Expected economic benefits from Taylor Swift concerts outweigh size of grant given: Minister

Edwin Tong's (right) ministry and STB said it worked directly with the promoter AEG Presents and provided a grant to help bring Taylor Swift in. - ST/MCI

SINGAPORE: The expected economic benefits to Singapore from the ongoing Taylor Swift concerts have been assessed to be significant, and outweigh the size of the grant given to the concert promoter by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said this on March 4, in response to questions in Parliament about the estimated economic returns and value of the superstar’s six concerts here.

In a joint statement on Feb 20, his ministry and STB said it worked directly with the promoter AEG Presents and provided a grant - of which the scale and conditions attached were not revealed - to help bring Swift in. It has been speculated that the amount is in the millions per show.

“There has been some online speculation as to the size of the grant. I can say that it is not accurate and not anywhere as high as speculated, but due to business confidentiality, we cannot reveal the specific size and conditions of the grant,” said Tong.

“I can assure members of the House that the economic benefits to Singapore are assessed to be significant and outweigh the size of the grant,” he added, noting that direct economic benefits include additional tourist arrivals, spending on tickets, flights, hotel stays, as well as entertainment, retail and dining in Singapore.

The Straits Times reported economists’ estimates of a boost of up to S$500 million in tourism receipts for Singapore’s economy.

The grants, however, have been a point of contention and sparked unhappiness among some lawmakers in neighbouring countries like Thailand and the Philippines.

The issue came to light after Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he was informed by the promoter that the Singapore Government had offered subsidies of up to US$3 million (S$4 million) for each concert, in exchange for Swift agreeing not to perform elsewhere in South-East Asia during The Eras Tour.

Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) asked why there is a need to give taxpayer funded grants to attract acts like Taylor Swift if Singapore is already an attractive destination.

In response, Tong said the Government has various considerations on which events to give grants to, as well as the terms and structure of such grants, while taking into account the overall demand and Singapore’s objectives.

“In this case, we were mindful that if we wanted Singapore to be part of the tour stops - and if you look at her past tour history - it’s very difficult to be one or two nights alone because of the (scale of the) setup,” he said, adding that holding a concert over a certain number of nights can result in economies of scale, and determines if a concert is held in a location, or not at all.

“Every event, whether it’s arts, culture, lifestyle, music, has a different set of considerations and we’re motivated by the different outcomes we want to achieve,” he added.

In an interview with ST, it was revealed that Tong himself led a multi-agency team from Singapore on an exploratory trip to the United States in February 2023 which subsequently secured the run of six shows at the National Stadium in the Singapore Sports Hub.

In Parliament, Tong also noted that beyond the tourism and economic benefits, being able to host A-list artistes such as Swift will help position Singapore as a cultural hub in South-east Asia, one that is capable of hosting a range of different arts, music and culture events, as well as major sporting and lifestyle events.

“This helps to brand Singapore as a fun, vibrant destination,” he said.

“Singapore faces intense regional competition for these concerts and we will need to continue investing in our infrastructure and software to continue attracting marquee entertainment and lifestyle events.”

Xie Yao Quan (Jurong GRC) asked the Minister if there were more tangible targets being considered for the volume of deals from the concert economy that Singapore is trying to grow.

Tong stressed that beyond the economic impact of hosting such events, the “social return” is also important, using the Sports Hub as a draw and asset right across the spectrum of events.

He noted that the Sports Hub has been able to direct returns from large-scale, marquee entertainment and sports events back into “non-revenue generating, but highly impactful social events”.

For example, the Sports Hub hosted a record 43 National School Games finals events in 2023, which is almost three times the 16 finals events that were held in the venue before Covid-19 in 2019.

“MCCY, Sport Singapore and KASM (Kallang Alive Sport Management) will work hard, continue to hustle, and do our best to bring top class events here, but also continue to make the Sports Hub more accessible to Singaporeans,” he said. - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , Taylor Swift , concert , economic , benefits , grant , Tong


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