Royal wedding: Tourists won’t flock to UK for Harry and Meghan
The royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is not expected to translate into an immediate boost for British tourism.
Industry experts say the nuptials will act as a powerful marketing tool to entice tourists in the years to come. But there won’t be more visitors during the wedding month of May.
“Don’t expect visitors from abroad to come for this royal wedding; it is a pageant for domestic consumption,” said Tom Jenkins, CEO of European tourism association ETOA.
The 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton did not result in a noticeable uptick in tourist arrivals or spending, according to the UK Office for National Statistics.
This wedding shouldn’t be any different.
“There was no discernible increase in bookings for the UK as a consequence of the royal wedding,” said Olivier Jager, CEO of the ForwardKeys, a travel research firm that monitors 17 million flight bookings a day.
Analysts expect that any spike in visits from royal fanatics will be counteracted by the desire of other tourists to stay far away from the hubbub.
Still, the wedding could boost visitor numbers over the long run.
Deirdre Wells, head of the British travel association UKinbound, said coverage of the wedding is “the best free advertising we can wish for as a country and reminds people that they should come to the UK.”
Wells predicts visitors will feel compelled to book UK trips in the coming years after watching the wedding on TV.
“Meghan and Harry’s wedding will continue to keep the UK in focus, especially from a US perspective, which is likely to sustain the current [tourism] momentum,” said Alexander Göransson, an analyst at the market research firm Euromonitor.
Visitor arrivals to the UK have been rising for years, with the country welcoming nearly 38 million people in 2017, according to Euromonitor. It’s the sixth most visited country in the world.
Tourism is worth £127 billion ($176 billion) annually to the UK economy, according to UKinbound.
The wedding will be held in Windsor, which is about 25 miles outside central London.
It could be tricky to get a hotel booking near the wedding venue. But travel agents said that getting a room anywhere else, especially in London, shouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s not going to have a huge impact on London [hotel] capacity,” said Wells.
US travel agents said they’ve had to reassure clients who previously booked travel in May that overcrowding won’t be a problem.
“[Clients have] asked me if I felt they should postpone and reschedule after the festivities as it might be ‘too busy’ in London. I emphatically told them no,” said Diane Bean, a travel agent based in Maine who runs the company Off On Vacation.
“I’ve found that prices are still stable for Great Britain as a whole,” she added.
Nancy Strong, CEO of Strong Travel Services in Texas, said she’s considering traveling to Windsor with her granddaughter for the wedding day. But she said that clients aren’t “clamoring” to visit.
“Am I going to go? Yes, I probably will,” she said. “When the English put on a party, they know how to do it and do it well.”