Hotels, flights booked out as 'Swift effect' hits Singapore


More than 300,000 fans from Singapore and its neighbouring countries will attend Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour shows at the National Stadium from March 2 to 9. - AFP

SINGAPORE: The "Swift effect" is about to hit South-East Asia but Singapore has left some of its neighbours seeing red while it profits from a Taylor-made tourism boom as the star's only stop in the region.

More than 300,000 fans from the city-state and neighbouring countries will attend the US superstar's six sold-out Eras Tour shows at the National Stadium from March 2-9.

Ingrid Delgado, a fresh graduate in Manila who is travelling to Singapore for the March 4 show, said she bought a "new shimmering dress" for the occasion but had trouble finding an affordable hotel.

"A lot were booked already, so I had to book a more expensive hotel," she said.

The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, as well as the Fairmont Hotel, told AFP that demand for rooms during the concert period had risen.

Big spenders have taken up Marina Bay Sands' luxury packages named after Swift's hit songs, such as "Shake it Off" and "Stay Stay Stay".

The hotel's SG$50,000 (US$37,230) "Wildest Dreams" package includes VIP tickets, fine dining, a hotel suite, limousine transfers and passes to tourist attractions.

The hotel told AFP all its packages were sold out.

Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said there had been increased demand for Singapore-bound flights but could not say whether it was solely due to the "Swift Effect".

A large contingent of Malaysian Swifties will be crossing into neighbouring Singapore.

"It's a dream come true. I feel excited and nervous," said Harith Arsat, a 20-year-old student who will be making his first overseas trip from Kuala Lumpur.

In the Philippines, budget carrier Cebu Pacific has changed its usual flight number for Singapore-bound planes to "1989" -- the year Swift was born and the title of her fifth album -- for the March 1-9 period.

However, not everyone was happy when Swift's only South-East Asia stop was announced, including fans and governments in some of Singapore's neighbours.

Travelling to Singapore is expensive for many in the region due to high currency exchanges, to say nothing of ritzy hotel packages.

Some were also unhappy because Singapore provided a grant to help secure Swift's record-breaking tour for the city-state.

Officials from the culture ministry and Singapore Tourism Board, citing business confidentiality, declined to say last week how much was paid, or whether an exclusivity deal had been signed to make Singapore Swift's sole South-East Asian stop.

That followed reports that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had told a business forum in Bangkok that Singapore had indeed made such a deal.

The Singapore officials did not address Srettha's comments directly but said Swift's shows were "likely to generate significant benefits to the Singapore economy".

Singapore has been rolling out the red carpet for many international artists, such as Blackpink, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran, since ending its Covid-19 pandemic curbs.

Coldplay performed six sold-out shows in January and upcoming acts include Bruno Mars, Sum 41 and Jerry Seinfeld.

"Singapore started to open faster than others after the pandemic and its first-mover advantage and concerted efforts to bring in acts, events and conventions has helped," Song Seng Wun, economic adviser for CGS International, told AFP.

"That momentum has been building up."

Millions scrambled for tickets when they went on sale last year, which led to a rise in online scams targeting desperate Swifties.

Singapore police even released a social media video with the tagline: "Don't lose money swiftly, buy your tickets safely."

Regardless of the dangers, Ericko Dimas Pamungkas, 25, in Jakarta logged in to three devices to get a ticket queue number.

"I got very lucky. I feel like this concert is one of the most important moments for me," he said.

Swift has evolved from a singer with relatable lyrics into a canny businesswoman and the world's biggest pop star, and fans believe there is plenty to learn from the 34-year-old.

"I appreciate Taylor's candidness and what she stands for such as rights, generosity and compassion," said Spencer Ler, a Singaporean pilot who queued for 22 hours to get tickets for his daughter and her friends.

"It's something the girls can learn from." - AFP

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