April 21, 2024
Money

Taylor Swift Is Making Singapore a Mountain of Money and It’s Giving the Rest of Asia Concert Envy


Superstar Taylor Swift is performing six sold-out show for the Southeast Asian leg of her Eras Tour.
Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

  • Singapore is the only Southeast Asia stop in Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
  • The concerts are part of a push to boost tourism in Singapore post-pandemic.
  • But some Southeast Asian countries aren’t happy about how it’s all playing out.

Taylor Swift isn’t just another celebrity on a world tour — she’s literally boosting economies.

Her impact is so huge that Singapore shelled out nearly $3 million per show to ink an exclusive deal with her for the Southeast Asian leg of her Eras Tour, Srettha Thavisin, Thailand’s prime minister, said at a business forum on February 16.

Singapore authorities said its tourism board disbursed a grant to support Swift’s event but declined to comment on specifics of the deal to Business Insider, citing business confidentiality. Edwin Tong, Singapore’s culture minister, told local outlet Mothership on February 28 that the amount of grant given “is not what is being speculated online.”

“It is likely to generate significant benefits to the Singapore economy, especially to tourism activities such as hospitality, retail, travel, and dining, as has happened in other cities in which Taylor Swift has performed,” Singapore’s culture ministry and tourism board said in a joint statement.

Swift is scheduled to perform six shows in Singapore between March 2 and March 9. Over 300,000 tickets have been sold.

But it’s not just about the money.

Cultural clout

Mega concerts like Swift’s gig help build Singapore’s status as a fun place to visit, rather than just a place to do business and hold trade events, experts said.

After all, strait-laced Singapore isn’t known for being the most exciting tourist destination.

“Live music from some of the biggest names in the industry marks a slight shift in Singapore’s attractiveness as a tourism destination,” wrote Yun Liu, an HSBC economist, in a note on February 22.

As Tong, the Singapore culture minister, told Mothership, the city-state is looking “beyond just the economic impact” of Swiftonimics.

“We look at it from the perspective of building Singapore into a cultural hub that’s of strong strategic value for us,” Tong told the outlet.

“Such concerts help put us on the top of the minds of tourists and position us as a luxe destination that justifies the premium,” Kevin Cheong, the managing partner of Syntegrate, a destination and tourism development consultancy, told BI.

Tourist spend

Everywhere Swift’s tour goes, a boost in tourism-related spending follows. That ranges from air tickets and accommodation to food and beverage, as well as niche retail sectors like the sale of friendship bracelets.

Singapore is no exception.

Economists estimate that Swift’s concerts in Singapore could contribute up to 500 million Singapore dollars, or $372 million, in tourist receipts.

Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and has a strong currency, so it’s unlikely tourists from places with weaker currencies will be splurging on retail therapy in the country, David Mann, the Asia Pacific chief economist of Mastercard, told BI.

It’s a different story for spending on experiences — and it’s heightened because Singapore is Swift’s only stop in Southeast Asia.

Mann said the people who have money to pay for flight tickets, Swift’s concert tickets, and a hotel are likely to keep spending at other tourist spots.

Since the Singapore government collects a 9% tax on all goods and services, tourist spending goes to the national coffers, too.

“It goes to the entire ecosystem,” said Cheong.

Swift and British mega-band Coldplay — the first two major acts of 2024 in Singapore — are likely to contribute 0.25 percentage points to the country’s first-quarter GDP, Nomura economist Si Ying Toh wrote in a February 15 note.

Taylor Swift ‘pays the bills’ in the short term

Getting exclusive access to Swift was a smart short-term move by the Singapore government, Cheong said: “You need business right now to help pay the bills and put us on the world map.”

The wealthy city-state’s neighbors are taking notice, and not all of them are happy about it.

Singapore’s move to award a grant for Swift’s appearances in the city-state is done “at the expense of neighboring countries, which could not attract their own foreign concertgoers and whose fans had to go to Singapore,” Joey Salceda, a Filipino lawmaker, told the Philippine Star on Thursday.

Srettha, the Thai prime minister, also threw Singapore some shade and suggested his country could have splashed some money to attract Swift’s performance, too.

“If I had known this, I would have brought the shows to Thailand,” Srettha said, per Bangkok Post, referring to Singapore’s grant for Swift’s concert.

The FOMO appears to extend to Indonesia, with tourism minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno telling Bloomberg TV on February 19 that the country needs “Swiftonomics” for tourism and is considering more incentives for mega events like concerts.

Still, massive performance grants can’t be Singapore’s long-term solution to boost tourism, said Cheong.

“It’s a wise move, but is it sustainable?” asked Cheong, who said he thinks Singapore is courting mega-concerts as a short-term boost before big investments — such as an eco-resort and a new tower for the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel — are completed.

Cheong said the longer-term, more sustainable measure is to make Singapore so enticing that tourists and artists would come for their big-ticket events even without grants.

“It has to be as attractive as Las Vegas where performers will definitely make a stop,” he added.



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