The Taylor Swift Effect: How Exclusive Singapore Shows Inspired Southeast Asian Fans

Fans in Southeast Asia were excited last year when it was announced that Singapore would be the only regional stop for Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” Tour. As concertgoers flock to Singapore for the pop star’s six sold-out shows starting this weekend, it seems like “Bad Blood” is also brewing among neighboring government officials. There are allegations that Singaporean authorities specifically brokered a deal for TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year to stay in the city-state.

On Wednesday, Filipino lawmaker Joey Salceda reached out to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs to pressure their Singaporean counterparts for an explanation on the delicate situation, as reported by local media.

“It’s not very neighborly if this turns out to be true,” Salceda commented. He mentioned that while the grant boosted Singapore’s economy significantly, it came at the expense of neighboring countries who were unable to attract their own foreign concertgoers, forcing their fans to travel to Singapore.

“It goes against the principle of consensus-based relations and solidarity on which ASEAN was founded,” he added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a body that helps coordinate cooperation in the region.

The exclusive perks of a deal between Singapore and Taylor Swift were brought up by Thai Prime Minister Srettah Thavissin. He mentioned at a Bangkok business forum on Feb. 16 that he had been informed by Swift’s concert promoter, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), that the Singapore government had offered up to $3 million to Swift’s team for each show she would put on in Singapore. In return, Swift promised not to perform anywhere else in Southeast Asia during her Asia Tour.

AEG did not respond immediately to TIME’s request for comment, while Singapore’s tourism and youth authorities confirmed to TIME in a joint statement that the tourism board had provided support for the event through a grant without specifying the amount or details of any restrictive clause.

“If I had known this, I would have brought the shows to Thailand,” Srethra said at the forum, describing the Singapore government as “clever” for allegedly brokering an exclusive deal with the organizers.

It’s no surprise why governments are eager to have Swift perform at their stadiums. The Grammy-winning singer is known to boost local economies wherever she goes. With over 300,000 tickets sold for Swift’s Singapore shows, the buzz surrounding the concert is giving the city-state a phenomenal economic boost. Tourists flocking in to catch Swift’s performance have driven up local hotel and flight prices by up to 30%, and experts estimate that Swift’s concerts could generate up to $500 million in tourism revenue—along with the cascading economic impact of the city solidifying its reputation as a massive events hub. The youth ministry, in its statement to TIME, said, “recognized that there will be significant demand from Singaporeans as well as fans across the region for her to perform in Singapore, and worked directly with AEG Presents for Taylor Swift to perform in Singapore.”

Traveling with me is an exciting experience. While some may criticize Singapore’s strategies, others view it as an opportunity to replicate its success. Indonesia’s tourism minister emphasized the need for “Swiftonomics” to boost Indonesian tourism. They are implementing new policies to attract more tourists to the country, including a seed fund of up to 2 trillion rupiah (about $127 million) per year to support music, sports, and cultural events.

And just last week, when asked if Hong Kong would consider “similar arrangements” when trying to attract pop concerts to revive the city’s post-pandemic economy – in reference to Swift’s alleged deal in Singapore – the Chinese enclave’s leader John Lee said: “Amid Hong Kong’s fierce competition with other cities that have been striving to improve themselves, we have to be relentless in our efforts to lure mega events including matches, sports events, and cultural events.”

Hong Kong authorities recently dedicated nearly $2 million in grants to welcome TIME’s 2023 Athlete of the Year Lionel Messi and his team Inter Miami to the city for a friendly match – though that ended in a PR disaster.

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