Honeymoon period for royal favourites

AUSTRALIAN travellers have rushed to book trips to Britain since the royal wedding in late April, while inquiries for the Seychelles islands have gone through the roof since it was revealed Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge went there for honeymoon.

Tour operators are reporting strong demand for all things royal and say the effects are likely to last for some time, with more British pomp and pageantry to follow next year (see box).

The managing director of Insight Vacations, Lorraine Sharp, says bookings for tours in Britain were up 17 per cent last month, compared with the same month last year.

Tourism gold ... William and Kate's itinerary.
Tourism gold ... William and Kate's itinerary. 

"That's incredible growth," Sharp says. "It's quite significant for us, to see 17 per cent growth in one month since the royal wedding.

"Other areas haven't grown that much. People really seem to resonate with William and Kate ...

"Even younger people are looking upon Britain as an appealing destination."

Odyssey Travel says it has also seen a "dramatic" increase in bookings to Britain since the royal wedding. Bookings for a tour departing next month shot up by about 50 per cent in the five weeks following the wedding and overall interest has been such that the company has increased its British tours from five to 13 next year.

London hotels certainly reaped the benefits of the wedding. The travel technology provider, Pegasus, has reported that average daily rates more than doubled for the wedding period.

Pegasus says "immense fascination" with the wedding combined with good spring weather to fuel demand for London rooms.

Expedia reported a 30 per cent jump in London hotel bookings for the five days leading up to and including the wedding, held in Westminster Abbey.

The church itself has also been in demand since more than 2 billion people watched Kate walk down its aisle, with the promoters of the London Sightseeing Pass reporting that tourists have "flocked" there.

Another hot spot has been the Scottish university town of St Andrews, where Kate and William met as students.

The director of sales and marketing for the Fairmont St Andrews resort, Jane Frazer, says the level of interest has been "phenomenal".

The hotel has been enjoying high occupancy levels, with particular interest in its spa and gym complex, of which Prince William was once a member.

A spokeswoman for VisitBritain's Australian office, Sarah Styles, says it is too early to determine the statistical impact on travel to Britain but that hits on the VisitBritain website jump considerably when royal content is added.

The huge interest in Kate and William is further demonstrated by the experience of Lizard Island, in far north Queensland.

When a rumour was spread the exclusive island resort would be the location for the couple's honeymoon, hits on the resort's website went from about 500 a day to about 4000 a day.

On April 30, the day after the wedding, interest peaked at more than 5500 hits in one day. With the resort saying it was "not able to confirm or deny" the identity of any of its guests, excitement reached fever pitch and generated a public-relations coup.

When the actual honeymoon location, the Seychelles, was revealed early last month, TripAdvisor in Britain experienced a 300 per cent increase in searches for the Seychelles across just two days.

The flight comparison website, Skyscanner, saw a similar reaction, with searches for flights to the Seychelles up more than 200 per cent on its British site and up more than 20 per cent around the world.

The private island Desroches, which it is claimed is where William and Kate "rekindled their romance" after a split in 2007, says hits on its website doubled when it was revealed the royal couple would be honeymooning in the Seychelles, and increased bookings have followed.

In Kenya, where William proposed last year, operators are still enjoying the benefits.

A spokeswoman for the Kenya Tourist Board says travel to the African country is at an all-time high and the publicity surrounding the royal couple is believed to be a strong influence.

jane@janeefraser.com.au

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