Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift's Eras Tour helped fuel a record year for concert ticket sales in 2023. Michael Tran/AFP

As Taylor Swift's viral "Eras" tour prepares to descend on Edinburgh, the Scottish capital finds itself grappling with an unexpected and troubling consequence: the displacement of its homeless population. With more than 67,000 fans expected each night at Murrayfield Stadium from June 7 to June 9, the city is under immense pressure to accommodate the influx of Swifties. This pressure has led to a controversial prioritisation of tourists over vulnerable residents.

Swift's "Eras" tour, celebrated for being the first-ever concert tour to gross over $1 billion, is not just a musical phenomenon but also an economic one. According to Edinburgh Live, over 210,000 fans will attend the Edinburgh concerts, potentially boosting the local economy by over $125 million; hence, the significant increase in demand for hotel accommodations, which has left the city scrambling to find suitable temporary housing for its homeless residents.

Displacement of the Homeless

Shelter Scotland, a charity dedicated to supporting the homeless, has reported that some individuals it supports have already been moved to other cities, including Aberdeen and Glasgow, due to the lack of available housing in Edinburgh. In a particularly stark example, one individual was nearly relocated to temporary accommodations in Newcastle, England, more than 120 miles away.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, expressed her frustration, stating that the homeless should not be in "direct competition" with tourists. She described the situation as a "blatant injustice," emphasising that hosting a major event should not have significant adverse effects on those already struggling with homelessness.

The City of Edinburgh Council's Response

The City of Edinburgh Council has pushed back against criticisms, arguing that the displacement of the homeless is a symptom of the broader housing crisis. Jane Meagher, the housing convener for the council, highlighted the emergency nature of Edinburgh's housing situation, which sometimes necessitates using tourist accommodations for homeless households.

She acknowledged that these measures are not ideal and are used as a last resort, especially during busy periods like the summer months. Meagher assured that the council is actively working to find suitable and alternative housing for those impacted by the tour.

The displacement of Edinburgh's homeless population is not an isolated incident but rather part of a larger housing emergency. Between 2022 and 2023, local authorities in Scotland received 39,006 homeless applications.

Of these, 32,240 households were identified as being either "homeless" or "threatened with homelessness." This data underscores the chronic nature of the housing problem in Scotland and the additional strain put on the system by large-scale events like Swift's concerts.

Economic Impacts of the 'Eras' Tour

While the tour has had detrimental effects on Scotland's housing crisis, it has also generated significant economic benefits globally. Swift's "Eras" tour has reportedly grossed $1 billion, a record for any concert tour.

The U.S. economy alone may have benefited by $4.6 billion from the shows.Swift has also distributed $55 million in bonuses to tour staff, including truck drivers. In Seattle, the enthusiasm of fans even caused seismic activity equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake.

Financial analysts have coined the term "TSwift Lift" to describe the economic boost experienced by cities hosting the "Eras" tour. Air New Zealand scheduled an extra 14 flights to accommodate fans traveling to Australia for Swift's concerts. Last October, Swift's concert film, "Taylor Swift: The Eras World Tour," premiered in Los Angeles, resulting in the closure of a 600,000-square-foot shopping centre and surrounding roads.

The film launched in over 7,500 theatres worldwide, surpassing $150 million in revenue within the first week and outselling other major releases like "Barbie" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home" during their premiere weekends.

The arrival of Taylor Swift's "Eras" tour in Edinburgh has highlighted the city's acute housing crisis, bringing to light the difficult choices faced by local authorities. While the economic benefits of the tour are undeniable, the displacement of homeless individuals underscores a critical need for sustainable housing solutions.

As Edinburgh navigates this complex situation, it serves as a stark reminder of the broader challenges faced by cities balancing tourism and the needs of their most vulnerable residents.