How Taylor Swift gave Singapore’s economy a massive boost

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SINGAPORE — Singapore is set to earn big money and a big reputation from hosting global pop sensation Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, analysts are calculating.

Swift’s six sold-out concerts, which run from March 2 to 9, are expected to bring in an estimated $260 million to $375 million in tourism receipts, Erica Tay, Maybank director of macro research, told The Washington Post.

The city-state is the latest beneficiary of “Swiftonomics,” the phenomenon named for the economic boost experienced by destinations of the record-breaking tour, which has surpassed $1 billion in global sales. Singapore’s GDP is likely to expand by 2.9 percent in the first quarter of the year — its highest in six quarters — Bloomberg News reported Friday, with economists raising predictions for annual growth from 2.3 percent to 2.5 percent.

With Singapore the only Southeast Asian stop on the tour — something that caused no end of grumbling from its neighbors — fans from China to Malaysia have flocked to the city-state. Japan is the only other East Asian destination. Arrival passenger traffic between March 1 and 7 alone increased by more than 20 percent compared to the same period last year, Changi Airport told The Post.

Businesses of all sizes have caught the cruel summer fever, with enterprises ranging from big brands to small bead shops and photo studios cashing in on the pop star’s visit.

Marina Bay Sands, a luxury destination and a tour sponsor, set up a Swift-focused light show and mall trail with installations themed for each of the artist’s albums. Packages ranging from $7,500 to $35,000 were sold out, with 90 percent of the guests coming from overseas, “an indication of the strong tourism appeal of the Eras Tour,” said Chief Marketing Officer Irene Lin.

Travel company Klook tracked a 50 percent increase in bookings for its Singapore Pass, which offers access to the city’s most famous attractions. “Based on our data … a tourist attending a concert or event can hit an incremental spending of five times the face ticket value,” said Sarah Wan, Klook general manager for Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. A traveler can spend an additional $800 on local experiences, she added.

However, Singapore’s success may have stirred some bad blood among neighbors who wanted their own taste of Swiftonomics. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin claimed Singapore paid up to $3 million per show to make it the only stop in Southeast Asia, prompting leaders in Indonesia and the Philippines to also raise complaints.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defended the deal this week, saying that he does not see the arrangement as “being unfriendly” to its neighbors. Singapore has kept mum on what the government paid to bring Swift to the city-state, but news outlet CNA estimates that it is likely to have cost between $2 and $3 million for all six shows.

Can Seng Ooi, a professor at the University of Tasmania who has studied Singapore’s tourism agenda, said the Eras Tour bid is “part of a grand plan” to fashion the city-state as a regional arts and culture destination that dates to 1989 — a year of no small significance for Swifties, as it’s the singer’s birth year and the title of her fifth studio album. That year, its arts council released a report outlining strategies for the city’s cultural thrust — a long view that has paid off decades later.

Analysts say Singapore’s comparative advantage over its neighbors include its infrastructure, connectivity and continuity for the arts agenda due to political stability. “That did not happen overnight,” said Ooi, who added that the Eras Tour was the latest of mega-event bids that included a Coldplay tour and Formula One races.

One very satisfied Swiftie is Sofia Tolentino, 22, a Filipino student pilot who estimates she is spending up to $4,000 — including airfare, accommodations, her concert ticket, tour packages and outfit, among other expenses. Her parents helped her pay for the trip as a gift because she missed Swift’s previous concerts in Manila when she was younger.

With demand for Swift events rising, she saw the concert as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and even sold her spare ticket to a cancer patient. Decked in a bright-pink sequined leotard and knee-high boots ahead of the penultimate concert on Friday, Tolentino said she resolved not to overthink the math for now and just enjoy the show.

“If you compute it, it’s too much,” she said. “But nothing’s too much for Taylor.”

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