Kaitlin Dryburgh

Tonight marks the first of three concerts where Taylor Swift will be gracing the city of Edinburgh with her presence. In the run up to her UK appearance we’ve been repeatedly reminded of the benefits she brings, just like so many other big events. The problem with this is more often than not it’s never as good as it seems.

Like her or not, her current world tour has made many a headline. Every ‘Swiftie’ has tried desperately to get their hands on one of her prized tickets. The tour crashed Ticketmaster leaving a sour taste in some people’s mouths. And has attracted a lot of attention for the price of tickets, spoiler it’s not because they’re cheap. Some re-sell prices for Sunday’s Murrayfield concert are going for a mouth gaping £2,000 each.  All clues point towards capitalism gone mad, but others believe this is just the price of a major concert now. And although this tour is a pretty major concert, I think we’re safe to assume it’s the former.

There’s been some big talk about how this concert will boost our economy. Dubbed ‘Swiftonomics’ it’s followed her wherever she starts strumming her guitar. How much will the local economy benefit from her tour? Well analysts from Barclays believe the UK’s economy might just welcome a £1 billion boost. while others think Edinburgh may look to bring in anything from £46 to £79 million from tourist spending. Big numbers indeed. They estimate for an average three-night trip including, tickets, travel, food, accommodation, merchandise, and day-out activities’, costs will add up to around £800. Some are crediting the Swift tour for generating much needed economic ripples, but how much of that is truly going to make a difference, and how much of that money is going to local businesses?

In response to Barclays claims other economic analysts believe any impacts will in actuality be much smaller, casting a sceptical cloud over Swift’s economic pulling power. For a concert like this it’s an event not just a night out. People are parting with some serious money, but there’s a squeeze somewhere else. The net boost is actually slighter because less money being spent at another point through-out the year, be that less days out, meals out, or a birthday present. Furthermore, most of the revenue from this billion-dollar tour will be staying in the pockets of Taylor herself, and the likes of Ticketmaster. On a grander scale this will not turn our economy around like some have claimed, the effects will be much smaller. The over emphasis put on events like this out weight the true benefits garnered.

But who will reap the rewards from all of that spending? News headlines keep saying ‘local economy’ but this could very much still include the likes of Hilton and Starbucks. How much of this money is genuinely filtering through to Edinburgh or Scottish businesses. A person could arrive in Edinburgh stay at a hotel conglomerate, head to the likes of Costa Coffee and Nandos for food and drink then take an Uber to the concert. How much can we truly say went to the local economy and benefited the local economy. Of course these places will employ local people, but if hotel prices rise and TGI Fridays is out the door that doesn’t provide them with further benefits. Yet, to counter that there will undoubtedly be local economy benefits, local restaurants, B&Bs, and transport will be better off for it, but we should maybe limit our enthusiasm.

This follows a trend of rolling out the red carpet for large events and claiming it does the area the world of good. The top example being the likes of the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. The constant drone about the legacy of the Games and the good it’ll do for the host in decades to come, but it’s never as good as what they first promise. I enjoy watching these sporting events so much, but even I can see that they come into a city like a locust, thieve it of all its funds and leave expecting thanks for the regeneration (which is usually code for gentrification). The 2012 London Olympics were sold to the city as a vehicle for “social inclusion”, a solution to the dilapidation of the surrounding areas where the Olympic Park would be built. Residents were told that 30,000 to 40,000 new homes would be subsequently  produced and the majority of those would be affordable homes. Sounds great! But the reality was 13,000 homes and only 11% were affordable housing. Which is better than nothing, until you remember to get those 13,000 homes stadiums and venues had to be built. So the value for money is really poor. To add further insult the Qatari Royal family-built athletes’ village has reverted to luxury high-rise apartments.

Scotland hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and this too resulted in let-downs. Pre-games an absurd claim by authorities stated 10,000 new housing units were to be built, 21,000 new jobs were to be created, and the athlete’s village would yield 1,400 homes for the future. The 1,400 homes was closer to 700, while officials admitted they made up the 10,000 figure. Meanwhile we paid millions to private property developers for the construction work and submitted measly offers for compulsory purchase orders to residents. The rejuvenation and lasting legacy that was promised hasn’t materialled to the scale that was initially promised.

It’s been seen the world over, yet we fall for it every time. The people of Rio de Janeiro are still waiting for all of those benefits that were going to lift the country out of poverty. Currently in the grips of the storm is Paris as they’ll go on to host the Olympics this summer. They’ve already garnered criticism as thousands of homeless people have been cleared from Paris and the surrounding areas. Although authorities have tried to put a positive spin on this, they have not invested enough to provide sufficient housing. So it comes down to the classic out of sight and out of mind.

Meanwhile, as thousands descend into Edinburgh for the Taylor Swift concert, those in temporary accommodation are having to be moved out. With accommodation full up for this weekend many homeless families and individuals have been sent as far away as Aberdeen to stay in a hotel. Taylor Swift isn’t responsible for our housing emergency. Yet it speaks volumes that we welcome her proposed local economy boost, gave the trams a Taylor Swift makeover, closed streets, but paid little thought for those without a home. For some children they might be relocated many miles away from their school, with their parents unable to travel to work.

It’s not to say that we shouldn’t have these events, more that we shouldn’t buckle at the knee to host them or give them more credit than is due.

2 thoughts on “Swiftonomics”

  1. Bruce Blackadder

    Substitute tourism for Taylor Swift. The gains are offset by the loss of amenity for ordinary citizens.

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