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Fans are following Taylor Swift to Europe after finding Eras Tour tickets less costly there

LISA LEFF
May 08, 2024

LONDON (AP) -- Thousands of ride-or-die Taylor Swift fans who missed out on her U.S. concert tour last year or didn't want to buy exorbitantly priced tickets to see her again found an out-of-the-way solution: Fly to Europe.

The pop star is scheduled to kick off the 18-city Europe leg of her record-setting Eras Tour in Paris on Thursday, and planeloads of Swifties plan to follow Miss Americana across the pond in the coming weeks. The arena where Swift is appearing said Americans bought 20% of the tickets for her four sold-out shows. Stockholm, the tour's next stop, expects about 10,000 concertgoers from the U.S.

A concert might sound like an odd raison d'etre for visiting a foreign country, especially when fans can watch the Eras Tour from home via the documentary now streaming on Disney+. Yet online travel company Expedia says continent-hopping by Swift's devotees is part of a larger trend it dubbed "tour tourism" while observing a pattern that emerged during Beyoncé's Renaissance world tour.

Some North American fans who plan to fly overseas for the Eras Tour said they justified the expense after noticing that tighter restrictions on ticket fees and resales in Europe made seeing Swift perform abroad no more costly -- and potentially cheaper -- than catching her closer to home.

"They said, 'Wait a minute, I can either spend $1,500 to go see my favorite artist in Miami, or I can take that $1,500 and buy a concert ticket, a round-trip plane ticket, and three nights in a hotel room," Melanie Fish, an Expedia spokesperson and travel expert, said.

That was the experience of Jennifer Warren, 43, who lives in St. Catharines, a city in the Niagara region of Ontario. She and her 11-year-old son love Swift but had no luck scoring what she considered as decently priced tickets in the U.S. Undeterred, Warren and her husband decided to plan a European vacation around wherever she managed to get seats. It turned out to be Hamburg, Germany.

"You get out, you get to see the world, and you get to see your favorite artist or performer at the same time, so there are a lot of wins to it," said Warren, who works as the director of research and innovation for a mutual insurance company.

The three VIP tickets she secured close to the stage -- "I would call it brute-force dumb luck" -- cost 600 euros ($646) each. Swift subsequently announced six November tour dates in Toronto, within driving distance of Warren's home. "Absolute nose-bleed seats" already are going for 3,000 Canadian dollars ($2,194) on secondary resale sites like Viagogo, Warren said.

TOUR TOURISM: IS IT REALLY A THING?

Travel and entertainment analysts have spoken of a pent-up consumer demand for "experiences" over material objects since the coronavirus pandemic. Some think the willingness of music lovers to broaden their fandom horizons is part of the same mass cultural correction.

"It does seem like it's more than a structural shift, maybe a personality transformation we all went through," said Natalia Lechmanova, the chief Europe economist for the Mastercard Economics Institute.

As Swift hopscotches across Europe, Lechmanova expects restaurants and hotels to see the same boost that Mastercard observed within a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) radius of concert venues in the U.S. cities she visited in 2023. The U.S. dollar's strong value against the euro may also increase retail spending on apparel, memorabilia, beauty products and supplies for the friendship bracelets fans exchange as part of the Eras Tour experience, the economist said.

Former college roommates Lizzy Hale, 34, who lives in Los Angeles, and Mitch Goulding, 33, who lives in Austin, Texas, already had tickets to see the Eras Tour in L.A. last summer when they decided to try to get ones for Paris, London or Edinburgh, Scotland, too. They saw a Europe concert trip as a makeup for travel plans they had in May 2020 to celebrate Goulding's birthday but had to cancel due to the pandemic.

Goulding managed to secure VIP tickets for one of Swift's three Stockholm shows. He, Hale and two other friends scheduled a 10-day trip that also includes time in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

"As people who enjoy traveling and enjoy music, if you can find an opportunity to combine the two, it's really special," Hale said.

FOR STOCKHOLM, 120,000 SWIFTIES CAN'T BE WRONG

In Stockholm, 120,000 out-of-towners from 130 countries -- among them 10,000 from the U.S. -- are expected to swarm Sweden's capital this month, Stockholm Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Carl Bergqvist said. Stockholm is the only Scandinavian city on Swift's tour, and airlines added extra flights from nearby Denmark, Finland and Norway to bring people to the May 17-19 shows, he said.

The city's 40,000 hotel rooms are sold out even though prices skyrocketed for the tour dates, Bergqvist said. Concert visitors are expected to pump around 500 million Swedish kroner, or over $46 million, into the local economy over the course of their stays, an estimate that does not include what they paid for Swift tickets or to get to Sweden, he said.

Houston resident Caroline Matlock, 29, is making friendship bracelets and trying to learn a few words of Swedish as she prepares to see the 3 1/2-hour show in Stockholm. Also on the itinerary: visiting the Scandinavian cities of Oslo and Gothenburg.

The concert is the last night of the trip and Matlock looks forward to interacting with Swifties from other countries: "Americans tend to have a very obsessive culture, especially Taylor Swift-related, so I'm curious if the crowd will be more toned-down."

WILL TOUR TOURISM ENDURE AFTER ERAS?

It remains to be seen if the music tourism trend has legs as long and strong as Swift's and Beyoncé's, and if it will carry over to Billie Eilish, Usher and other artists with world tours scheduled next year. Expedia's Fish thinks other big-name artists in Europe this summer will prove that booking a foreign trip around a concert is catching on.

Kat Morga, a travel consultant based in Nashville, isn't so sure. Morga saw Swift perform in Nashville last year and helped two clients with school-aged children book European family vacations this summer that include seeing Swift in concert. But she thinks the difficulty of navigating ticket purchases through language barriers, currency conversions, international banking regulations and the risk of cancellations will limit the appeal of regular gig getaways.

"I think this is an anomaly," Morga said. "People aren't typically going to build their $20,000 huge family vacation only because Taylor Swift is there. She's the one-off. She's special."

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel, whose company operates Booking.com, priceline.com, agoda.com, Kayak and OpenTable, is even less enthusiastic about concert tours as a tourism instigator. The Swift Effect causes a "little blip" when the superstar goes to smaller destinations, but for the worldwide travel industry, "one star touring around does not make a difference," he said.

___

AP journalists Colleen Barry in Milan, Chisato Tanaka in Stockholm, Anne D'Innocenzio in New York, David Koenig in Dallas, Thomas Adamson in Paris and Brian Melley in London contributed reporting.

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