Music tourism is one of the most significant travel trends of the year. Amy Everett attends Moga festival in Portugal to find out why.

Flying from Paris Charles De Gaulle to Lisbon in late May, I noticed a vast number of my fellow passengers were from the US. Tweens wearing unicorn backpacks made TikTok videos on Lisbon’s cobbled streets, while parents gazed up at Azulejo tiles, bleary-eyed. The penny soon dropped: the Swifties were in town.

Flying all the way to Europe from America for a music concert might sound outlandish, but travel bookings around specific cultural events and concerts is a growing trend.

In its 2024 Travel Trends report, Skyscanner identified that 60 per cent of US travellers are open to “gig tripping” abroad to save money. They noted that 44 per cent of US travellers are willing to fly short-haul to see their favourite artists, and 18 per cent would take a long-haul flight. Their tastes are evolving, too.

Once long-awaited concerts are over, adventure seekers are hanging around to get stuck into the local culture, like never before (I heard parents swapping tips on how they’d squeeze in day trips to Lisbon’s neighbouring Sintra and Cascais before heading home).

But it’s not just music moving people’s travel habits away from “fly ‘n’ flop” packages. Following the Covid pandemic, people are looking for novelty, sure – but also meaningful connections. Fresh experiences, chances to meet people from varying backgrounds, and to go home with friends based in new places. Socially impactful participation is in higher demand, alongside wellness practices and full-on immersion in new ways of living.Moga © Ines MachadoMoga festival is one particularly impressive, multi-faceted event organically quenching this thirst – and growing, fast. A cross-cultural, community-focused beach and city event, it celebrates and capitalises on the colourful intersection of food, wellness, music and tourism.

Just a week after Taylor Swift stormed Benfica stadium, Moga’s lineup spanned techno, house and disco heavyweights (the likes of Dekmantel Soundsystem, Palms Trax and Dixon) and soaring stars including Desiree, from South Africa. Plenty of digital nomads in the city enjoyed both the Eras tour and Moga, their tastes not confined to one genre, and work not tied to an office.

Artists took advantage of the festival’s (and the city’s) laidback, beachy feel, enjoying the freedom to switch from esoteric staples of their preferred genres to more well-known crowd pleasers fitting for tourists passing through on holiday.Moga © Ines MachadoMoga started as a small boutique festival in Essaouira (Morocco) in 2016, expanding into Lisbon and Caparica (Portugal) in 2021. Digital art conferences and intuitive writing workshops, beach yoga and boat parties cater to tastes well beyond hedonism, spread across central Lisbon, a sleepy beach town and the River Tagus, which bisects the two.

A vastly European crowd – this year, over 6000 people – is coming to know the festival as a great place to network and meet like-minded travellers. It connects Moroccan culture to the rest of Europe in a unique way, referencing its country of birth through whimsical woven décor.

In the last weekend of May 2024, music fans travelled over from as far as Iran, America and New Zealand to meet friends old and new, while watching a global roster of artists hailing from Germany, the UK, Mexico, Portugal, and more.Moga © Ines MachadoPlanning to combine (mostly) electronic music, wellness seminars, elevated fast food and enriching workshops in an up-and-coming destination, entrepreneurial French couple Antoine Biehler and Sophie Lacoste knew Lisbon was the right city to plot up in.

The Portuguese capital has enjoyed huge growth post-Covid: Websummit, the annual technology conference also held in Lisbon (the next one taking place November 11-14, 2024), has communicated that start-ups based there are valued at €2.1 billion as of 2022. That’s a three-fold increase from five years ago – quite the turnaround for a country The Economist described as “a new sick man of Europe” back in 2007.

Antoine Biehler tells Globetrender: “One of the emerging trends we have seen is that people are now booking Moga well in advance – for example, we have 25 cabanas on the beach, which offer a unique day out in a more private setting. When we announced the dates, they almost sold out immediately. People are now anticipating their Moga trip earlier in the year, and basing a holiday around the festival.”

The festival organisers take care to spotlight vendors and businesses based in the area they’re drawing customers to. Antoine says: “This year we expanded to three stages, using two beach venues Waikiki and Borda D’Agua – a set up that gave diversity to both the line up (where we could really play with different styles of music) and also the look and feel.Moga festival © ANGEL bambu“One of the most exciting things we were able to offer this year was the food; we tried to showcase the work of locals and entrepreneurs who live and work nearby. We hosted an opening dinner with local fishermen in collaboration with Lisbon Insiders (a local independent magazine) and Buya Beach, and had great snacks available during the festival itself.

“MOGA served ‘smash burgers’ from the inventive and new Burger Queens, an awesome female-owned truck by Ana Fernandes together with my partner Sophie; you can find their menu at Caparica beach venue Azul all summer. Plus the excellent local petiscos (tapas, or small plates) and cocktail spot Vila Bica.”Moga festival © ANGEL bambuWith friends and co-founders Mat and Ben, Antoine has worked on festivals around the world and learned much from his consultant role for Southern Europe’s markets at the ticketing and event listings website Shotgun (a rival to Resident Advisor in Portugal). He shared his take on what travellers are looking for:

“The difference between seeing amazing DJs in your hometown and somewhere new is that you’re experiencing a mix of cultures, at the same time. These days, music lovers also want to try new food, find good people, and get proper value for their money.”

Speaking of value for money, Globetrender asked Taylor Swift fan Abby Burridge what drew her to catching the pop phenomenon in Portugal, flying in from Boulder, Colorado and sticking around to enjoy Lisbon for a week.Taylor Swift © Unsplash“In the US, it costs between “US$4,000-8,000 for floor seats at a Taylor Swift concert. We paid around US$400 for the equivalent experience in Portugal. Flights from America cost US$1,500, so even accounting for some spending money for the rest of this trip, it’s a huge saving.”

Portugal has long offered incredible value – miles of pristine white beaches, naturally high quality produce and reliably good weather. Now it feels like the world is catching on to Portugal’s plus points for the financially savvy. Moga attendee Olivia Kelly explained why Lisbon has become her first choice for last-minute “gig tripping” – it’s not just about escaping the British weather (but it helps).

“The UK is obviously famous for great festivals; Glastonbury festival in particular [held in Somerset over the last weekend of June], but it’s usually in a muddy field, and seems to get a lot more expensive every year.” (Glastonbury cost £360 in 2024. This was a £20 increase from 2023’s event, which cost £335 plus a £5 booking fee – which was a £75 hike from the price in 2022.)

Kelly adds: “I wouldn’t necessarily go to festivals in the UK but I’m happier to take a chance abroad where the sun will hopefully be shining and I’ll meet different people. Plus it’s great to get an idea of how other cultures party. Really, that’s what keeps me coming back to Moga.

“That, and Lisbon is a special place in general, so exciting. It feels like organisers think about the locations more than they do in the UK, at least. There’s always something happening, even if you don’t like to stay out late. The food scene is amazing, the prices are super affordable. You can go out alone and easily meet new people. It’s friendly and open, quite unique in that way.”Moga festival © ANGEL bambuGiulia Giu Jaunet, artist liaison and production manager at Moga, feels the event’s magnanimity from the other side of the stage. She puts it down to clever bookings; a mix of prominent artists and new ones who deserve recognition.

“We haven’t lost our sparkle like other festivals experiencing exponential growth, because we still book up-and-coming artists like Retro Cassetta, who is now preparing to play his first Glastonbury. His first gig was at an edition of Moga in Essaouira. It’s a festival that isn’t afraid to mix big names with smaller names and give new artists great exposure to a varied crowd in Europe.”

Has she noticed that people are booking holidays around MOGA, and other music events? “Definitely! That’s changed over the last year, since Covid. People are looking for a sense of community that they lost during lockdown. We used to be quite a local thing, mainly a French crowd. Now we’re more international, which we were always aiming for. To see it come together feels like a great achievement.”

Crossing the iconic Ponte de 25 Abril bridge back to Lisbon from Caparica beach after the festival’s closing set, the metaphor writes itself. This is a city buzzing with opportunity; for bridges to be built, and cultural connections to be made. MOGA and its talented team make up many of the main drivers.

Three more enriching festivals in Portugal

Regenerative Retreat Portugal – May 27-31. Beja

Regenerative Travel recently held a five day Regenerative Retreat at Craverial Farmhouse, hosted by Condé Nast Traveller’s sustainability editor Juliet Kinsman. Connecting like-minded hoteliers and industry professionals through storytelling workshops, facilitated discussions, and wellness programming, Regenerative Travel events encourage inner regeneration while supporting sustainable travel choices.

Waking Life Festival – June, 19-24. Crato

Describing itself as a “year-round playground for creation and experimentation” with immersive performances and stimulating installations, Waking Life creates a space for artistic experimentation, spirited self-expression and the collective imagineering of the cultivation of new types of society – with a huge roster of electronic music.

Ocean In Me Yoga Retreat – September 10-15. Sesimbra 

Held at bucolic hideaway Villa Epicurea, already packed with eco-friendly experiences, this water-focused holistic yoga retreat focuses on reconnection with the self. You’ll address the pursuit of happiness and inner harmony through the exploration of your inner flow in a super relaxed, rustic setting – with an infinity pool, excellent food and a comfy setting to boot.

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