The British royal family is a well-known symbol of the UK and one of the most widely recognized institutions. The world is buzzing about the upcoming royal wedding as Prince Harry gets ready to marry American actress Meghan Markle on May 19that Windsor Castle. In recent years, the UK has been plagued by uncertainties surrounding the Eurozone crisis, Brexit and terrorist attacks. Despite the uncertainty, the amount of global media coverage that Britain is receiving from the royal wedding is expected to have a positive impact on UK tourism over the coming years.
In honour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming nuptials, we are exploring the impact the Royal wedding may have on tourism to the UK and opportunities for travel companies.
The Royal Wedding to Lift British Tourism
Tourists flocked to London to witness Harry’s elder brother, Prince William and the Dutchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton’s wedding. Visitor arrivals to the UK have been rising for years, with the country welcoming nearly 38 million people in 2017. According to Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking report, London is the third most visited city in the world. The royal wedding will keep the UK in focus, especially from a US perspective, which is likely to sustain current momentum.
While the royal wedding itself is not likely to generate any significant impact on flows, the expected media coverage will play an important role in the brand building of the UK as a visitor destination. Media will be broadcasting the event to promote Britain as a tourist destination and advertise the country’s culture and heritage to viewers worldwide. Therefore, the expected “Meghan & Harry effect” will be felt from 2019 onwards. Having reviewed arrivals from the US over the past 10 years, it's inconclusive if the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the 2012 Olympic Games generated in themselves an increase in the number of visitors from the US. However, since 2014 the arrivals trend from the US has been steadily upwards and will undoubtedly have resulted in the positive image of the UK generated by these events.
Source: Euromonitor International
Opportunities for Travel Companies
The Royal family is a major driver of UK tourism, especially to sites associated with them. The official tourism website of Great Britain, Visit Britain, has a section on their website that is “dedicated to Royal Britain”. However, they are not marketing Meghan & Harry’s wedding at all on both their US and UK websites. In fact, there is more prominence on the site for Prince William and Kate, even more than for the Queen.
The Royal Borough of Windsor is promoting the wedding on its tourism website but in a more practical nature. The site is sharing tips for planning your day, transport options, visitor guide and a list of hotels to stay at. Windsor is a historic town with 30,000 inhabitants, restricting the number of visitors it can accommodate. On the other hand, it’s close to London so visitors can make accommodations there. Windsor would also be of interest to US visitors due to the proximity to Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. This is a historically significant event considered by Americans as Runnymede also has a memorial dedicated to President Kennedy.
The Positive Impact on Lodging
Hotels and short-term rentals are gearing up to accommodate guests for the royal wedding. Since 2012, the lodging industry in Western Europe has grown consistently. The Brexit vote has resulted in a weak pound, and will likely result in international visitors trading up to more luxurious accommodation helping to benefit mid-market and luxury properties. While mid-market hotels are the main lodging type in most markets, short-term rentals are now outperforming hotels in the UK. Cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and London are booming with short-term rentals. In an ever-changing legislative landscape, Airbnb leads short-term rentals. Airbnb is predicting a large number of fans from all over the world to stay in London and the surrounding areas ahead of the big day.