Concerts Help Drive Demand for Travel in 2023

Fans are willing to travel to see top artists like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, creating big opportunities for hotels.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Dawnielle Robinson-Walker

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Jim Wang scored tickets for Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour in Pittsburgh, which he paid $800 for. And since Swift’s concert at Acrisure Stadium was about a four-hour drive from his home in Fulton, Maryland, he'd need overnight accommodations, too.

Wang is just one of a growing group of people willing to travel to see a concert. TodayTix Group, an online ticketing platform for theatrical and cultural events, conducted an online survey in February 2023 of more than 4,000 Americans who had attended at least one live event over the past 12 months. 38% of respondents were willing to travel within their state, as Wang did. And 17% were willing to travel out of state.

When shows like The Eras Tour come to town, along with them comes a sudden — yet temporary — influx of travelers, and hotel rooms often sell out because of it. In Wang’s case, all the hotels in Pittsburgh were sold out, and he was lucky to find an Airbnb about a mile and a half away.

The story of concerts selling out hotel rooms is not unique. On the nights Swift performed in Cincinnati this summer, Red Roof occupancy was 86% across the hotel chain’s eight nearest properties, according to data provided to NerdWallet by Red Roof. Four of the hotel properties sold out entirely that weekend, which Red Roof said is incredibly rare, adding that occupancy rates during the Friday and Saturday she performed were 28% higher than those nights in 2022.

Meanwhile, downtown Nashville hotels were sold out during the three nights of Swift’s concert in May, according to data.

And it’s not just Swift. The Red Roof outpost in Arlington, Texas, saw 30% higher occupancy rates when Metallica performed in August 2023 versus the same weeknights in 2022. The company also said that music-related events such as Elvis Week, which was held in Memphis, Tennessee, in August, have been driving higher demand.

Many concertgoers are willing to travel so far that a plane flight is necessary. Expedia said it reported a 100% increase in searches for flights to Tampa during the week of Beyonce's concert in August 2023 versus the week prior, and a 550% week-over-week increase in flights to San Francisco for her concert later that month.

As concert demand rises, so do prices

More people are going to ticketed events like live concerts this year than at any point since the pandemic began. Travel insurance provider Allianz Partners USA surveyed 2,010 American adults in May 2023 and found that 63% of Americans plan to attend at least one ticketed event this year. That figure is up 3% from last year and 8% from 2021.

That surge in demand is happening in tandem with a surge in ticket prices. Average prices for admission to movies, theaters and concerts in the U.S. increased 5.2% in August 2023 versus the same month in 2022. That’s according to a NerdWallet analysis of the latest set of consumer price index data released in September 2023 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 5.2% rise in ticket prices outpaces the overall U.S. inflation rate, which is 3.7% over the same period.

That demand has also met a rise in hotel room prices. For example, data provided to NerdWallet from Expedia shows that the average daily rate for hotel rooms in Minneapolis hit a record high of $440 per night, which coincided with Swift’s June 2023 concert.

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Travel loyalty programs seek to entice concertgoers

Major travel brands are capitalizing on the concert craze, offering concert-related incentives to their customers that either thank them for their loyalty or encourage them to spend even more money (or perhaps both).

Chase Sapphire has had a robust presence at major music festivals this year including San Francisco’s Outside Lands and Maryland’s Oceans Calling Festival. There, Chase Sapphire has offered perks such as access to an exclusive lounge (featuring complimentary food and drinks) for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardmembers. It also uses concerts as opportunities to encourage customers to spend their points — offering one-of-a-kind point redemptions such as a private cruise around Lake Michigan with DJ Diesel during the Lollapalooza musical festival in Chicago.

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American Express has offered similar experiences to its most loyal customers who hold certain credit cards, such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express, enabling it to entice people who seek tough-to-get tickets by offering access to presale tickets.

AmEx also has relationships with major event venues to offer cardholder-exclusive perks. For example, at New York’s Barclays Center, cardholders have access to a dedicated entrance (with presumably shorter lines), concession discounts and complimentary drinks in a cardholder-only area.

Some fans even travel internationally — which can be cheaper

The TodayTix survey found that 4% of Americans are even willing to book an international trip specifically for a performance.

Terika Haynes, who runs a travel agency called Dynamite Travel, has booked trips for three separate clients to see Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour. Her clients are all based in the U.S., but they saw Beyonce perform in Europe (specifically London, Paris and Brussels, depending on the client) because show tickets were cheaper. She says that the price of their airfare was essentially the price difference between tickets in the U.S. and in Europe.

“They were essentially able to get a two-for-one concert and a vacation for less than what they would have paid in the U.S.,” she says.

As for Wang, he too is joining the cohort of people who are traveling internationally primarily for the purpose of seeing a musical performance. In August 2024, he’ll head to London. And once again, it’ll be for Taylor Swift.

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