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Hosting a barbecue, wearing colourful underwear, singing Auld Lang Syne and counting down to midnight. People come together with different traditions to celebrate the coming of the New Year, but nothing symbolises it better than the brightest of events: fireworks.

Like an extremely large-scale open-air festival, NYE celebrations gather locals and tourists alike all over the world – especially where fireworks are involved as the main attraction. From the Sydney Harbour to Brazil’s Copacabana, parks and beaches across the globe fill up with millions of people waiting for the new year firework displays.

With humble beginnings as a simple Chinese tradition for warding off evil spirits, fireworks have evolved to become a universal expression of celebration and happiness. What most people don’t realise is that firework shows have also become a revenue generator for many cities and corporations.

As tourists flock towards the light, they’re a significant source of income for the travel industry like Qantas ($QAN) or the hospitality industry like Marriott ($MAR). Flow-on effects generate more economic activity and provide income to local communities.

Capitalising on this, governments have increased their budgets spent on NYE fireworks – the highlight of the celebration. New York, while most famous for its Times Square ball drop, spends an estimated US$6m on midnight fireworks. Similarly, Dubai spent US$6m in its 2014 NYE show that broke the world record for the biggest pyrotechnics display. Sydney, known to have one of the best firework shows in the world, spends approximately A$7m on its 20-minute display – which usually takes 15 months to plan. That’s A$350,000 per minute!

While returns for most countries aren’t published, it’s been announced that Sydney rakes in over $130m in revenues thanks to the attention its harbour spectacle creates. With a return higher than 18-fold, we can only imagine how much other destinations make. Let’s not forget that such big events also provide tax revenues for the country and pump up the demand for the local currency. 

To this day, China remains the top exporter of pyrotechnic products by an exponential margin. And rightly so. We’re just glad they came up with fireworks in the first place.

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