The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel
Has the Royal family boosted UK tourism?
In the run-up to Charles III’s Coronation, there was a palpable feeling of excitement on London’s streets. Flags fluttered, Royal memorabilia packed shop windows, and the air was filled with French, Italian and American chatter. It seemed the city was finally bidding goodbye to its post-pandemic slump.
How much of that was down to the celebrations? It is too soon for tangible figures, but May flight bookings from America and western Europe were 10 per cent higher than in the same period of 2019, according to Visit Britain.
The effect should be felt for a while to come, too. TV viewers around the world experienced the atmosphere, with Al Jazeera running a live blog, while Melissa Kirsch, deputy editor of culture and lifestyle at The New York Times, admitted it had “made me into an instant, if temporary, royal superfan”.
Whatever you think of the Royal family, its regular appearance in the international news cycle helps keep the country on the world stage. For many, it is synonymous with the UK – though there was anger in some quarters about the cost of the celebrations (estimated at around £100 million), with some raising doubts about the King’s pulling power.
Still, the financial benefits from royal warrants, coats of arms, patronage, merchandise, tourism and trade and media, among other things, is estimated by Brand Finance to be around £8.50 per person per year spread across the UK’s 67 million population (making a total of £570million). This is weighed against costs – including security – of £5.50 per person per year (a total of £370 million).
The royal boost to international tourism alone accounts for around £64 million per year, Brand Finance believes, with another £20million brought in by extra visitors motivated by the Coronation. That phenomenon holds a particular appeal for Americans, who are the UK’s most frequent visitors and its biggest spenders.
The Harry and Meghan saga and the Prince Andrew scandal don’t appear to have dampened their enthusiasm. Some may even be drawn by the cult of the celebrity surrounding the younger royals, who at times seem more akin to the Kardashians than to Queen Victoria.
The Princess of Wales’s outfits grace front covers around the world, while her wide-reaching work even extended to a cameo in this year’s Eurovision
Song Contest. Television exports such as The Crown have helped to propel the Royal family further.
Many tourists also revel in the fact that many of the castles and gardens they visit remain inhabited by royals. In 2022, Windsor Great Park became the most visited UK attraction for the second year in a row, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. The Tower of London also made it into the top 10, joining the city’s best-known museums and galleries.
Meanwhile, a Coronation-themed trip offered by Tours International became a sell-out success. It included a cream tea with an etiquette expert plus the chance to see the King and Queen in their carriage on the big day.
“[The Royals] have definitely helped to bring tourism back to the UK,” says Lana Bennet, CEO of Tours International. “Recent royal events have shone a light on the country and what we are good at – history, heritage, stately homes, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, all things for which we are justly famous – and they came at a time when they were most needed.”