Coldplay heats up concert tourism mania
Coldplay, Taylor Swift and Blackpink are just some of the international music acts drawing regional audiences to Singapore – in a big way.
With their large fanbases willing to travel here to see them, Singapore’s economy looks set to get a slice of the pie.
After making headlines for record-making ticket sales, British rock group Coldplay’s January 2024 show is also expected to sell out hotel rooms to accommodate the arrival of overseas fans, according to Agoda.
The digital travel platform reported on Friday that it has observed an “8.7 times search increase for accommodations in Singapore during Coldplay’s concert series”.
With six shows, Singapore will be the main stop in Asia for Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour.
Agoda said that the surge is driven mainly by neighbouring countries Malaysia and Indonesia, though the platform also expects to see more travellers from Hong Kong, Australia and the Philippines as well.
Coldplay is just one of many acts that have drawn attention to the little red dot, with concert tourism – a form of cultural tourism – seemingly back in full-force after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The term refers to people travelling in order to attend a concert, music show or festival. It has become a lucrative industry over the years, with travellers spending on accommodation, entertainment and food and beverages while they are in town for a show.
Economists and marketing experts tell The Straits Times that while concert tourism is expected to bring in revenue for Singapore, its impact is not to be overemphasised.
They also say that while it seems to be relatively sustainable, it will take work to keep the acts fresh and interesting.
Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education from the Singapore Management University, said: “These big name acts coming to Singapore is a continuation of the conscious attempt to stage noteworthy international events in the arts and sports here for the last two decades.
“The staging of concerts by Coldplay and Taylor Swift is a significant step forward in this movement and will expand the demographic reach of Singapore cultural tourism to young music fans... from all over Asia and perhaps even the Middle East.”
OCBC Bank chief economist Selena Ling told ST: “When you have one big name after another (coming to perform here), it gives a very positive spin to Singapore as a different type of tourism venue. In the past, it may have been targeted more at meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions events, or coming here to enjoy a shopping paradise or as the gateway to the rest of South-east Asia. So now you have another new attraction strategy.”
Associate Professor in Practice Terence Ho from the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said that while the direct boost to Singapore’s gross domestic product might not be massive because of its diverse economy, the excitement surrounding such events can also benefit Singapore and its economy in other ways.
Prof Ho added: “Beyond tourism, being a concert hub will also add vibrancy to Singapore as a global city. This plays a part in attracting and retaining global talent, and reinforcing national marketing efforts.”
Dr Ramaswami also said that Singapore is an attractive destination for organisers of such events, with the financial and organisational success of these concerts spurring other worldwide concert tour organisers to consider Singapore as a stop in future tours.
Prof Ho agrees, saying: “Singaporeans enjoy concerts and have spending power, while the middle class in South-east Asia is also growing. There are many music fans willing to shell out for live concerts by their favourite artistes despite the ease of streaming music these days. Concert tourism will likely generate revenue for years to come.”
UOB is the official bank and pre-sale partner for the concert, and the bank’s debit and credit card holders get privileged access to its pre-sale window and general on-sale reserved ticket allotment.
She added: “Given Singapore is Ms Swift’s only stop in South-east Asia, foreign card holders who successfully purchase tickets will have to fly in to attend her shows, and their UOB cards will come in handy for their other payments here as they will enjoy the same deals and privileges with their cards as local UOB card holders.”
Experts agree that such concert tourism can play an important role in branding for local banks and businesses.
But while it gives such sponsors a temporary boost in new accounts, it needs “a lot more investment in the long run” in order to be sustainable and relevant, said Dr Ramaswami.
He added: “They would have to maintain this image with a continued effort to make other offers related to the performing arts, sports, and other forms of entertainment, for example e-game competitions, for the impact to be sustained. Otherwise, consumers may just close their accounts after securing the immediate concert related benefit.”
Comparing one-off concerts with regular events such as Formula One and its associated festivities, economists say that one difference is the type of audience each programme might draw, and the type of spending that can be expected from the different target groups.
When comparing Formula One with concerts such as Coldplay, for example, the Singapore Grand Prix set an attendance record of 302,000 fans for its three-day event in 2022, while the first four days of Coldplay’s 2024 concert sold out at more than 200,000 tickets. ST estimates that the extra two days added later equates to about 100,000 tickets.
Ms Tan pointed out that based on Ministry of Trade and Industry data, the annual race has generated more than $1.5 billion in incremental tourism receipts as at October 2022 since its debut in 2008. The 2022 race saw foreign visitors accounting for 49 per cent of total spectators, many of whom partook in other tourism-related activities while here as well, such as shopping, dining and visiting local attractions.
OCBC’s Ms Ling said that the Singapore Grand Prix tends to draw an older and perhaps more affluent crowd, which is more likely to stay at designer hotels and dine at Singapore’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
On the other hand, concerts may have more mass appeal and target a wider range of audiences, many of whom may stay and spend at mid-tier establishments instead.
Also, because F1 is a repeat event, while it will draw crowds, it may not create as much of a buzz as fresh acts who have never been to Singapore or who are returning after a long time.
Both recurring and one-off events are important to Singapore’s portfolio of events as they give people something to look forward to, and these include sporting events, concerts and festivals, said Prof Ho. The variety of programmes can also attract new and repeat visitors.
But Ms Ling cautions against overemphasising the impact of the concert tourism phenomenon.
In the grand scheme of things, it might be a mere blip: “There are only that many Blackpinks and Taylor Swifts and Coldplays, and if you bring them in annually, for instance, then they lose a lot of that novelty value.”
She said: “When it comes to the economy and economic growth, we cannot overemphasise the impact also because tourism in itself is important, but it’s not as big as for example manufacturing or electronics production.”