As neighbouring Malaysia was plagued with dangerous religious extremism, where radical Islamist is known to calling for protest on foreign artists, as well as government officials introducing weird rules at the eleventh hour, Singapore saw a huge potential in concert as magnet to boost tourism. Clearly, event tourism is something which Malaysia doesn’t understand.

Under pressure from conservative Muslims, Malaysia banned British “The 1975” while Islamist party PAS has called for a ban on Black Pink concert. Likewise, Indonesia also faced similar problems when Lady Gaga and Coldplay cancelled their concerts. The Philippines’ poor infrastructure, meanwhile, leaves Singapore and Thailand fighting to become the hub for international concerts.

However, if Taylor Swift’s exclusive concert in Singapore in the Southeast Asian leg of her Eras Tour in 2024 is any indicator, Thailand still has a lot to learn. Scheduled to perform on March 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9, Taylormania already saw more than 300,000 fans from across the Southeast Asia make their way to Singapore after the tiny island attracted the likes of Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Blackpink.

But 300,000 people going to Swift’s concert is just the appetizer. Her social media’s 534 million followers is another reason why Singapore wanted the billionaire singer exclusively. With millions of fans crowding into sold out stadiums across the United States and South America, not to mention record-smashing tour in Europe, Singapore’s strategy was for her to skip Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

As the only nation representing the 11 countries in Southeast Asia to host Taylor Swift, Singapore is squeezing every drop of the 650 million people in the region who wanted to get a piece of the concert. Obviously, her fans were both shocked and flabbergasted on June 21, 2023 when they discovered that she will be skipping all the nations in the region in favour of Singapore.

But as early as Feb 2023, long before the singer’s international tour dates or venues were announced, Singapore already sent a powerful team, which included Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong to Los Angeles to meet up with Swift’s promoters and agents. “We saw an opportunity, we negotiated quickly with them, and we closed the deal quite quickly,” – Tong proudly revealed.

Crucially, the Singapore Team, which also included SportsSG and Kallang Alive Sports Management, requested that she make Singapore her last stop for the Asia-Pacific leg. The reason was simple – the Republic was betting the demand will be strong, therefore, it could increase the number of nights for Swift to perform, squeezing more on its ROI (return on investments).

The exclusivity clause in the agreement was kept secret till Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who was obviously upset with the backroom deal, exposed on Feb 16 how the Singapore Government offered subsidies of up to US$3 million for each concert – in exchange for the exclusivity right. The Singapore Tourism Board has acknowledged the “grant”, but refused to unveil the amount.

The US$3 million bonus for each show, apparently revealed by concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to “deliver Asia” to Swift has also angered another ASEAN country – the Philippines. Lawmaker Joey Salceda has demanded the Philippines Government to protest against Singapore Government, claiming that the method used to snatch the girl could hurt both countries’ friendship.

For a prime minister to personally involved in a tussle for a singer-songwriter to perform in a concert speaks volumes about the economic impact – both directly and indirectly – that the 34-year-old American superstar could deliver. The “Swiftonomics” or “Taylornomics” would benefit tourism sectors of cities that she toured such as hospitality, retail, travel and dining – even hotdog vendors.

As the highest-grossing tour of all time and the first to surpass US$1 billion in revenue, Swift’s Eras Tour is certain to positively impact the revenue of all its hosting nations. Japan – Taylor Swift’s only other Asian stop in her world tour – estimated an economic impact of over ¥34 billion (US$226 million) from her four nights in Tokyo. In Singapore, she is estimated to bring in S$500 million (US$372 million) in tourism receipts.

Ticket sales alone are expected to account for S$75.2 million for Swift’s shows, with about S$19.5 million going into Singapore’s pocket (75% goes to Swift). A Wall Street economist calculated that the ripple effect on Singapore’s economy as a result of the spending of one person – an average Taylor Swift concertgoer – is about S$1,385. That translates to S$415 million for the 300,000 Swifties attending the concerts.

Assuming 70% of the estimated 300,000 concertgoers are coming in from overseas and that there are two people per room over the six show nights, the direct impact on the hotel industry alone would be about S$35 million. noted that the total volume of Singapore-related bookings surged 275% during Swift’s concert period.

Capitalizing on the Swift brand, Singapore’s iconic five-star hotel, the Marina Bay Sands, is offering “The Wildest Dreams Package” – a three-night stay, four VIP tickets and a round-trip limousine ride from the airport – at a cost of almost US$40,000. All its packages were sold out, and more than 90% of guests snapping the exclusive packages are coming from abroad.

Both the country’s flagship carrier Singapore Airlines and budget airline Scoot said the demand for flights to Singapore in March has jumped, particularly from Southeast Asia. Even Australian low-cost airline Jetstar Asia saw a demand surge of about 20% for routes connecting destinations like Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta to the Lion City.

Overall, Singapore-inbound flights went up by 186%, accommodation bookings jumped 460% and attractions and tour bookings skyrocketed 2,373%.  Out of S$500 million tourism receipts, 25% goes to accommodation, 25% shopping, 10% food and beverages and 40% goes to airfare and local transportation, among other things. Taylor Swift made a cool A$100 million from the Australian tour herself.

“If I had known this, I would have brought the shows to Thailand,” – Thai PM Srettha said at a business forum, describing the Singapore government as “clever” for brokering an exclusive deal. He then suggested that Thailand could adopt or copy a similar approach. However, Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol admits the lack of concert infrastructure and transportation system.

Likewise, the Philippines also lacks concert infrastructure that could meet the requirements needed to stage Swift’s concerts. The largest concert venue in the country is the Philippine Arena, located about 25km to the north of the capital Manila. While it has the same 55,000-seat capacity as Singapore’s National Stadium, it does not have the football field-size staging area needed for The Eras Tour.

Whether Singapore is a good neighbour or not, it’s all about business and the Lion City is the only country in ASEAN with the infrastructure to deal with the amount of fans coming in and watching the Grammy-winner singer from basically everywhere in the world. Fans from as far as China willingly spent S$1,200 on tickets alone just to watch Swift in the region’s most expensive city, where the Singapore currency is also one of the strongest.

Heck, even Singapore cake shops were doing a roaring business. Bakery like Baker’s Brew says it has received around 40 or 50 orders for its Taylor-Swift themed cakes and cupcakes. A 10-inch cake with an edible Taylor Swift fondant figurine costs about US$225. The clever plan to host the American pop star “exclusively” is indirectly promoting local  brands as well.

But a clean and modern Singapore, along with an excellent infrastructure and efficient transport links as well as bags of money, were not the only factors that got Taylor Swift to sign the deal. Not even offering visa-free travel and changing the rules on drinking alcohol at concerts, as Thai PM Srettha promised to do, could guarantee pop star like Swift to stop at a country.

Ask any concertgoer or event management and they will tell you the worst thing that could happen is a last minute cancellation. A decade ago, Swift cancelled her shows in Thailand because of the military coup and resulting protests. Hence, it’s not rocket science why she will still choose Singapore over Thailand, even if PM Srettha knew about Singapore’s strategy and counter-offer her.

Malaysia, on the other hand, would probably be Swift’s last choice as her concert outfits would be “too sexy” to stomach for some Malay Muslim conservatives. Yes, as Singapore is busy making “concert economics” its new growth driver, its neighbour is struggling with a weak currency and sagging economy, not to mention toxic religious extremism and racist politics.

More importantly, Singapore, known as a centre for high tech manufacturing and finance, is moving to a new level playing field. It wants to be the centre of event tourism, which is reshaping the travel industry post-pandemic. Beyond the direct concert revenue, A-listers could also bring longer-lasting reputational boosts by endorsing host countries. Imagine if she praises Singapore chicken rice.

Source : Finance Twitter

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