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Taylor Swift tour sparks crisis between Singapore and Southeast Asian neighbors

Singapore is attracting fans from across Southeast Asia and beyond for singer Taylor Swift's “The Eras Tour” – creating a huge upset in the city-state's regional neighbors.

The anger is not directed at the superstar, but at the Singapore government for reaching an agreement with the tour organizer to guarantee the singer's exclusive passage through the region.

Swift has brought a windfall to Singapore – as she tends to do wherever she goes – as fans buy flights, accommodation and souvenirs.

But countries in the region expressed their discontent. Philippine lawmaker Joey Salceda said exclusive agreements are not “what good neighbors do.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong responded to the criticism on Tuesday (5), saying Singapore was not being “hostile” towards its neighbors by making a deal with the superstar.

“[Nossas] agencies negotiated a deal with her to come to Singapore and perform and make Singapore her only stop in Southeast Asia,” Lee told a press conference in Melbourne during a state visit to Australia.

“Certain incentives were assured to her and an agreement was reached. It turned out to be a very successful deal. I don’t see it as hostile,” she added.

“If we hadn’t made such a deal, would it have come to more places in Southeast Asia? Perhaps. Maybe not?”, she added.

Singapore authorities had previously acknowledged the offer of an incentive to Swift. The country's culture minister, Edward Tong, downplayed the size of the offer and on Monday said it was “neither accurate nor as high as speculated.”

Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said during a business forum in Bangkok on February 16 that Singapore paid Taylor Swift up to US$3 million per show, under the condition of exclusivity to perform in the country.

Swift's team did not comment on the controversy and did not respond to Swift's request for a response. CNN .

Both Thailand and the Philippines have seen major international music acts come through the country recently and impress fans, including Coldplay.

Southeast Asian fans struggle to see Taylor

“The Eras Tour” is a multi-continental extravaganza that has become the highest-grossing tour of all time – and Swift is guaranteeing big money for Singapore.

Swift will play six sold-out nights to 300,000 fans in Singapore, where 70% of concertgoers come from abroad and spend up to $370 million in the city-state, according to estimates from a Maybank economist.

Between March 1 and 9, when Swift is in town, flights to Singapore increased by 186% and accommodation bookings nearly quintupled, according to Edmund Ong, general manager of travel platform Trip.com.

These large-scale global music events are a boon for Singapore's travel-related services, which can account for up to 10% of its GDP, wrote Yun Liu, ASEAN economist at HSBC, in a recent analysis.

Filipino fans Errol De Asis, Gilliane Granada, Christel Kaye Kuan and Yedda Mendoza went to Singapore for Taylor Swift's tour.

Fans from the Philippines, Thailand, China and other countries in the region spent thousands on concert and plane tickets to watch Swift perform, plus everything else needed to complete the experience with sequin dresses and themed costumes.

For many Filipino fans, traveling to Singapore can be a huge expense. GDP per capita in the Philippines is about $3,500 per year, according to the World Bank.

In comparison, Singapore is one of the richest places in the world, where the average person earns more than 23 times as much, with a GDP per capita of US$83,000.

Filipino fan Charlyn Suizo is among those on a pilgrimage to watch Swift, splurging all for a once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza.

“This is the most I’ve spent on a show. I have never spent large six-figure (Philippine peso) amounts for anyone else, only for Taylor Swift,” Suizo said.

Singapore's currency is one of the strongest in Asia, making everything relatively expensive for travelers from the region's emerging markets.

Gilliane Granada, 24, who traveled from the Philippines with three other friends, said that although it would be more expensive for them to go to Singapore for the show, it made sense to hold it in the city-state.

“I don’t think we would have a venue big enough to accommodate her, her stage, her production and everything. So I think that's probably one of the reasons why they decided to have it here in Singapore, because it's a big stadium,” Granada said.

Her friend, Christel Kaye Kuan, 25, said they all spent about $2,000 on tickets, flights and accommodation for the trip, and added that at least they managed to turn it into their first international trip as friends.

This is about six times the national average monthly salary in the Philippines, based on the most recent government census data.

But it’s all worth it “because we’ll see Taylor.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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