Harking from Canada, Australia, France and beyond, many international royal fans are celebrating King Charles III’s coronation by heading to London, a city that knows how to capitalise on its most famous residents.
“It’s a dream come true!” explained 24-year-old French woman Ludivine Decker, a few days before leaving for London.
Originally from Metz in northeastern France, the communications worker will make the trip alone as her friends don’t share her passion for the British royal family.
Too young to visit the UK for William and Kate’s 2011 wedding and still a student during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee last year, the coronation is “a now or never” moment to attend a royal celebration, she told AFP.
She plans to watch on one of the giant screens installed in the heart of the capital and to be in front of Buckingham Palace to see the king and his close family make their balcony appearance.
Decker is expecting a “festive” and “family” atmosphere, and will be stocking up on souvenirs for the historic event.
London already hosts millions of international tourists each year, and could attract an extra 250,000 for the coronation, according to the Centre for Retail Research.
They are expected to spend more than £322 million ($401 million) on accommodation, food, shopping and attractions.
Anna Bloomfield, an Australian in her forties, has already arrived in London ahead of the ceremony.
She admires King Charles “for everything that he has had to endure just being a part of the royal family”.
Bloomfield has packed a tent for her own endurance test — waiting in all weathers to secure a prime spot to watch the royal couple pass.
Kathryn, a 54-year-old executive assistant from Toronto, Canada, can’t wait to experience the “pomp and ceremony which the British are famous for”.
The royal fanatic also wants to “show my support” for Charles.
“He has already shown his desire to modernise, streamline, cut excess and make the modern day royal family resemble the cultural and religious make-up of Britain today,” she said.
“He is open-minded, defends the environment, he lives in his time”, added Decker, who praised the “humanity” of Charles’ charity works.
– Unique experience –
Demonstrating the coronation craze, European travellers’ internet searches for flights to London over the coronation weekend are 65 percent higher than for the same weekend in 2022, and 105 percent for hotels, according to data from US search engine Kayak.
And “the French seem to be the most interested”, added the company, with Americans making up the bulk of visitors from outside of Europe.
The coronation’s boost to the country’s pulling power is beyond measurement, according to Patricia Yates, director general of Visit Britain, which promotes tourism.
“Millions and millions of people will see the coronation on their television set and hopefully will be inspired to come and see London to see the royal residences… and to see special exhibitions that are being held,” she told AFP.
They include royal dresses at Kensington Palace and special waxwork statues at Madame Tussauds, while hotels and cafes will serve special coronation “afternoon tea”, and many shops will sell souvenirs bearing the image of the royal family.
Around 600,000 people visited Buckingham Palace after William and Kate’s wedding to see the bridal gown on display, recalled Yates.
Added to the mix, there is also “a real appetite for international travel, and an appetite for experience” following Covid-19.
“And what better experiences than… seeing a monarch being crowned,” she added.