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The hospitality industry: outsider of the Royal Wedding?

The union of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle took place Saturday, May 19, at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, 40 kilometers away from London. The event, commonly known as the "Royal Wedding", would be one of the most profitable coup de théâtre in the UK this year. On this occasion, Hospitality ON paints a portrait of a marriage sewn of gold, but not so fruitful.

If the final addition is not yet known, it would seem to match that of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This one is said to have cost £34 million (€39 million), the most expensive British royal marriage. By comparison, Prince Charles' and Lady Diana's would have required £30 million (€35 million).

This union is a godsend for the image of the United Kingdom in the world. Especially among Americans, eager to discover the adopted country of the new Duchess of Sussex. Her compatriots were therefore particularly expected. According to the Office for National Statistics, the attendance of Canadians and Americans is on the rise again in May 2017. But nothing let us thinking they were at the rendezvous.

On the French side? FlixBus noted "a very strong increase in demand for Paris-London travel." According to them, the Friday 18 May departures were "taken by storm". Despite the strike movement, some Eurostar trains were also sold out from Paris. The airline also noted a 15% increase, compared to 2017, in the number of passengers travelling from Paris to London on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 May.

More tourists, more customers?

According to the Centre for Retail Research, the UK retail research institute, the event is expected to raise €137 million for UK retailers. In particular, the organization projected that around 40 million euros would be spent on food and beverage. British and travelers could enjoy the pubs two more hours, since they were exceptionally allowed to close at 1:00 am. According to the British Beer and Pub Association, this extension would have released an additional £10 million (€11.4 million). In addition, the fashion industry believes it can benefit from this union, particularly through the "Meghan Effect".

"This major event undoubtedly shines the spotlight of the media around the world on the UK, and with it, the wonderful opportunity to showcase, on an international scale, the romantic moments that visitors can only have in Britain," a VisitBritain spokesman praised.

But have royal weddings always been profitable for the economy?

The United Kingdom, still affected by Brexit, recorded weak growth of 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018. In 2011, royal marriage had brought in some 122 million euros for British traders, but had had no real beneficial impact on the British economy. Trade had certainly had a good month in April, but it had been offset by a sharp drop in consumption the following month.

As regards to tourism, it is not systematically increasing. According to the Office for National Statistics, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding attracted 350,000 more foreign visitors than the previous year. Nevertheless, the marriages of Prince Andrew with Sarah Ferguson (1986) and Prince Charles with Diana Spencer (1981) both resulted in a decline in tourist numbers.

Some tourists had therefore made the trip to attend the festivities, however the Office for National Statistics had not found any notable difference with a month without a "royal wedding”.

Hotel performances from 17 to 20 May 2018

Overall, the London hotel business posted an unfavorable performance in terms of RevPAR with a decline over four days of -11.2%. The indicator is accompanied by a slight 1.5 point increase in the occupancy rate and a decrease in the average price of -12.9%, i.e. 187.69€ compared to 215.38€ last year.

This slowdown was characterized by a drop in the occupancy rate of -7.5 points during the night of 17/05 and -1.2 points during the night of 19/05. Thus, this "absenteeism" of clients impacts RevPAR by -22.2% on Thursday, -12.3% on Friday and -15.7% on Saturday. This influence is explained in particular by the fall in prices from -15.2% in the night of Thursday 17/05 and gradually rising to -4.5% in the night of Sunday 20/05. A margin of 27.69€ which however did not know how to defy the postponement of the trips of the British or foreign clients.

 

This can be explained by the fact that the guests, mainly British noblemen and wealthy people, already have a place to stay. And that the British, having made the way to the capital, also preferred to stay within their family or friendly circle in London. Consequently, the demand and need for accommodation was low and supply adapted to the tourist potential. Indeed, it would seem that the upscale properties present an adjustment of their prices. 

Subsequently, attendance stabilized at +10.5 points in the night of 20/05 while RevPAR progressed and reached +10.4% the same Sunday. Indicators therefore confirm that the clientele returns after the ceremony. This is not the first time that the hotel business has faced this dispersion. “Traditional" visitors to major cities or destinations systematically delay their arrivals to avoid disruptions linked to transport or price increases.

 

Thus, television rights, transport, food and beverage, sales of related items are the big winners of this small boost. That said, marriage has a particularly "feel good" effect at a time when the country is facing political or economic difficulties.

As a result, this popular excitement will certainly have an impact of several months on the entire British population. But any economic upturn would only be temporary or an illusion in the case of the hospitality industry.

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