Taylor Swift is about to boost L.A.’s economy. Striking hotel workers want her to stay away

Striking hotel workers holding signs
Striking hotel housekeepers called on Taylor Swift to support their fight for better wages and benefits at a rally Thursday at the Hyatt Regency LAX in Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Ticket prices aren’t the only eye-popping expense that comes with seeing Taylor Swift perform selections from her 10-album career on the final leg of her record-breaking Eras tour.

With her six Los Angeles shows drawing fans from all over the Southwest, hotels near SoFi Stadium and around the city are booking up, sending rates through the roof.

That’s a boon for L.A.’s tourism industry, which has been grappling with the effects of a rolling labor strike this summer since contracts expired June 30, affecting some 15,000 hotel workers. But Unite Here Local 11, the union representing workers at some 60 hotels in L.A. and Orange counties, wants to see Swift withhold her bounty until more of it can be shared with its members.


On Thursday morning, L.A. hotel workers gathered for a curious crossover between a rally and a love letter to Swift. Housekeepers, front desk workers, cooks and other hotel employees protested in front of the Hyatt Regency LAX, urging the pop star to postpone her upcoming concerts in solidarity with hospitality employees, who are fighting for higher wages while hotels stand to profit enormously from her visit.

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Protesting workers held printed signs referencing the tour and Swift’s music, urging, “Taylor, make this your solidarity era.”

Wherever Swift touches down, local economies thrive. Reports have shown that out-of-town concertgoers push up hotel room demand and the concerts cause public transit use to soar. Experts project that L.A.’s economy will see a similar boost from Swift’s weeklong stay.

“We love Swifties,” Peter Hillan, a spokesman for the California Hotel and Lodging Assn., said Thursday. The tour — and the demand it generates — is “good for everybody involved,” he said. “Concerts of this size provide for everybody up and down the ladder.”

Room rates in Los Angeles for the nights of Swift’s tour are up 16% year over year, to an average of $302 a night, according to data provided to The Times from the travel search platform Kayak. The site has seen a 38% increase in searches for hotel stays in the city from Aug. 2 to Aug. 10.

Hotels are also more full than usual. Occupancy rates in the L.A. metro area on the nights of Swift’s tour are up between 14% and 20% from the same dates last year, according to data from CoStar, a global provider of real estate data, analytics and news.


A spokesperson for CoStar said she expects these numbers to rise as the events get closer.

Alan Reay, president of Newport Beach-based Atlas Hospitality Group, expects Swift’s tour to give a boost to downtown L.A.’s sluggish hotel business, which has been hurting since the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s just going to be a huge boom,” he said.

Reay does not think higher nightly rates are a product of “junk fees,” but rather supply and demand.

“Recently down in San Diego, Comic-Con was there. You know, when that comes into town, there’s so much demand that hotels raise their rates substantially,” he said. “And that’s what’s happening here with Taylor Swift.”

Erika Gurnee, 44, is traveling from Las Vegas to see Swift perform Aug. 5 at SoFi. She booked a room at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott hotel last week and paid the $492 room rate with taxes. A weekend room at the hotel normally costs around $150, according to rates shown on the hotel’s website.

Thousands of workers at hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties walked off the job, the latest in a series of labor actions as California workers push for better pay and working conditions.

July 3, 2023

Swift’s Eras tour has boosted regional economies since it began in March. In its first three months alone, the tour generated $98.2 million in hotel room revenue, according to a June report from STR, a hospitality research firm. And the bulk of that additional revenue was generated from higher-than-normal average daily rates.

“While high occupancy levels were seen for most of the host markets, the bigger driver of top-line gains was higher average daily rate,” the report said.


During Swift’s two-night stop in Cincinnati on June 30 and July 1, room rates were more than double what they were for those same nights the previous year, according to the city’s tourism board.

The raised rates did not deter fans from seeking hotels downtown, resulting in a 98% occupancy rate during the nights of the tour and bringing in $2.6 million.

In Nashville, hotels in the downtown area were more than 96% full during Swift’s performances there in May. On May 6, room rates downtown were an average of $578 a night, up 74% from their usual rates, according to Bruce McGregor, an executive from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “In recent history, there really hasn’t been these high rates for a weekend or a single day,” McGregor said at a meeting of the county’s tourism commission in May.

The hotel workers’ strike, which has rumbled through scores of Los Angeles and Orange County hotels since early July, has seized upon Swift’s arrival to promote the cause.

For the record:

7:48 p.m. July 28, 2023An earlier version misspelled the first name of hotel employee Alaink Kemple as Alain.

At Thursday’s rally, Alaink Kemple adjusted a mic, looked directly into a camera set up in front of him and said, “Hi, Taylor.”

Kemple, a personal concierge at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, said he and other employees are overworked, plagued by severe understaffing since the onset of the pandemic.

The spirit of the Swift hit song “Look What You Made Me Do” speaks to the state of contract negotiations, Kemple said: His employer has failed to bargain in good faith. Pre-pandemic, the Waldorf Astoria — where workers walked off the job in the third and most recent wave of the strike — had 27 personal concierges. Now, Kemple is among six. In his role, he said, he handles check-ins at the front desk, delivers packages and mail to guests, directs internal calls, drafts accounting reports and shines guests’ shoes.


“I do the job of five people.… I’m only paid for one,” Kemple said. “We are tired of the abuse, the overwork and the disrespect.”

Through tears, Kemple addressed Swift once again. “I want to ask a very difficult but very important question to all the Swifties around the world and to Taylor herself. Please honor our struggle.”

A representative for Swift did not respond to a request for comment.

Hotel workers are asking for a $5 immediate hourly wage increase, and a $3 boost each subsequent year of the three-year contract, for a total raise of $11. The union also has made proposals related to healthcare, pensions, workload and a policy against hotels using E-Verify, a federal system used to check work eligibility, to protect immigrant workers.

Hotel operators have said Unite Here Local 11’s demands are unreasonable and an overreach. Keith Grossman, an attorney representing a group of hotel owners and operators, has said the work stoppages represent “Local 11’s continued counterproductive conduct.” The two sides returned to the bargaining table July 18 but talks ended without a deal.

“Not only am I a union leader, but I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan,” said Unite Here Local 11 organizer Maria Hernandez, decked out in an Eras tour T-shirt stamped with Swift’s likeness.

Hernandez blasted music from Swift’s 2017 album “Reputation” as workers marched in a circle in front of the Hyatt Regency, carrying signs and banging drums that have become a staple in protests in recent weeks — to the chagrin of hotel guests and nearby residents who have filed noise complaints about 5 a.m. picketing.


Handmade signs scrawled in marker said, “Management has made this a CRUEL SUMMER” and “Don’t Shake It Off, stand with workers.”

“Union Power (Taylor’s Edition),” another said.

Many Los Angeles hotels will raise prices and “reap unprecedented profits” next week — and in particular the Hyatt Regency and other hotels located near SoFi stadium where the singer’s Eras tour is scheduled for a run of six concerts, Unite Here Local 11 officials said.

“Taylor, the choice is simple,” Unite Here Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen said at the Thursday protest. “On the one hand we have the sacrifice, solidarity and courage of these workers, on the other, the boundless greed of these rapacious corporations.… Which side are you on?”

An open letter to Swift signed by 50 local hotel housekeepers published in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday also asked that she postpone her upcoming concerts.

“In Los Angeles, hotels are doubling and tripling what they charge because you are coming,” the letter said. “They also add junk fees on rooms, just like Ticketmaster does. But we see none of it.”

“The hotels are making more money than ever, but we can’t afford to live close to work, so some of us sleep in our cars between shifts. Our paychecks are so small many of us are losing our homes.”