Workers erect a screen outside the entrance to London's Goring Hotel Thursday April 28, 2011. Kate Middleton's spending her last night as a single woman in a room fit for a queen. The princess-in-waiting is staying Thursday night at London's Goring Hotel, a family run luxury hotel just around the corner from Buckingham Palace. (AP Photo/Sean Dempsey, PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUTAP2011
After stealing the show at big sister Kate’s wedding in a tight-fitting, white bridesmaid’s dress, the world’s favorite royal-in-law, Pippa Middleton, is standing solo in the spotlight.
Now, observers are wondering if Pippamania might be the secret formula to boost tourism to the United Kingdom, a $130 billion a year industry that’s been hit hard by a weak dollar and drop off in American visitors.
The Lonely Planet guides came down hard on the U.K. this year, with reports that many restaurants, hotels and attractions are "overpriced or lacking in quality,” and an overall conclusion that "Britain ain't cheap.”
New York-based travel professional and Anglophile Barbara Gillam says, in spite of the challenges, “Pippa’s aura may very well boost tourism, not to mention Pilates and the designers’ outfits she’s seen in.”
Emma Thomas, the U.S. representative for VisitEngland.org says, “Royal weddings always raise the profile around English history and heritage. The news around Pippa is very positive.”
Sidestepping direct comments on the Royal Family, Visit Britain spokesperson Meredith Pearson says, “American travelers are generally interested in celebrity hot spots in the hopes of doing a bit of star spotting.”
VisitBritain’s Facebook page was the 6th most “Explosive Page” on Facebook during Royal Wedding week, according to All Facebook, and the cheeky “Pippa Middleton A** Appreciation Society” on Facebook already counts some 150,000 followers showing their, well, appreciation.
Films like “The King’s Speech” and the “Harry Potter” franchise, combined with top Brit celebrities like Ricky Gervais, David and Victoria Beckham and Simon Cowell have created a fresh round buzz for the U.K. in recent years. Pippa’s instantaneous popularity as party-girl and sexy maid of honor further adds a twinkle to Britain’s traditionally stuffy image.
Admittedly, “Minxy” Middleton’s younger fans are not likely to be able to afford a $500 a night stay in the cheapest room at the century-old Goring Hotel, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels portfolio, where she accompanied her sister on her last night as a single woman. After the wedding bookings at all of the group’s London hotels were up 77% compared to the same week last year.
Says Anne Scully, CTC at McCabe World Travel in Virginia: “The Goring has changed. The energy is electric. It has been attracting young people recently to its bar, and the Middleton’s will certainly enhance that even more…just look at them all, all lovely to look at, better dressed than the Royals really.”
Never one to let a moment slip by, British Airways will issue a fare sale in June, starting at $505 from New York to London.
Prince William and new bride Kate Middleton’s honeymoon in the Seychelles brought that remote spot into the public conscience, as well, just as tourism execs in Monaco are hoping to see an increase in visitor arrivals with the upcoming July 1 nuptials of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II and the elegant South African Olympic swimmer, Charlène Wittstock. According to Bob Titley, owner of the Robert Titley Consultancy, which represents Visit Wales in the U.S., adds that “Kate has been extraordinarily good for raising the profile of Wales.”
But the more we learn about Pippa, the better it is for just about anything she is associated with, be it an Alexander McQueen dress, a Zara jacket or Pilates, a core-building exercise discipline that may inspire the rest of us to stay in tip-top shape as we pack our bags for the new Britain.