London was abuzz with excitement this past weekend, as our new monarch was crowned in Westminster Abbey with the obligatory pomp and ceremony that we are known the world over for. Whether you are a monarchist or not, it was an incredibly well-organised event and an important moment for the nation to come together to soak up the atmosphere, relish the patriotic festivities and show off London at its very best.
It was of course especially crucial for our hospitality, leisure and retail businesses with the increased footfall expected, particularly following such a difficult few years.
This historic moment in British history has proven to be a magnet at home and abroad. The online travel agency Opodo say they saw a 121 per cent increase in searches for trips to the capital for the bank holiday weekend compared to the same period last year. Premier Inn said all its rooms in Westminster sold out in 15 minutes after the coronation date was announced in January, and across the country, a four per cent boost in retail footfall was predicted by experts MRI Springboard. Incredibly, Brewer Greene King expected to pull 1.8 million pints in its 1,600 pubs during the celebrations!
In readiness for the influx of visitors, the capital put on a world class show, with flags and decorations, picnics, art installations, special tea parties and much more, to entertain visitors and Londoners. Across London, I am proud to see how the public and private sectors are working together to showcase London at its very best, with Business Improvement Districts leading the way.
In Westminster, the focus of the ceremonial events, the London Heritage Quarter BIDs kicked off a Nature Trail to mark the King’s longstanding commitment to the environment. This trail features sculptures of a Squirrel, Hare and Badger, found in Christchurch, Lower Grosvenor and Whitehall Gardens, enabling visitors to experience the processional route in a different way. The trail launched for the coronation, will expand and continue right through until August. The BIDs also worked with local business volunteers to ‘Smarten and Sparkle’ key locations throughout the footprint in advance of the influx of visitors over the weekend.
The experience of visiting our great city matters – it matters to workers, tourists and residents alike. The better the experience, the more likely it is to be vibrant and prosperous. Moments such as the coronation are of course an opportunity to put a spotlight on the capital, but the real opportunity is to create world class experiences all year-round. I know from seeing the work of BIDs across the city that there are exciting plans in the pipeline, from public realm improvements to high profile cultural events, all aiming to make London the best city in the world to visit and do business in.
So, having enjoyed the celebrations of the past few days, let’s also celebrate the reawakening of our capital and the role we are all playing in its resurgence. The last few years have been challenging, but together we are pulling together to support our businesses, attract new investment and welcome tourists back once again.