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Taylor Swift fans say you can't put a price on the memories as The Eras Tour hits the UK, injecting a potential $1.2 billion into the economy

Eve Crosbie   

Taylor Swift fans say you can't put a price on the memories as The Eras Tour hits the UK, injecting a potential $1.2 billion into the economy
  • Taylor Swift kicked off the UK leg of The Eras Tour with three sold-out shows in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Planeloads of fans followed Swift to the UK and other European destinations to catch a concert.

It's 7 a.m. and 48 degrees Fahrenheit in Edinburgh, but Callie, Corrie, and KJ say they're not feeling the cold.

Instead, the three friends who had flown from Gibraltar in southern Europe are running high off the knowledge that in just 12 hours, they will be so close to Taylor Swift that they'll be able to "see her pores," as KJ puts it.

Thanks to their early start — they got to the stadium when the sun was rising at 4 a.m. — they were among the first in the line to see Swift kick off The Eras Tour in the UK. When the doors opened, they hoped to secure a coveted spot along the guardrail surrounding the stage.

They faced what would be a marathon of a day with optimism.

"We've got blankets, and we'll order Uber Eats when we get hungry," Corrie said.

For the trio, seeing Swift was a long time coming. After the multi-Grammy-winning superstar announced the European leg of The Eras Tour in mid-2023, they started saving, knowing that they had to "travel for Taylor."

That was true for many of the fans Business Insider spoke to outside Murrayfield Stadium.

Over 1.2 million people are expected to see Swift perform at the 15 shows she has scheduled in the UK this summer, which began on Friday with a sold-out show in Scotland's capital.

When Swift took to the stage for her almost three-and-a-half-hour set, the joyous screams of the more than 73,000 fans were heard nearly three miles away at Edinburgh Castle.

"The volume of the singing, the dancing, you guys are performing on another level. Like, I'm captivated," Swift said, marveling at her adoring fans.

With The Eras Tour set to light up Liverpool, Cardiff, and London in the coming weeks, Swift's presence is expected to boost the UK economy by £997 million ($1.26 billion), according to a report from Barclays.

The British bank estimates that attendees of UK shows spend an average of £848 ($1,077) per show, including accommodation, food, outfits, merch, and transportation. This is trailing behind the $1,300 that the average US concertgoer spent last year, per a study by QuestionPro.

Part of this stems from the superfans' devotion to Swift, but even casual fans are willing to splash the cash to experience the tour because it has become a cultural juggernaut.

Amira, 23, a student from Italy who admitted she's "not even that big of a Swiftie" spent over $1,000 to make it to the first night of the UK tour.

"My friends told me, 'You have to come, you'll regret it if you don't.' I was like, 'Okay!' and then forgot about it for a year. But now we're here, I'm glad they convinced me."

For Americans, coming to Europe has presented a novel solution to beat the sky-high ticket prices in the US — and the opportunity to make memories.

Leah, 36, and Simone, 33, from Minneapolis, bought their tickets for the second night from a resale website, and visiting Edinburgh ticked two things off their bucket list.

"I probably would've come to Scotland at one point, but it was the concert that got me here," Leah said.

The women reflect the trend of prioritizing experiences and memories over dropping big money on homes, cars, and other commodities. In short, many millennials and Gen Z want to do things, not buy things.

"We said to ourselves, 'Let's just go and have an adventure," Simone said. "Tickets are outrageously expensive in the US, and this entire trip for both of us was cheaper than our friends back home paid."

They estimated that the total cost for their weeklong trip, accommodation, and Eras Tour tickets was just over $2,500 each. This is what they would normally spend on a vacation, but this one just so happens to culminate in the show of a lifetime.

Tour tourism

Planeloads of US fans have followed Swift across the Atlantic. In Paris, where the singer kicked off the European leg of her tour in May with four back-to-back shows, 20% of tickets had been purchased by Americans, per The Associated Press.

It's what travel company Expedia dubbed 'tour tourism' in its report on 2024 travel trends. Blockbuster tours, such as Swift's and Beyoncé's, have led people to build their vacations around live music.

"Superfans like to showcase their fandom to their peers," Daniel Finch, managing director of Expedia Brands, said in the report.

"I have spent a lot. A lot," said Sammi, 18, a fan from England with a VIP ticket to Swift's final Edinburgh concert.

"And I've just brought some merch," she said with a self-deprecating eye roll. "But I just think it's such a special thing, and I didn't want to miss out, so I bought the tickets not really thinking about the extra costs of traveling and where I would need to stay."

For the high schooler who has been working part-time while studying, her earnings haven't caught up with her Swift-related spending, meaning she's currently overdrawn.

But she's at peace with the damage to her finances. "At the end of the day, money comes and goes, but my love for Taylor and my memories from tonight will be with me forever," she said.

The 'Swift lift'

"Swiftonomics" and "Swift lift" have been coined to define the global superstar's profound economic impact. It has already been felt in North America, South America, and Australia. It's no surprise that Singapore's exclusive deal, which meant the city-state was the "Anti-Hero" singer's only tour stop in Southeast Asia earlier this year, sparked concert envy from its neighbors.

Many of Edinburgh's hotels have sold out even though prices skyrocketed as soon as the tour dates were announced last July, with prices averaging £686 ($876) per night during Swift's residency, per local media.

Wilde Aparthotel, a hotel chain by StayCity that offers travelers compact, no-fuss studio apartments, was one of the few establishments still available on the nights of the concerts, albeit at an inflated price.

According to Ava, the hotel's front desk clerk, these rooms were freed up for people who had decided last minute to buy tickets or try 'Taylorgating' — gathering outside to experience the concert anyway.

As Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, told BI last month, retail stores, bars, and restaurants have also been looking forward to the "ripple effect" from the shows.

Mimi's Bakehouse, which has five locations across Edinburgh, seized the opportunity to cater to Swift's fans.

At the family-run bakery's Leith branch, locals and tourists alike have been enjoying Eras-themed cakes and a new afternoon tea menu.

The menu includes "Mirrorball" cake pops and southern fried chicken sandwiches with "ketchup and seemingly ranch," a nod to a viral post about Swift's meal of choice at NFL games. A staffer with extensive knowledge of Swift and her fandom created the idea and deep-cut references, and it paid off.

"Truthfully, the whole hospitality sector has been struggling recently, but yesterday we made our daily target three times over," assistant manager Mariola told BI on Saturday morning, the day after Swift's Murrayfield Stadium debut.

Already filling up with fans again at 9 a.m., she was preparing for another busy day.

"We've got the whole team working this weekend, plus extra staff."

Meanwhile, Pie in the Sky, an independent store specializing in pop culture-inspired tchotchkes, jewelry, and clothing, also became the site of a Swiftie pilgrimage.

In the week before Swift's arrival in Edinburgh, fans were queuing on the cobblestone street outside to buy necklaces emblazoned with the names of Swift's songs, as well as stickers, patches, and prints.

Erin, the store's director, appeared a little bemused by the store's sudden popularity but welcomed the surge in sales.

"This is shaping up to be our busiest weekend ever. We've not really promoted ourselves at all. It's all other people sharing videos and photos," she said.

As the sun set in Edinburgh that night, Swift closed her show with a firework display, and fans headed for the tram service back into the city center as the last of the confetti floated down onto their shivering shoulders — but the energy remained sky-high as they broke into renditions of their favorite songs.

As KJ had said at the start of the day, seeing The Eras Tour isn't "just about the show and the music. It's the memories, it's the friendship bracelets, it's the community, it's the whole package experience."

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