Coronation pushes tourism but economy still shaky

Tourism businesses in London are preparing for the coronation of Prince Charles, set to take place in May, which is expected to bring a much-needed boost to the industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Hotels are offering coronation-themed packages and menus, while souvenir shops have stocked up on memorabilia ranging from tea towels to bobblehead figures. The Dorchester Hotel is serving a lavish coronation cake, while the Royal Lancaster London hotel is offering afternoon tea inspired by Charles’ favourites. Tour operators are also offering special coronation-themed tours of London’s landmarks.

The boost to the tourism industry is expected to provide a cash infusion to central London businesses, particularly hotels, pubs, and restaurants, but it is unlikely to do much to help U.K. residents who are grappling with an economy on the brink of recession and a cost-of-living crisis that has led to months of strikes by workers seeking pay rises.

Officials hope that the coronation will give the country’s tourism industry a much-needed boost after two years of COVID-19 shutdowns. The U.K. received 29.7 million visits last year, which is almost a third less than in 2019. Patricia Yates, CEO of VisitBritain, believes that events like this will kick-start the recovery and put Britain on the world stage again. History, heritage, and the royals are the biggest draws for international tourists, particularly Americans, who are driving the U.K.’s tourism recovery.

While the hospitality industry will benefit, organizing the coronation is an expensive undertaking, with some reports estimating that it could cost as much as £100 million. Additionally, an extra public holiday on May 8 means a lost day of productivity. The British economy has been stagnant since the beginning of last year due to high inflation that is squeezing households and small businesses. The IMF expects U.K. output to shrink more than any other major economy this year, and nurses, teachers, postal workers, and others have been striking for higher wages to keep up with the soaring cost of living.

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