Tourism and events a Love Story for the ages?

The 'Eras economy' is heading to Australia and the travel industry needs to be ready to make the most of it. With the current FIFA Women's World Cup, Coldplay's exclusive Western Australia concerts later this year, and Taylor Swift heading Down Under in 2024, events are booming and it means good things for travel, writes MYLES STEDMAN.

TAYLOR Swift is not just a singer-songwriter, she’s one of the most prominent cultural figures of the 21st century. This much may be perfectly clear, given every man and his dog has been scratching at the back door for a ticket to one of her Australian concerts next year; but perhaps best placed to confirm this is Accor Chief Executive Officer Sarah Derry.

“I have not seen demand like what we’re seeing for Taylor Swift at that level before,” she told travelBulletin.

In Derry’s six years with the company, which includes 18 months as CEO, she has welcomed artists such as Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers onto the stage at Accor Stadium, but has never witnessed this level of demand for a single event.

Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation Stadium Tour’ in 2018 saw Accor Stadium filled with 80,000 fans over one night, while the upcoming ‘The Era’s Tour’ will see over 320,000 fans watch the concert over a record-breaking four nights (Source: Accor Stadium).

Accor also owns many of the hotels around Sydney’s largest stadium, in addition to its naming rights, meaning many Swifties flying in from around Australia and the world will be staying in Style at a Novotel or an ibis. Derry said when it was announced Swift’s The Eras Tour will be coming to Sydney, Accor’s accommodation overload (early booking demand) for the concert dates was up almost 200% over the prior year.

“Melbourne, we’re holding 50% more bookings now than we had for the same time last year over those dates,” she added. “Immediately as something like that gets announced, people book accommodation in the hope that they’re going to get tickets.”

Sydney and Melbourne represent two of just three cities Swift is visiting in Asia-Pacific for her tour, meaning her Australian dates are attracting interest not just from around the country, but internationally. Guests are expected to arrive from New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The reason this is so important, Derry explained, is in addition to the concert dates, bookings also spike in the days leading up to and succeeding the concert, from those enjoying an extended stay in the destination.

“They may then add on another location,” Derry added, “enjoying the benefits of a vacation as well as the concert.”

It is this phenomenon which makes major events, such as Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’, so valuable to destinations around the world.

For Accor, which owns much of the accommodation within walking distance of the stadium – which has the company’s logo emblazoned on its façade – this is the kind of black swan opportunity which rarely comes up.

While Perth may have missed out on a visit from Swift, Tourism Western Australia (TWA) revealed its ace in the hole earlier this year when it announced it had secured an exclusive two-night-only visit from British rock band Coldplay on its ‘Music of the Spheres World Tour’.

Although the details of how the exclusive concerts were secured are a closely held secret, TWA Managing Director Carolyn Turnbull was happy to spruik their benefits, which includes tens of thousands of interstate and overseas visitors.

“Major events held in WA, like these two Coldplay concerts, deliver significant economic, media and social benefits to the state by injecting millions in visitor spend into our economy,” she told travelBulletin.

“Attracting more major events to WA is also a key part of the WA Government’s strategy to turbocharge visitation to our state and grow our tourism sector, by providing visitors with a time-sensitive reason to travel to WA.”

Presales for the show at Optus Stadium registered the biggest demand of all time on Ticketmaster in Australia, with more than 300,000 customers in the virtual queue when the first concert was announced. Coldplay scheduled a second performance in response to this demand, and the following day, the band broke the record again, with more than 365,000 people in the queue.

Coldplay’s Music of the Sphere’s World Tour is set to bring in $68 million to WA’s economy.

The double performance is set to bring $68 million into Western Australia’s economy, as interstate and international visitors descend on Perth for the music and disperse across the state thereafter.

“Tourism WA works with event holders and a range of travel partners domestically and internationally to support bringing visitors to WA for events such as Coldplay,” Turnbull noted. “Working in conjunction with ticketing platform Ticketmaster, these performances were promoted nationally and in key WA international markets alongside travel packages – all now sold out – designed to encourage visitors to stay longer and explore WA while they are here.”

The Government of Western Australia has allocated $173 million to TWA this fiscal year, offering the destination management organisation its biggest tourism budget ever. This includes around $85 million for events, which in 2023 has produced a UFC event, Women’s World Cup games, a preseason EPL game, and Western Australia’s new Dark Sky Festival.

Attracting major events is a key priority for Western Australia, and the state is putting its money where its mouth is, creating a valuable opportunity for potential partners.

It is because these events are so valuable to the tourism economy Accor and TWA engage the entire travel value chain to maximise each visitor’s spend and time in destination.

“It’s all about working with partners,” Derry insisted, “we work very closely with the state tourism organisations, knowing the capacity that’s going to come in for events, that we can match that with the offering in terms of rooms.”

While all destinations have peaks and troughs throughout the year, major events often operate independently of this calendar, which means a constant stream of visitors. This is why it is so important for companies such as Accor to maintain each customer in its value chain for the full purchase cycle – eating and drinking at their restaurants and bars, flying with their airline partner, and transferring to and from with their ground partner.

“It’s making sure we are fully available to the guests, and it’s about putting packages together and working with partners,” Derry explained.

Perhaps most importantly, the ability to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as this year’s Women’s World Cup, or 2024’s Taylor Swift or Pink concerts, is becoming increasingly insulated against cost-of-living increases.

Put simply, Australians are happy to forego a few months’ worth of dining out or streaming subscriptions if it means seeing their favourite athlete or artist on a rare trip Down Under.

“Whilst there is certainly pressure on people in terms of cost of living and the economic impact of that, people still want to have experiences, and they want to take their loved ones, their friends, and make sure that they create memories together,” Derry said.

“Australians in particular have really come to understand the value of Australian hospitality and so they’re willing to pay a little bit more to kind of get the best experience they can…I think that’s going to continue to be important going forward.”



FEATURED IMAGE: Taylor Swift at Accor Stadium in 2018 for her Reputation Tour (Source: Accor Stadium)

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