It looks as if everyone in the hospitality industry can benefit from the Royal Wedding in April. So exactly how big is the opportunity - and what can you do to ensure it's more than a one-night stand? Rosalind Mullen finds out
They couldn't have timed it better. Just as economic uncertainty starts to take its toll, Prince William and Kate Middleton have announced their wedding date. As an indication of the riches in store for the hospitality industry, Laterooms.com has already registered a threefold increase in hotel bookings for 29 April compared with bookings for the previous week, while VisitBritain estimates that 600,000 visitors will storm London that weekend.
It also claims the royals already generate about £500m for our tourist industry so it's no wonder there are high hopes the wedding will spark a massive two-year boost for hospitality, ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games. Clearly, for that reason it's also important we get it right.
"You could say the showcasing of Britain is almost more important than the number of people who come to the wedding," says Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain. "It's an opportunity to show the UK at its best. We'll launch our global marketing campaign after the wedding, so it's setting us up for the Olympics."
Certainly, the big picture is that the industry will benefit long-term from the positive international coverage the UK is getting from the engagement, with iconic images such as Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace being flashed in the world's press.
"It's beneficial in marketing the country and it shows us in a favourable light without anybody having to lift a finger," says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock. "We're in the news without having to spend any money."
Another bonus is that the UK could trounce rival nations in winning new tourism business. A VisitBritain poll, for instance, has shown that the rapidly expanding BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are among the keenest to visit British places connected with the royal family.
In short, the wedding is expected to have a threefold impact: immediately, as has been seen with an increase in bookings over the period; over the wedding weekend itself when London in particular will be full and restaurants and pubs and tourist hotspots will enjoy a knock-on boost; and afterwards when the country should attract extra demand influenced by the media exposure.
Despite the media hype, however, the industry shouldn't just sit back. There are many marketing initiatives you could be considering to maximise the opportunity. To draw international visitors, for instance, Pride of Britain, a consortium of luxury hotels, is ensuring hits on its websites by beefing up references to nearby royal residences or places of interest associated with the monarchy.
Similarly, country house hotels could be marketing themselves on the back of films such as The King's Speech and TV series Downton Abbey, which are helping to reinforce traditional images of Britain's heritage to international visitors. In addition, the fact that the royal couple met in Scotland and are to live in Wales helps broaden the geographical scope.
"The key is to be creative. Everyone will be offering a weekend break package because there are four or five bank holiday weekends in a row this spring so that could become old hat," says Hancock.
Arguably, the wedding is a rehearsal for the challenge of the Olympics. With that in mind, one of the most difficult issues is pricing. Although the UK is generally seen as expensive, the recent favourable exchange rate has attracted European visitors and helped fuel VisitBritain's "value" campaigns. As Yates explains: "If hotel prices rise dramatically it will be picked up. Businesses need to understand supply and demand because it will benefit them longer term."
Ray Jones, product development director at Superbreak, agrees that the country needs to take a long-term view: "It's important for everyone to ensure packages are reasonably priced to ensure the industry retains a good reputation for fair pricing throughout. This will also be important for the Olympics."
Hancock concurs, but he also stresses it would be foolish to undercharge at a time when demand will clearly be high. He adds: "Some businesses will overlook the fact they have sold cheaper rates to third parties such as Laterooms.com and they may find they are competing against themselves."
Of course, the extra holiday means many Brits will be jetting off elsewhere. Ann Elliott, managing director of Elliott Marketing & PR, says that although there will be an influx of tourists, hospitality operators need to be prepared for the exodus of some regular customers as consecutive bank holidays mean people can take 11 days off for three days' annual leave. Expedia has already reported an 80% rise in holiday bookings, but there's also a 266% increase in hotel bookings in London.
Elliott adds that any hotels and restaurants that haven't mastered social networking and online bookings need to catch up quickly: "We live in a digital world compared with previous big royal events in 1977 and 1981, so consider using social networks such as Twitter and Facebook if you aren't already. There is still time to get up and running before April and businesses will be in a better position for London 2012."
A report from IDeaS Hospitality Consulting advises that businesses need to ensure they implement carefully planned pre-paying options to help reduce the impact of costly last-minute cancellations. It also recommends the implementation of minimum length of stay requirements during the period.
All in all, though, there should be enough business for all types of hotel if they get their marketing and pricing right. And as Middlethorpe Hall illustrates (see panel), creative use of big TV screens and special wedding breakfast menus mean restaurants are as well placed as hotels to offer something special on the day.
Green's Restaurant & Oyster Bar is ahead of the game on the internet, with key words such as "Royal Wedding" and "restaurant" producing an instant website hit. "We anticipate the Royal Wedding 2011 London weekend - and indeed the whole two, four-day public holidays - to be very busy and exciting," says a spokesperson.
Even suppliers are getting on board. Halewood International has launched a commemorative label called Prince William Champagne, available to order until mid-February.
So, it looks as if everyone in the hospitality industry can benefit from the Royal Wedding. Let's just pray there aren't any Tube strikes
Ways to make the most of the Royal Wedding
1 Don't wait until the big day - start organising some Royal Wedding-themed events now
2 Plan for a weekend of festivities - it's a four-day public holiday. Link Easter and Royal Wedding promotions as they are only a week apart
3 Ensure you have adequate staffing over the wedding weekend - more staff could request time off for the same reason that people are booking holidays
4 Take advantage of the extension to opening hours to 1am on 30 April and 1 May
5 Make sure your hotel pops up in a website search by generating links to nearby "royal" places of interest and find out if you have any royal connections
6 Consider using your function rooms to show the event
7 Organise some outside celebrations - consider hiring a marquee
8 Start marketing your packages as early as possible
9 Put your business at the centre of your community for events - help to organise street parties and provide the food and drink
10 Create some fun - invite guests to come dressed as a prince; wear their wedding dress; look like a bride; and host royal lookalike competitions; run a Royal Wedding quiz
11 If you have a wedding licence then tie it into the big day
12 Organise a trip to London for your regulars - close your own place for a day and enjoy it
13 Develop a Royal Wedding menu or a honeymoon menu
14 Link with local suppliers such as a brewery or baker and brand a beer or wedding cake
15 Contact your local chamber of commerce or Federation of Small Businesses to find out what others are doing
16 Run romantic films and play romantic music all weekend
17 Do a deal for couples who are celebrating their anniversaries
18 Raise money for royal charities
19 Run a wedding fair or suppliers' weekend
20 Contact the media centre at www.visitbritain.com for advice and marketing opportunities
Malmaison - Wedding discounts During April all couples tying the knot get a 20% discount on their wedding, including food and beverages and room hire (there are some exclusions). If any of the happy newlyweds share the same names as the royal couple they also qualify for a free suite on their wedding night - be it William and Kate, William and William or Kate and Kate… but proof is required.
Bowood hotel - 24 hours of celebrations
This recently-opened 43-bedroom hotel near Calne in Wiltshire, has royal connections through its owner Lord Lansdowne, who is a close friend of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
It is offering a 24-hour celebration beginning with Champagne brunch on 29 April while watching events unfold on a big TV screen, followed by a three-course special dinner in the evening and an overnight stay with breakfast the following morning - for £330 per room (for two people).
Chester Grosvenor - Linking to local royal locations The Chester Grosvenor is making use of its royal links with a two-day package that includes entry to Chester's 2,000-year-old cathedral, where many royals have been guests at society weddings. The £762.50 per person deal features two nights in a suite (one of which is the Prince William Suite), one evening meal in its Michelin-starred restaurant and a Royal Wedding afternoon tea served with Champagne.
Rubens hotel - Celebration dinner and royal surprise Overlooking Buckingham Palace, this four-star hotel is offering a six-night stay at £1,499 per room. Highlights include a "Royal surprise" a celebration dinner on 29 April and £100 to spend in the Buckingham Palace gift shop.
The Arch London - Three-night package This chic 82-bedroom hotel in Marylebone is offering a three-night package with breakfast every day, dinner one night and high tea one afternoon for £1,200 for two people.
Hartwell House - Four nights for the price of three Near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, this 46-bedroom country house hotel is making the most of its claim to Royal fame that King Louis XVIII of France lived there for five years in the 1800s when he was in exile. The hotel is offering a fourth night's stay free to people paying for three nights.
Middlethorpe Hall, York - Bring your hat to the wedding breakfast At Middlethorpe Hall in York, general manager Lionel Chatard has plenty of Royal Wedding events in the pipeline.
On 20 February, he is holding a gala musical recital celebrating love and royalty, called Gloriana, at £24.50 per person. Then on 25 March there will be a dinner and talk about royal wedding breakfasts through the ages.
On the day itself, the hotel is inviting royal-watchers who can't get to London to a wedding breakfast for £49.50 per person. Guests will be required to wear formal dress - "hats on" - and will watch the events in London on a giant plasma screen.
Fortuitously, the wedding was announced just as sales and marketing manager Nicola Thresh was sending a marketing newsletter to print. "We dropped some events and put these in," she says. "We are all royalists here and we will absolutely maximise the opportunities before April."
She adds that the wedding breakfast has already sold more than half of reservations. "One gentleman is coming alone, but it will be a wedding party atmosphere - no tables for two."
Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno - Package up a romantic break Bodysgallen Hall in Llandudno, North Wales is one of many hotels expecting to bask in the benefits of the Royal Wedding. Since being named as one of the top romantic destinations by VisitBritain, it's already had enquiries from as far afield as Belgium and Australia.
Like many of its competitors, the hotel is offering a package of four nights for the price of three. Couples pay £507 B&B, with the fourth night worth £169. On the day there'll be a giant TV screen, sumptuous lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and the Champagne will be flowing.
It's also trading on the fact that the royal couple will be living in Anglesey, which is half an hour away, so the team is promoting Bodysgallen as the ideal launch pad for exploration.
In fact, it's a bumper year for the hotel, as director and general manager Matthew Johnson explains: "We're particularly pleased by the prospect of a Royal Wedding on this, the 30th anniversary of Bodysgallen Hall opening as a hotel."
DRAWING INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS TO YOUR HOTEL
â- Market the fact Britain is small and easily explored by linking to local destinations
â- Provide individual hospitality - American customers will expect quick, polite service; Russians may expect the heating to be turned up
â- Be aware, for instance, that Chinese visitors often have narrower culinary tastes, so it may be useful to present them with a list of local Chinese restaurants
â- Note also that some nationalities may be perplexed by the smoking ban
â- It might help to employ staff with varied language skills
For a comprehensive list of tips check out