The Queen’s Golden Jubilee is fast approaching, but what does it mean for the hospitality industry? Is it a golden opportunity to invigorate business, or will it just be another long weekend? Jessica Gunn investigates.
Whatever feelings 21st century Britons have about the role of the monarchy, most agree that the Royal Family is good for business. Recent surveys by the London Tourist Board (LTB) show that 37% of visitors come to Britain specifically because of our royal heritage and tradition of pomp and pageantry.
This year is particularly significant because it is the Queen’s 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion there will be a four-day weekend in June and special events held throughout the year. The question on everybody’s lips, however, is whether the prospect of a country in royal celebration will be enough to lure overseas visitors – especially the affluent US market?
The LTB has been working for some months on marketing the Jubilee to both domestic and overseas visitors. “The Golden Jubilee is a great opportunity given the difficulties of 2001,” says an LTB spokesperson. “In light of foot-and-mouth and 11 September, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Although the official Jubilee is focused on one weekend in June, we’re hoping the benefits to tourism and hospitality will be a lot wider and last a lot longer.”
“You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see the business opportunities in the Golden Jubilee,” adds Bruno Peek, chairman of the Summer Golden Jubilee Party – the name being given to the Monday of the extended bank holiday weekend. This is the day designated by the Queen for local parties and celebrations.
“This is a great marketing opportunity to bring people back to Britain,” says William Burton, sales and marketing director at Thistle hotels. “It’s a hook to try to get across the message that the Jubilee isn’t just about one weekend, but that there are excellent deals, packages and attractions all year.”
Ian McKerracher, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, concurs. “We do pageantry better than any other country in the world,” he says. “If you look at the PR potential from an inbound tourist point of view, you’d be nuts to ignore it.”
While there may be a growing awareness of the Jubilee, there still seems to be an air of mystery about what is officially taking place to celebrate it. Some enlightenment came with the announcement of two concerts – one pop, one classical – to be held at Buckingham Palace, but many people in the industry appear to be in the dark about other events.
“The Golden Jubilee just hasn’t come up on the radar,” says Ray Jones, brand development manager for Superbreak mini-holidays, which sold just over half-a-million mini-breaks in 2001. “Other than the palace concerts, it seems to be a really stay-at-home kind of affair.”
Richard Shepherd, owner of Langan’s Brasserie and four other London restaurants, agrees. “I’m a royalist, but I think the marketing has been left far too late. It would have been nice if London had done something memorable to make a big thing of it.”
While all the businesses Caterer spoke to were happy about the concerts and chance to cater for the 24,000 people attending, they also expressed a desire for more large events to draw people into Britain.
Some are taking the matter into their own hands. “We have released a special Jubilee accommodation and activity package, and the pick-up has already been tremendous,” says Maria Kuhn, director of public relations at the Four Seasons on Park Lane in London. “But, we’re still waiting for a calendar of events – US visitors in particular want to know about set activities.”
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, also expresses a desire for more large-scale attractions to maximise the Jubilee’s potential. “Marketing will be the answer to a successful Jubilee, and having something to market.”
Those companies offering Jubilee packages are keen to stress their good value, mindful of the effect charging sky-high prices had on millennium bookings. Says Kuhn: “London really is expensive, but these accommodation packages tied in with visitor attractions are good value.”
Bruno Peek believes operators won’t see a repeat of 2000. “I think a lot of people saw the millennium as just an opportunity for making money,” he says. “Some got their fingers burnt and rightfully so. It doesn’t make sense to shoot the people keeping you in business.”
Although this year there may not be the Dome to pull the crowds, a four-day weekend, the Football World Cup and extended licensing hours for the bank holiday Monday are bound to spell increased trade.
“This is a huge opportunity for pubs to take back their position within the local community,” says Georgina Wald, corporate communications manager at the British Innkeepers Institute. “The Jubilee is supposed to be all about national heritage and there is nothing more to do with our heritage than pubs. We’re urging all our members to organise themselves for the summer party.”
The Laurel pub group is also gearing up for a flurry of Jubilee activity, including fundraising events. “At the moment, we’re still in the planning stages but we want our pubs to be the centre of local activities,” says Maureen Heffernan, director of communications.
Many agree that the central focus of the Jubilee is local. The Queen will be touring the country and many local councils and businesses are hoping this fact will rouse local communities into action.
In many ways, the whole Jubilee is low-key because this is how the palace wants it to be, with the Queen saying no to extravagant celebrations. It may also be because people aren’t as concerned about the monarchy as they were in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee.
“People are more cynical nowadays,” says a spokesperson for the BHA. “I don’t think the Government seems terribly interested, either. The Queen has said she doesn’t want it to be a big deal, but this creates a slight conflict with the interests of hospitality and tourism.”
Don’t rule out street parties and community spirit altogether, though. Research carried out by historian and royal biographer Philip Ziegler before the Silver Jubilee in 1977 found a similar situation to today. It seems the initial public apathy then was fairly easily won over with a little momentum and some astute marketing.
Caterer will be following the jubilee over the coming months. E-mail us any concerns you have about the event and on how much you think you will have to pay your staff over the June bank holiday weekend. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Look out for…
London’s String of Pearls (all year) – collection of British heritage visitor attractions such as Lambeth Palace, the Tower of London and the reopening of the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.
All the Queen’s Horses (May) – event staged over the three evenings during the Royal Windsor Horse Show. The evening’s entertainment will take you through 50 years of history, finishing with the coronation in 1952.
The Commonwealth Games (June) – held in Manchester, opened and closed by the Queen.
The Queen’s Official Tour (May-July) – royal visits and garden parties throughout the UK.
Beacons – in 1977, 102 beacons were lit across the UK and Channel Islands to celebrate the Silver Jubilee. Some 700 beacons are already planned for this year’s celebrations.
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