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Taylor Swift's Revenue-Boosting Eras Tour: Hotels, Retailers Are Ready For It

Two things happened in April 2020: U.S. hotel occupancy plunged to its lowest level on record, and Taylor Swift's Lover Fest tour didn't begin as scheduled. Those in the tourism industry remember it all too well. 

Three years on, however, Swift and the hotel industry are back in business. The pop megastar's Eras Tour began March 17, spurring a “mini boom” in each city economy it has rolled through, Axios reported. In Houston, Taylor Swift’s concerts in April led to a bigger surge in hotel occupancy than the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, which rolled through town three weeks earlier.

Taylor Swift at an Eras Tour gig in Arlington, Texas, in April.

The enormous attendance at Swift’s concerts show not only love for the most-streamed female artist in Spotify's history but also pent-up demand for large public social events more than three years since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The percentage of American adults who are comfortable going to concerts, movies, sporting events and out to eat has risen fairly steadily since July 2020, according to a survey by Morning Consult released this week. Seventy-seven percent of Americans say they feel comfortable eating at a restaurant, 67% say the same about going to the movies, and 60% feel comfortable attending concerts. 

The Swiftie effect comes as hotels mount a comeback. Overall U.S. hotel occupancy in March 2023 was down just 4% from 2019 levels, and several of the largest hotel owners and brands have reported higher-than-expected Q1 earnings and increased projections for the remainder of the year.

Taylor Swift was the first artist to play three nights at Houston’s 72,220-capacity NRG Stadium from April 21 to April 23. Each show was sold out. Harris County temporarily renamed the venue NRG Stadium (Taylor’s Version) to mark the occasion. 

For those nights, Houston’s hotel occupancy was nearly 78% and the average daily rate was $127, a 34% and 54% jump over 2019, respectively, Axios reported, citing Houston First data.

In the med center area near NRG Stadium, the numbers were even higher. Hotels there had a 91% occupancy rate and cost an average of $215 per night during the tour, which is 75% and 85% higher than that weekend’s rates in 2019, respectively. Houston also hosted a First Championship robotics event at George R. Brown Convention Center with an attendance of about 50,000 people that weekend. 

In contrast, Final Four week, which was also the Houston Astros' opening weekend, saw an occupancy rate of 66%, and the weekend nightly average price was $160, Axios reported.

Glendale, Arizona, was the first stop on Swift’s 52-night tour, which plays weekend shows in 20 cities, concluding with five nights in Los Angeles in August. Glendale temporarily renamed itself Swift City to mark the occasion. Numerous hotels near State Farm Stadium sold out completely, leaving some hotels to charge as much as $1,293 per night for remaining rooms, AZ Central reported.

Axios spoke to Emily Althoff, a graduate student in Minneapolis, who traveled to Nashville with her mom for the concert.

"I met folks from the Yukon, [Canada], Portland, New York City and Miami," she told Axios.

Swift’s shows last weekend in Philadelphia led The Courtyard by Marriott in South Philly to be fully booked, which Axios reported isn't typical when musical acts play at the 65,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field. Swift and Bruce Springsteen are the only artists to play three consecutive sold-out nights at the stadium.

Swifties are also spending big at restaurants and retailers, Axios reported, noting fans are shelling out for lavish costuming, hair and makeup to create the right look for shows.

Bloomberg's Augusta Saraiva called it "Swiftonomics."

"Swifties represent an extreme version of the turbocharged consumers willing to splurge on everything they missed during the pandemic," Saraiva wrote.