacles, festivals, light shows and activities that bring a sense of wonder to visitors and residents, all increasingly making use of audio-visual technologies, then we can expect to see a corresponding change in expectations of what makes a city competitive.

As cities evolve, as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, and city leaders seek to make the night-time economy part of a broader strategy to create more sustainable cities, those places with a cultural offer that encourages human flourishing and happiness, just as much as they enable entertainment and enjoyment, will likely be considered the most successful, competitive cities of tomorrow.

Read the report here.

Image credit: Nanjing Creative Center