What Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour says about ‘passion tourism’

Finance

Taylor Swift performs on stage during The Eras Tour on June 28, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland. 
Charles Mcquillan/tas24 | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Taylor Swift’s European tour was top of mind for Nikita Rao when planning where to go for her family’s annual summer vacation.

Rao, her husband and two kids, who live in Bethesda, Maryland, headed overseas this past weekend: They have tickets to the pop star’s concert in Amsterdam on Thursday.

The family built a weeklong itinerary around The Eras Tour event, spending a few days in London before making their way to the Netherlands for the show. They would have likely visited the two cities at some point in the future, but the Swift concert accelerated their timeline, said Rao, 43, who also saw a performance in Cincinnati last year with her daughter.

“My view on it was, we should do this — London and Amsterdam — because she’ll be there,” Rao said. “If I can get tickets, that’ll just make the whole vacation amazing,” she said of her thought process.

Why Taylor Swift is unique to ‘passion tourism’

Taylor Swift fans gather outside Santiago Bernabéu Stadium for a concert in Madrid, Spain, on May 29, 2024. 
David Benito | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

It’s not just the Rao family.

Americans are flocking overseas to see Taylor Swift, perhaps the most prominent recent example of so-called “passion tourism,” according to travel experts.

Passion tourism revolves (unsurprisingly) around people’s passions. While place is also generally important, these trips are generally guided by personal interest, hobby or a cultural event, experts said.

This isn’t a new concept. In fact, there are many recent and upcoming examples: February’s annual Carnival festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; April’s total solar eclipse in North America; the 2024 Paris Olympics that start this month; and the ongoing UEFA European Football Championship (known as the Euro Cup) in Germany.

“Memorable events are driving travel trends, whether it is for concerts or sporting events,” Mastercard wrote recently in its annual travel trends report.

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However, what distinguishes Taylor Swift concerts in the realm of passion tourism is the broad interest and enthusiasm among Americans who want to travel abroad, according to travel agents.

“I’ve never seen this excitement to travel to go see an artist,” said Jessica Griscavage, a travel advisor and founder of Runway Travel.

The most recent example that might come close is a Spice Girls concert in the 1990s, she said.

Griscavage, who put together the Rao family’s itinerary, also assembled a separate Swift-centered trip to Paris for a daughter, mother and grandmother.    

More than half of Americans, 53%, identify as fans of Taylor Swift, according to a poll by Morning Consult. About 16% consider themselves “avid” fans.

“Beyoncé is big, too, but we don’t usually get requests like, ‘I have Beyoncé tickets for Europe and we want to build a trip around it,'” said Sofia Markovich, a travel advisor and founder of Sofia’s Travel.

She assembled trips for two U.S. clients who had tickets for Taylor Swift shows in England and Switzerland, respectively.

“Just as Grateful Dead fans were known to follow the band from city to city to be part of a unique community, Swifties — often with friends and family in tow — have made traveling to her concerts part of the experience,” Joshua Friedlander, vice president of research at the U.S. Travel Association, wrote recently about the so-called “Swift Lift.”

‘Inevitable’ that Swifties will travel to new places

About 15.9 million Americans traveled internationally in the first quarter of 2024, an all-time high, according to Mastercard’s travel report. Consumers are also spending for travel at record levels globally, it said.

Passion tourism generally provides an economic boost to host nations, experts said.

For example, spending by tourists at restaurants, bars and grocery stores during the 2024 Carnival in Rio was 156% above normal, Mastercard found. During the solar eclipse, hotel sales within the U.S. path of totality rose 71%, it said.

Spectators looking up at the solar eclipse at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 8, 2024. 
Nurphoto | Getty Images

About 1.2 million fans will see a Taylor Swift concert this summer across four cities in the United Kingdom (Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cardiff and London), according to a recent Barclays analysis. Each fan will spend an average 848 British pounds (about $1,073) on tickets, travel, accommodation, outfits and other expenses, amounting to a total 997 million British pounds (about $1.3 billion), Barclays estimated.

Accommodation accounts for the largest outlay after tickets, followed by travel, according to the Barclays analysis.

Searches for Airbnb stays in European cities during Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour dates are up about 70% relative to the same period in 2023, according to a recent analysis.

Beyoncé is big, too, but we don’t usually get requests like, ‘I have Beyoncé tickets for Europe and we want to build a trip around it.’
Sofia Markovich
travel advisor

Rome and Paris are traditionally among Americans’ top destinations to visit abroad. However, it’s “inevitable” that Swift fans will end up in a city they may have previously overlooked, like Edinburgh, said Chris Nulty, global head of corporate communications and public affairs at Airbnb.

When tickets went on sale last year for Edinburgh concert dates, searches for lodging in the city by Americans jumped 500%, Nulty said.

A concert “combines the opportunity to travel somewhere incredible with the opportunity to see an artist they love,” he said.

The household economics of ticket sales are also likely playing a role, experts said. Some Swifties who were priced out of the U.S. market due to ticket expense may find it cheaper overall (or comparably priced) to buy a ticket and add on the associated travel expenses for a concert overseas.

“The resale tickets in Europe are much more reasonable than what they are in the U.S.,” said Griscavage, the travel advisor.

Additionally, “I think there’s something really exciting about seeing her in a non-U.S. city,” she added. “It’s a fun opportunity and people are willing to pay to see her.”

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