No place for a mouse on a plane, in a hotel while Swift fever is running high

Henry

So-called “Swift fever” has hit Southeast Asia and because the world’s biggest pop star, Taylor Swift, will only perform in Singapore – which will make an enormous contribution to that country’s tourism industry – it has made some of its neighboring countries see red.

More than 300,000 fans from the city-state – and its neighboring countries – will attend the American superstar’s six sold-out Eras Tour shows at the National Stadium from March 2 to 9.

Ingrid Delgado, a fan from Manila who will be traveling to Singapore for the show, says she bought a “new sparkly dress” for the event, but is struggling to find room in an affordable hotel.

“Many of the hotels were already fully booked, so I had to book at a more expensive hotel,” she said.

Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, as well as the Fairmont Hotel, told AFP that demand for rooms during the concert period had increased drastically.

Those with deep pockets bought Marina Bay Sands’ luxury packages; it was named after Swift’s hit songs like “Shake it Off” and “Stay Stay Stay“.

The hotel’s “Wildest Dreams” package of SG$50 000 (about R720 000) includes VIP tickets, tasty meals, a hotel room, limousine rides and tickets to tourist attractions.

The hotel told AFP that all these packages were sold out.

Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines also say there was a greater demand for Singapore flights, but the shipping companies could not immediately or exclusively attribute this to “Swift fever”.

A large number of Malaysian Swifties, as her fans are known, will visit neighboring Singapore for the concerts.

“It is a dream come true. I feel excited and nervous,” says Harith Arsat, a 20-year-old student who is undertaking his first overseas trip from Kuala Lumpur.

In the Philippines, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific changed its regular flight number for Singapore flights for the period March 1 to 9 to “1989”; it is the year in which Swift was born and the title of her fifth album.

Red carpet

Not everyone was happy when Swift’s only stop in Southeast Asia was announced, including fans and governments in some of Singapore’s neighboring countries. Traveling to Singapore is unaffordable for many people in the region due to the exchange rate, not to mention outrageously expensive hotel packages.

Some were also unhappy because Singapore provided a grant to secure Swift’s record-breaking tour for the city-state.

Officials from the Department of Culture and Singapore’s tourism board, citing business confidentiality, declined last week to say how much was paid, or whether an exclusivity agreement had been signed to make Singapore Swift’s only stop in the region.

This followed reports that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told a business forum in Bangkok that Singapore had indeed entered into such an agreement.

Singaporean officials did not directly address Srettha’s comments, but said Swift’s shows are “likely to bring significant benefits to the Singapore economy”.

Since the lifting of containment measures following the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore has rolled out the red carpet for many international artists, including Blackpink, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran.

Coldplay has six sold-out shows in January and upcoming acts include Bruno Mars, Sum 41 and Jerry Seinfeld.

“Singapore has started to open its borders faster than other countries after the pandemic and the jump-start advantage and concerted efforts to host events have helped,” Song Seng Wun, economic adviser for CGS International, told AFP.

“That momentum is building.”

Don’t get caught cheating

Millions of fans scrambled to get their hands on it last year when ticket sales opened. This has led to an increase in online scams aimed at desperate Swifties.

The police in Singapore even shared a video on social media with the warning “don’t lose money quickly; buy your tickets safely”.

Regardless of the dangers, Ericko Dimas Pamungkas (25) logged in with three devices in Jakarta to get a ticket row number.

“I was very happy. This concert is one of my most important moments,” he said.

Swift has evolved from a singer with exceptional lyrics into a smart businesswoman and the world’s biggest pop star, and fans believe there is a lot to learn from the 34-year-old.

“I appreciate Taylor’s openness and what she stands for such as rights, generosity and compassion,” said Spencer Ler, a Singaporean pilot who stood in line for 22 hours to buy tickets for his daughter and her friends.

“It’s something the girls can learn from.”