Strategic Planning

Swiftonomics and Local Governments: Having a Strategic Tourism Plan

Hands at a concert - strategic tourism plan and swiftonomics

Having a thriving arts, culture, and tourism scene is an important part of a city’s character, history, and economy. Art and entertainment should be a significant pillar of any local government’s strategic plan: the arts economy in 2021 represented 4.4 percent of the United States of America’s GDP, just over $1.0 trillion!

This number is only expected to get bigger as mega celebrities announce huge, global tours. After the lack of entertainment and concerts of COVID-19, these concerts are… big deals. To put it lightly: These aren’t our grandparents’ concerts.

When megastars like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, or other huge global celebrities take center stage in cities around the world during their concert tours, the excitement isn’t just limited to the #Swifties or the #BeyHive. The economic ripple effects of these high-profile events extend far beyond the arena walls, leaving a lasting mark on the local economy. It’s actually coined a term, Swiftonomics, named after the uniquely sizable impact Taylor Swift has on the economy. It would be impossible to understate the number of people clamoring to see these concerts. When Taylor recently announced the Canadian leg of her tour, the result was over 31 million people waitlisted for tickets. In Toronto, Taylor Swift’s concert series is expected to have the biggest economic impact any single artist has made in the city, possibly in the city’s history, with experts estimating it could inject around 700 million dollars into the Canadian economy. Forbes estimates that Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour could generate 4.6 billion for local economies, making it a major economic event.

But does this have anything to do with local government? Yes! A lot, actually!
And can strategic planning help? Definitely!

Having a strategic tourism plan—your framework of defined tourism goals, responsibilities, and performance measures for measuring and managing progress around tourism—can really help both attract these events, and make the most of them when they arrive.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the captivating world of Swiftonomics, major celebrity events, and what it means for your local government if you’re one of the places set to be hosting them!

What is Swiftonomics?

Coined by Bloomberg Reporter Augusta Saraiva, the term started as a slightly tongue-in-cheek term to describe Taylor Swift’s outsized impact on an economy. “Swiftonomics” refers to both the palpable and very real impact on economies that Taylor Swift has, but also to the extreme level of supply and demand that is being demonstrated in real-time. It’s also referred to as “tour-flation.”

During this period of economic depression, concerts are seen as a luxury that people are willing to pay very high prices for, because many other luxuries are not as attainable. Combined with the lack of entertainment during the peaks of COVID-19, a concert is an experience that people are willing to pay a lot of money for.

The impact Swiftonomics is having on the real life issues of price gouging, ticket scalping, and monopolies is palpable from a policy standpoint, too: since the Eras Tour was announced, Ticketmaster has been the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Justice Department of the United States of America. Hotels, as well as rideshare services, are expected to have skyrocketing prices on the nights Taylor Swift is visiting, which has drawn criticism from economic experts and raised questions about how to regulate price gouging in the event of major entertainment events.

Celebrity concerts generate more revenue than major sporting events, typically because the people coming for celebrity concerts are going to be more likely to be spending more than a day or two in the city, and will be also spending more on shopping and restaurants before and after the event itself. Here’s what all this means for your local government.

Positive Impacts of Major Tourism Events on Local Governments

Beyond the immediate thrill of the event, the economic implications are substantial and far-reaching.

1.Boost to Local Businesses:

According to the Common Sense Institute, an economic research organization in Colorado, Taylor Swift’s two Denver concerts in July contributed $140 million U.S. to the state’s GDP. Swift fans spent an average of $1,327 on show-related expenses, including tickets, travel, merchandise, lodging and food—money that went to both the local and state level governments.

Local restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail establishments experience a surge in foot traffic during the lead-up to a celebrity concert. Fans arriving from out of town often stay overnight, dine out, shop for memorabilia, and explore the city’s attractions. This influx of visitors stimulates local businesses, providing a boost in revenue that can sometimes last well beyond the concert date.

2. Job Creation:
The logistics of hosting a major concert require a small army of event staff, security personnel, caterers, and technicians. The demand for temporary labor and services increases, providing job opportunities for local workers. This temporary influx of jobs can be particularly beneficial to the local workforce.

3. Infrastructure Investment:
To accommodate the large crowds and logistical requirements of a celebrity concert, cities often invest in infrastructure improvements. This might involve upgrading transportation systems, parking facilities, and even improving the concert venue itself. These improvements leave a lasting impact, benefiting the city even after the concert is over. Planning ahead for these events is wise—having a tourism strategic plan can make a Beyonce Blip or Swiftonomics wave work for your community in a lasting way.

4. Media Exposure:
Hosting a celebrity concert brings substantial media attention to the city. News coverage, social media buzz, and live streaming of the event showcase the city’s attractions and culture on a global scale. This exposure attracts future visitors and investors, enhancing the city’s profile and economic prospects.

Challenges of Major Tourism Events for Local Governments

While the economic impacts of celebrity concerts are undoubtedly positive, there are potential challenges that cities must navigate. The worst of these impacts can be mitigated by a robust strategic tourism plan.

1. Infrastructure Strain:
Large crowds can strain existing infrastructure, leading to congestion and logistical challenges. Proper planning and coordination are essential to manage traffic flow, public safety, and waste management effectively.

2. Environmental Considerations:
The increased energy consumption and waste generated during these events can have environmental consequences. Cities should work with event organizers to minimize the ecological footprint of concerts through sustainable practices.

3. Balancing Community Needs:
While concerts can bring economic benefits, they can also disrupt the daily lives of residents in the vicinity. Balancing the interests of residents with the revenue-generating potential of concerts requires careful consideration.

Strategic Planning and Tourism

Regularly including tourism or major arts and culture events into your strategic plan is a great way to ensure and maximize success of these events. The City of Scottsdale, Arizona, for example, has their strategic tourism plan listed on their public dashboard, which shows a long list of objectives related to their efforts to boost tourism to their city, from holding regular meetings with stakeholders, to improving baseline services downtown.

City of Scottsdale AZ strategic tourism plan public dashboard

These two mega events—Taylor Swift and Beyonce’s tours—impact local governments, from generating revenue, to increasing inflation. For example, some notable statistics include searches for minority-owned businesses increasing in both Philadelphia and New York City prior to Beyonce’s arrival. Black-owned beauty stores and spas went up by 14%, and shopping saw a 194% increase in search terms, which is expected to translate into inflation. This is what happened in Stockholm—termed “The Beyonce Blip” by one economist—after it was found that Beyonce single handedly increased inflation for the entire country of Sweden.

Celebrity culture is its own major economic force. What can you do to prepare for Swiftnomics, or a Beyonce Blip, from a strategic planning perspective?

​​Assessment and Decision-making

Once the touring has been announced, it is important to determine whether the local infrastructure, venues, and resources are suitable, capable, and safe enough for hosting such a large event. Assess the potential economic impact, benefits, and risks associated with the event.

Engage Stakeholders

Collaborate with event organizers, local businesses, law enforcement agencies, emergency services, and transportation providers to establish a strong network of support.

Security and Safety

This should be treated as any other major event; having a crisis plan in place should things go wrong is an important part of any strategic plan. Creating a plan for what to do should there be an emergency will prevent things going seriously wrong. In Seattle, the Swifties created the “Swift-quake” — notable seismic activity generated by the crowd. This was harmless, ultimately, but… best to be prepared! Collaborate across departments to develop a comprehensive security plan, including crowd control, perimeter security, and emergency response procedures.

Traffic and Transportation

Communicate early on with your public works department and work collaboratively to to develop a transportation plan to manage traffic flow and parking. Encourage attendees to use public transportation or carpool to reduce congestion. This is especially important to reduce traffic related accidents, or situations where emergency vehicles are unable to get where they need to be.

Public Communication

Develop a communication strategy to inform residents, businesses, and visitors about the event, including details about road closures, parking restrictions, and alternative routes. Utilize social media, local news outlets, and official government channels to disseminate information.

Local Business Engagement

Collaborate with local businesses to maximize economic benefits. Encourage them to offer special promotions or extend operating hours during the event.

Post-Event Evaluation

After the event, assess its success, gather feedback from attendees and stakeholders, and identify areas for improvement in case of future events.

Remember that each event is unique, and the specific steps and considerations may vary based on the circumstances of the event, the location, and the preferences of the celebrity and their management team. Open communication, careful planning, and attention to detail are key to hosting a successful major celebrity touring event. Local governments need to be prepared for the level of demand and sudden wave of visitors—Toronto, for instance, has had a hospitality labor shortage. Prioritizing filling those roles by offering competitive wages or benefits, or hiring full time work, would prevent chaos of understaffing around the event itself.

Having a strategic tourism plan is a good idea, especially in the era of mega-celebrity concerts we find ourselves in. The arrival of mega-celebrities like Taylor Swift in a city for a concert is more than just an entertainment spectacle; it’s a catalyst for economic transformation. From the boost to local businesses and tourism to job creation and infrastructure development, the economic impacts resonate long after the final encore.

As cities around the world continue to roll out the red carpet for these events, it’s evident that the art and entertainment industry’s power extends far beyond the melodies that fill the air – it reverberates through the heart of local economies, leaving a palpable mark.

Mary King

Mary King is a professional writer and researcher based in Toronto. She comes to Envisio with a Masters Degree, where she researched the relationship between the disappearance of urban public spaces, and high level decision-making processes in local governments.

For nearly a decade, Mary has worked as a community organizer, promoter, and supportive researcher in a variety of nonprofits and think-tanks, and her favorite area of focus was in connecting local artists with marginalized youth. Since 2017, her writings and research on policy, local governance, and its relationship to public art and public space has been presented at conferences internationally. She has also served as both a conference chair and lead facilitator on professional and academic conferences across Canada on how to better bridge academic research with local change-agents, policy makers, artists, and community members.

Envisio’s mission of excellence and trust in the public sector maps onto Mary's interest in local government and community mobilization. She loves working at Envisio because she cares about having well organized, strategic, and transparent public organizations and local governments. Mary is also a creative writer and musician and has been supported in her practice by the Canada Council for the Arts. Her stories can be found in literary journals across Canada.

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