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Will the coronation bring a UK tourism bonanza – or drive people away?

As soon as the date of the coronation was announced last October, Kathryn Mooney booked a flight to London. “I jumped on it right away,” says Mooney, 54, an executive assistant from Toronto. “All I thought was, I’d better get a property, I’d better get a flight, because I knew there would be huge demand.”

Why did she want to come? “I know it sounds really hokey, but I want to go and send them some support and love from the sidelines. And honour the queen.”

Although she admits she does not quite have the same esteem for King Charles III as she had for his mother, she says the royals still “represent the palaces, they represent the pageantry – and that’s something that I want to experience. I want to see this. I want to feel it. Because in North America we don’t have anything even close.”

There are people like Mooney, mostly from North America and explicitly royal fans, who want to spend a week visiting Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace and having etiquette lessons on the correct way to partake of afternoon tea. Even for specialist operators such as Tours International, however, this market is comparatively tiny, says Bennett. “Oh yes, it’s not huge. It’s a coachload.”

So how significant will the event be on a broader scale? Visit Britain, the national tourist authority, points to an estimated £1.2bn economic boost from the jubilee weekend, though Patricia Yates, the organisation’s CEO, says most of that came from domestic visitors. (For comparison, government modelling would estimate the cost to the economy of an extra day’s bank holiday at £1.36bn, it was reported last year.)

But it is not only about the weekend itself, argues Yates. “We know that our history and heritage is a real draw for visitors from overseas, and it will look amazing on television – we just know that, don’t we? So the drive for us is using that as almost a showpiece in international markets, to encourage people to come this summer.”

She is right that Britain’s heritage and history is a key factor in its huge £131bn tourist industry, and is spoken of around the globe as the aspect most associated with the UK. But heritage is not the same as royalty, and when pressed for figures for the value of the royals, Yates sidesteps.

“We are really careful not to put a number on the value of having a royal family,” she says. “But … does having a living monarchy make a difference? Well, of course it does, in that you have the ceremonials and the constant pattern of family life, with weddings and christenings and death and celebrations.”

Visit Britain has attached a number before. A previous head of the organisation claimed that the queen generated “well over £500m a year directly and indirectly from overseas tourists”, arguing before the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton that the event would boost the sum further.

The problem is that neither of those assertions stands up to scrutiny. Numerical claims about the value of the monarchy frequently rely on creative interpretation of visitor numbers to sites with any royal connection, however tangential, says Graham Smith, of Republic, which campaigns to abolish the monarchy.