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How Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ is changing travel

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Over the last decade, Taylor Swift has had a transformative effect on the music and entertainment industries. But the megastar, who is currently in the South American leg of her blockbuster The Eras Tour – a multi-continent extravaganza that could end up as the highest-grossing tour of all time – is also drastically shaping the world of travel.

It’s difficult to overstate “the Taylor Swift effect,” a term that generally describes the powerful impact of the 33-year-old musician on consumer behavior, on an industry that in many ways is still recalibrating from the effects of the pandemic.

Hotels in cities visited by the tour are reporting breaking occupancy records, even at higher rates due to surging demand. Many are also incorporating unique Swift-centric promotions, events and activations to further entice fans. LATAM Airlines waived change fees for passengers following a recently postponed concert; Air New Zealand added 2,000 extra seats to its network around Swift’s shows (and cleverly named some flights NZ1989, a nod to her fifth studio album). And destinations where Swift performs reap such an enormous economic benefit that political leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau practically beg for Swift to tour in their countries.

On a more personal level, Swifties – her famously loyal legions of fans – are traveling in new ways to new places for what many call a once-in-lifetime chance to see the performer live on stage.

“Quite simply, this is the biggest cultural event around which people are planning travel in a generation,” says Brittany Hodak, a Franklin, Tennessee-based customer experience expert and author of “Creating Superfans: How to Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates.”

“And, unlike a sporting event like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics that’s concentrated in a few geographic locations, The Eras Tour is boosting travel and tourism across the globe. It’s no wonder we’ve seen world leaders openly campaign for tour stops within their countries.”

‘Far-reaching implications for the hotel industry’

Stalls selling Taylor Swift merchandise in Denver, Colorado, ahead of the concert on July 14, 2023. - Grace Smith/MediaNews Group/The /Denver Post/Getty Images
Stalls selling Taylor Swift merchandise in Denver, Colorado, ahead of the concert on July 14, 2023. - Grace Smith/MediaNews Group/The /Denver Post/Getty Images

The tourism impact of Swift’s The Eras Tour has been nothing short of staggering, with the economic boost generated in certain US cities eclipsing the entire GDP of some small countries. Lighthouse (formerly OTA Insights), a Denver-based provider of data for the travel and hospitality industry, describes Eras as “a hospitality phenomenon” in a study it published in August.

One often-cited statistic is the whopping $5 billion that Swifties collectively spent across the United States in connection with The Eras Tour. However, the U.S. Travel Association says a more accurate figure is $10 billion or more in total economic impact.

In addition, STR, which provides data and analytics around the global hospitality industry, estimated that hotels pulled in $208 million in revenue following Swift’s US shows over the summer, also noting that figure was “conservative” because it accounted only for Swift’s 53 concert nights, not extended fan stays and other factors.

Some destinations that have benefited from such a massive windfall are eagerly sharing the results. In Pittsburgh, Swift’s concerts on June 16 and 17 generated $46 million in direct spending, with 83% of attendees coming from outside the county, according to a news release from Visit Pittsburgh. The city’s hotel occupancy, meanwhile, averaged 95% — the highest since the pandemic and the second-highest weekend occupancy on record­­.

Not surprisingly, such outsized demand has also resulted in higher consumer prices. Aggregating data from 13 tour stops in North America, Lighthouse found an average bump of 7.7% for hotel room prices the month prior to Swift’s tour compared to the same month in the previous year, and prices 7.2% higher during the month of the tour.

“The fact that a single music tour can significantly influence average pricing in major U.S. cities for an entire month underscores the magnitude of this tour and its far-reaching implications for the hotel industry,” the study states.

RateGain, a global provider of travel and hospitality data, also noted a “long-tail effect” on tour destinations as travelers create what it and others have coined “Swift-cations.”

“Her concerts have brought so much noise that in addition to her being the center of attention, the destination is becoming the center of attention,” Peter Strebel, president of RateGain’s Americas region, tells CNN Travel.

Taylor Swift performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on August 7, 2023. - Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Taylor Swift performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on August 7, 2023. - Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

As an example, Strebel points to Buenos Aires, where Swift performed the first three shows of her South American tour – and described it as “the best decision possible” on social media platform X. Hotel bookings in the Argentine capital are still “soaring,” even after the concert dates, according to RateGain data. Strebel also notes that if the trend follows, Buenos Aires may be on par to break all its hotel occupancy records in the coming weeks.

It’s a murkier picture for the Eras’ next stop, Rio de Janeiro, where recent headlines around Swift’s concerts have hit a rare somber note following the death of a fan, the cause of which has been attributed to extreme heat in the stadium where Swift performed. The pop star postponed her next show just hours beforehand, saying the heat was unsafe, a move that received some criticism from disappointed fans who had already arrived.

However, from a tourism perspective, Swift’s Rio appearances started off on a bejeweled note. The 12-time Grammy winner received a warm welcome to the popular coastal city via its world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue, which sported a projection that made the landmark look like it was wearing a T-shirt inspired by the one Swift wore in her “You Belong With Me” music video. It was also decorated with symbols from her songs and the names of Brazilian states.

In her first Rio show, Swift told the sold-out crowd it was “sort of the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me” as her fans screamed and applauded.

From Swift-inspired cruises to candle-making classes

Argentinian fans outside the Mas Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires before Swift's concert on November 9, 2023. - Emiliano Lasalvia/AFP/Getty Images
Argentinian fans outside the Mas Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires before Swift's concert on November 9, 2023. - Emiliano Lasalvia/AFP/Getty Images

Beyond enjoying record occupancy levels thanks to Eras tour stops – especially following several downturn years during the pandemic – many hotels have gone a step further to create an unforgettable fan experience.

Loews Hotels, for one, created bespoke pre-concert events at several properties, including Atlanta and Nashville, complete with Swift-inspired cocktails, playlists and backdrops for social media photos. Loews Arlington also hosted the popular “13: A Taylor Swift Fan Podcast” as part of a sold-out pre-concert party featuring themed cocktails and bracelet-making, a spokesperson for Loews Hotels & Co told CNN Travel via email.

Even without a concert date in their city, some hotels have capitalized on Swift’s mega fandom alone to fill special events – like the Eras-themed, pop-up candle-making classes at Conrad New York Downtown, a luxury, all-suite property near the World Trade Center. Hosted in collaboration with The Candle Garden, the class has been popular among hotel guests (though non-guests also are welcome), says The Candle Garden owner Jordan Reemsnyder, who notes that a father-daughter duo from Iceland has pre-booked for an upcoming class.

Swifties are also taking to the seas. In October 2024, a four-night, Swift-themed cruise is scheduled to set sail from the Port of Miami on October 21, 2024, the day after Swift performs her last show in the city.

‘Worth traveling for’

Fans make their way across the People's Bridge to Nissan Stadium ahead of Swift's performance on May 6, 2023. - Seth Herald/Getty Images
Fans make their way across the People's Bridge to Nissan Stadium ahead of Swift's performance on May 6, 2023. - Seth Herald/Getty Images

Beyond North and South America, a lavender haze has apparently already settled on destinations where The Eras Tour is headed. In Europe and the UK, where Swift has 50 concerts in the spring and summer of 2024, there are already indications of strong demand, according to Lighthouse data. Amsterdam, which is set to host three concerts in July, is seeing an uptick in hotel searches, with concert weekend rates marked up by about 160 euros ($175) compared to the week prior; prices in Dublin, which hosts a trio of shows the week beforehand, reflect rate increases of about 100 euros ($110).

For Contiki, which bills itself as a social travel company for ages 18-35, the European leg for Swift’s The Eras Tour presented an opportunity it knew it had to take advantage of.

During the first North American leg, the London-based operator began brainstorming ideas, and in September 2023 launched its catchy “Taylor Your Itinerary in 2024” offer: five trips tied to Eras concert dates in four European cities, featuring Swift-inspired itineraries and other fun extras. Contiki also added a 13% off discount – a nod to a number Swift claims is lucky for her — on those trips and all other European summer itineraries longer than 14 days.

“[Swift is] the most talked about amongst our communities as an artist,” says Lottie Norman, chief marketing officer for Contiki. “She’s been riding this wave for a year. So the alignment for us was just huge, and we knew we had to do something.”

Some Swifties are planning trips of their own to see the popstar on as many stages as possible. Stephanie DePrez, a stand-up comedian and opera singer who lives in Berlin, joined forces with a friend and fellow fan in London to try to secure presale ticket codes in “basically every European city as soon as it was announced,” she tells CNN Travel.

Strategizing with various country-specific virtual private networks, DePrez and her friend succeeded in snagging those crucial codes. But the process wasn’t without a few minor hiccups. DePrez’s friend was able to get four tickets – in Paris, not London, however – while DePrez discovered she’d be heading to Warsaw, Poland, by herself, which was not by design.

“I had no idea because everything was in Polish,” she tells CNN Travel of the ticket purchasing platform. “I thought I was paying in euros, but I was paying in [Polish] zloty, and I was paying this ginormous amount of money. I was like, well, that’s obviously four tickets. Nope, one ticket.”

DePrez says initially the mistake was “devastating,” but she has since come around to the idea of a solo adventure in Warsaw, a city she’s never been to. She’s also excited about attending that Paris show with her Swiftie friends, and says any inconveniences with ticketing thus far or her trips this summer will be eclipsed by being in the same venue as an entertainer she’s been deeply “invested in” for years.

“When Taylor is onstage, and I am in the audience, there is a reverence for that relationship that I don’t think is normal for pop stars,” DePrez says. “That relationship she has with her fans is so intentional. It’s worth traveling for.”

‘Lightning in a bottle’

The crowd enjoying Taylor Swift's performance SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on August 7, 2023. - Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
The crowd enjoying Taylor Swift's performance SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on August 7, 2023. - Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

As hospitality and brand experts note, destinations and tourism organizations poised to make the most out of these once-in-an-Era opportunities are those that strategically align with Swift’s brand and values. Just as importantly, they must resonate with those scores of loyal Swifties, as Marcus Collins, marketing professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and a former social media strategist for Beyoncé, points out.

Citing Royal Caribbean’s Swift-inspired cruise, Collins told CNN Travel via email, “There’s a lot of room to do something even more thematic that could potentially be more meaningful to Swifties who understand all the nuances of her.”

Such intense fandom has come as a surprise to even the most seasoned hospitality industry insiders. “Her fan base’s dedication is something I’ve never seen before,” Stephen Borecki, general manager of Fairfield Inn & Suites New Orleans Downtown/French Quarter, tells CNN Travel via email.

Borecki says as soon as dates were announced for the Eras’ final North America leg, which includes three late October shows in New Orleans, the property received “dozens of phone calls and emails” daily about room availability. In addition, the hotel projects that Swift’s three concert days will produce 150% more revenue than the 2025 Super Bowl to be hosted in New Orleans.

Said Borecki: “I don’t know of another person or event that I will ever see that draws this much demand.”

From a destination marketing perspective, one potential missed opportunity came early in the tour, during its March 17, 2023 kickoff in Glendale, Arizona. To mark the occasion, the City of Glendale renamed itself “Swift City” during the three-day stretch of concerts. But some media insiders and social media commenters noted the lackluster proclamation ceremony by Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, as well as the missed chance to incorporate a clever play on words with a term like “Eras-ona.”

Even so, the city managed to shake it off and pulled in impressive tourism numbers: a 50% increase in its average daily rate for hotels compared to the previous year, as well as nearly 99% occupancy rate during show dates, a city spokesperson told CNN Travel via email.

No doubt that as The Eras Tour continues to break records, savvy hospitality and tourism organizations aiming to capitalize on the events headed their way are taking careful notes. But, according to Hodak, the fan experience expert, they should also act fast.

“This is not going to be a trend – there won’t be a tour equivalent to The Eras Tour for a very, very long time, perhaps not until Taylor is on tour again,” Hodak says. “This has been the perfect storm of so many things happening: Taylor having several albums to promote and tour simultaneously, a hunger for live shows coming out of Covid, and of course Taylor being one of the biggest stars and smartest marketers on the planet.

“It’s lightning in a bottle, and … brands need to be making their moves now.”

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