Royal wedding set to spark UK tourism bonanza
Britain's hotly-awaited royal wedding will more than double the number of visitors to London and showcase the tourism industry to a global television audience of two billion people.
Tourism chiefs predict an extra 600,000 tourists from home and abroad will flock to London to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, pushing the total number of visitors up to 1.1 million.
Those well-wishers are forecast to spend around £50 million (57 million euros, $82 million) on the day of the wedding, as they party in style on the streets of the capital.
"We are hoping that for years to come, tourists are going to come here off the back of the royal wedding and generate a real legacy for British tourism," said Mark Di-Toro, spokesman for national tourist authority VisitBritain.
"The great thing about tourism is that it covers so many sectors -- restaurants, travel, flights, taxi drivers. It's the fifth biggest industry in the UK," he told AFP.
However, the real prize for the tourism industry is arguably the estimated two billion people who will watch William and Kate tie the knot, as the showpiece event is shown live on television around the world.
"The royal wedding will certainly strengthen the image of the country as a destination with rich culture, architecture and tradition but also raise the profile of the royal family," said Euromonitor travel analyst Nadejda Popova.
"It will also help showcase the country -- a necessary marketing boost in tough economic conditions."
The capital is expected to gain the biggest tourism boost but other associated regions could also benefit.
"London will be the main beneficiary from the royal wedding event with major tourist attractions -- ie. the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum and London Eye -- benefitting the most," Popova said.
"Tour operators in the city but also in the countryside are expected to see a growing interest from travellers.
"Special tours are already launched to the village of Bucklebury where Catherine Middleton was raised but equally, St Andrews University in Scotland, where the couple met, and Anglesey in North Wales, where they will live."
William and Kate's love story has become a global media sensation amid a dearth of good news.
Keith Spicer, commercial director at Big Bus Tours, which runs tourist trips across London every day, said the wedding appealed to the public's romantic side.
"There is no doubt the royal wedding has captured the public imagination, both here and overseas," added Spicer, whose company also runs bus tours in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and has annual turnover of £60 million.
He told AFP: "With so much gloom and despair dominating the news bulletins these days, I think the public has latched on to a genuine love story and embraced the concept wholeheartedly.
"Prince William has done a great job of engaging with his public for many years now, and now it looks as though his bride will become a Princess of the People."
Big Bus Tours expects to carry more than 100,000 customers this month, compared with the 90,000 tourists it transported in London in April 2010.
"We are optimistic that the royal wedding will add to the 'feel-good factor' around London over the Easter/Mayday period and will lead to a greater number of visitors coming over the whole of the extended holiday," he added.
At the same time, tourists will also flock to the capital as they regard the wedding as a ray of sunshine amid gloomy economic times and deep government spending cuts -- both in Britain and abroad," added Popova.
However, not all commentators predicted such a rosy outlook.
"No doubt there will be some tourists -- but the economic impact is likely to be small," said Professor Stefan Szymanski at London's City University.
"London is full of tourists for most of the year in any case, so this event won't make much of a difference to total tourist income."
But he conceded that it would provide a valuable advertising platform.
"This event can be seen as a type of advertising for the UK as a tourist destination -- if one considers all the pages of coverage in newspapers and magazines around the world, its value can be considered equivalent to the cost of renting all that newspaper and magazine space for adverts.
"From that perspective, its value is clearly quite high. But as with all forms of advertising, one can never be sure just how much extra revenue it brings."
© 2011 AFP