The arts and cultural sector added $426 million to the ACT economy in 2012/13, accounting for just 1.3 per cent of value added by industry, but it made "important indirect contributions" to the city's economy, the ACT government's first economic overview of the arts reveals.
The analysis, launched alongside the territory's revised arts policy on Tuesday, will be used to "inform the ACT government in its support for the arts sector".
Although the arts and culture sector was not "considered a major driver of the ACT economy", the overview says it was of "similar significance" to other industries in the ACT, such as wholesale trade and administrative and support services.
Arts Minister Joy Burch said the report demonstrated the arts made a "direct and significant contribution" to the economy and that Canberrans had an appetite for quality arts and cultural events, but she shied away from making any further funding commitments.
ArtsACT director David Whitney acknowledged the arts were not the "major change agent in Canberra".
"But we're very significant in terms of the number of people employed in the arts and the number of people who are engaged as an audience," he said.
As of June 2014, the ACT had close to 1200 active businesses in the creative industries, the report said, while ABS statistics from 2011 showed 6456 people worked in the ACT's arts and cultural sector, equivalent to 3.1 per cent of total employment.
Mr Whitney said the report showed the impressively high attendance rates for arts and cultural facilities in the ACT.
Almost 729,000 domestic and 128,000 international cultural tourists visited the ACT in the year to September 2014, the report said, spending an estimated $855 million.
In 2013/14, close to 350,000 people attended events at venues such as the Canberra Theatre Centre or Canberra Museum and Gallery, the overview said, and in 2013 more than 412,000 people attended events hosted by arts organisations supported by ArtsACT.
"We know that our libraries have enormous numbers of people visiting them, the ABS tells us that Canberra has the highest visitation of libraries, and in terms of people buying art, books are the highest per capita in the country," Mr Whitney said.
He said the arts policy showed a "shift in government thinking" to look at Canberra and its place within the region as an arts hub drawing in crowds from beyond the ACT.
"We have a lot of people come here for the national cultural institutions and that's fantastic ... and a significant part of our local economy."
But the opposition's arts spokesman, Brendan Smyth, said the government was yet to develop the goals and outcomes from its previous arts policy in 2012 and raised concerns about the short time frame between the end of consultation in May and the policy's launch.
"It would seem in three years the government and Minister Burch have learnt nothing about supporting the arts in the ACT, except to put out a bigger glossy document with a larger print size," he said.