After the last couple of years of economic downturn and rising taxes, the British travel industry is feeling positive again with the recent announcement of Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011, which is expected to deliver a major boost to tourism and the British economy.
More important, the royal wedding is the perfect lead up to the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London’s hosting of the Olympic and Paralympics’ Games, as the wedding is predicted to be one the biggest broadcast event in history with a potential TV audience of 4 billion people, giving a great opportunity to advertise Britain as a tourist destination as well as promoting the country’s culture and heritage worldwide.
Some 28.4 million overseas tourists visited Britain last year. VisitBritain estimates that the monarchy generates an average of £500 million from international tourists per year, from attractions such as the Tower of London (2.4 million visitors in 2009) or St Paul’s Cathedral (1.8 million).
However, the benefits of a royal wedding are likely to exceed that as the trend in the number of international tourists is expected to accelerate during next year’s event. Some tourism business such as LateRooms.com has already reported a significant increase in booking for the last week in April 2011.
With a large number of beds, London hotels will have no problem coping with the extra influx of tourists, but the increase in demand will push the average hotel prices up giving a great boost to the UK economy. Many foreign visitors will also take trips out to Windsor, Bath or Chester and visit traditional UK tourist attractions such Stonehenge.
Wedding impact to spread across the UK
The royal wedding is set to deliver a boost not just to the tourism industry in London but right across Britain’s travel and tourism industry. The couple met at St Andrews University and spend time at Balmoral which will have a beneficial impact on Scotland.
They will live in North Wales where William is serving with the RAF, which will be a great boost for Wales’s attractions such as Dee Valley, Snowdonia National Park and its surrounding castles including the medieval Caernarfon Castle. Wales received a total of 289 thousand overseas visitors in 2009, bringing in revenues of £77 million.
Benefit from emerging nations
According to new research from VisitBritain, tourism to Britain in the year of the royal wedding is likely to speed up the trend in the number of visitors to Britain from the expanding BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – who are amongst the most enthusiastic travellers to visit British places connected to the Royal Family.
The results of a poll of 25,000 potential foreign visitors, commissioned by VisitBritain from the Anholt-GMI Nations Brand Index Survey, shows that the nations who were keenest to visit places associated with the Royal Family were the Russians, with 83% of respondents claiming they would visit Royal sites, followed by Brazil with 79%, Malaysia with 76% and the Czech Republic with 75%.
Opportunities for travel companies
The UK government also announced the 29 April as a public holiday. The extra day off granted just after the Easter bank holiday means that many British workers will enjoy two long weekends, which will allow potential travellers an 11-day break by taking only three working days off.
This will provide many tourist operators with great opportunities to offer added-value features and extra attractions for a memorable wedding abroad. Companies such as P&O are already promoting live coverage of the event on every ship.
Other destinations likely to benefit from these two bank holidays are the Canaries, the Red Sea, Cyprus, Morocco and Florida as Britons use the opportunity to find some sun holidays early in the season.
The African connection
Some destinations are already reaping the benefits of the royal connection, places such as St Andrews, where the couple met, or the Seychelles and Switzerland where the young couple spent their holidays, are claiming a bounce in tourism.
However, it is Africa that holds a special place for the British Royal Family, a continent that Prince Williams regards as his second home, it was in Kenya where the couple got engaged, it was also here where the Prince spent several months working during his gap year between Eton and St Andrews.
Also, in June 2010, William and his brother, Harry, undertook their first official joint overseas trip, travelling to Southern Africa. It was in a documentary filmed in Botswana that William said “Africa’s the perfect place to come”. As a result, the royal wedding will boost Africa’s international profile as a holiday destination.