Tourism boost seen in palace opening: Forte says announcement will mean good publicity and help to fill hotels

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TOURISM-RELATED companies are gearing up for the boost to business expected to be generated by plans to open Buckingham Palace to visitors in the summer.

Richard Power, director of corporate communications at Forte, the biggest operator of hotels in the UK, said: 'This will get London into the headlines for the right reasons and will help fill the hotels.'

But analysts said it was impossible to quantify the extent of the benefit to hotels, airlines, restaurants and other tourism-sensitive businesses.

Peter Hillier, leisure analyst at BZW, said that hotel groups and Oxford Street retailers were among the businesses that could expect to benefit from knock-on spending. 'But the main benefit is intangible,' he added.

'It puts another focal point in London for tourists and produces good vibes to counter the bad ones from events such as IRA bombs.'

Mr Power, who is also a director of the London Tourist Board, said most hoteliers had contibuted to a pounds 2m marketing drive to promote the capital in North America. 'The research we have done suggests that the heritage, and particularly the Royals, are a major attraction for American visitors,' he added.

A survey by the English Tourist Board showed that 27 per cent of overseas visitors named Buckingham Palace when asked what places they had decided to see before setting out for Britain. Only the Tower of London had more unprompted mentions.

In summer almost 50 per cent of holidaymakers watch the Changing of the Guard. The commonest inquiries at the British Travel Centre in Regent Street relate to the Changing of the Guard, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Isabel Coy, of the British Tourist Authority, said the body's overseas offices were inundated with inquiries yesterday about the opening of the palace.

But Mike Richardson, marketing director of the English Tourist Board, maintained that the level of interest could cause problems. 'They pitched the entrance price too low,' he said. 'They should be charging pounds 15 instead of pounds 8 - there is bound to be a problem with touts.'

A report from Headland Research this week estimated that the UK holiday market was pounds 12.5bn in 1990, of which 41 per cent came from foreign visitors. It forecast an increase in turnover leading to the holiday market accounting for 5 per cent of consumer spending by the year 2000.

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