By Laura Lynch
With less than 48 hours to go before Friday's royal wedding, London is filling up with tourists and media from all over the globe. The influx means a significant injection of cash into Britain's beleaguered economy, but there's a cost to all this revelling and it's one that may not be easy to bear as the country limps out of recession.
Colorful ceremonies like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace draw the tourists in from all over the world, proving that when it comes to pomp and pageantry, Britain still rules the world.
Diane Morton and Donalda Ammons of Boca Raton, Fla. bought their plane tickets as soon as they heard the wedding date. Morton said they felt compelled to come.
"We had a special feeling for William and Harry also," she said. "Losing their mother at such a young age there's always been a soft spot in our heart for them. This is an opportunity to be here and say, I was here."
The country's tourism agency projects 600,000 tourists will spend more than $80 million in the next few days.
"We have five hotels in central London, including the W London which just recently opened," said Michael Whale of the Starwood hotel chain. "Already we're seeing the pace of bookings for the royal weekend it's 50 percent up on where we were last year so we know we're going to be full over that weekend."
Benefits for all
Whale said he is also hoping there will be long term benefits.
"Two and a half billion people are reported to be going to be watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton anything that showcases London and the history and the wonderful location of we have here will benefit us all."
Smaller businesses are also seeing a royal wedding bounce. Alison Hewitt runs a souvenir shop near Trafalgar Square
"We've got plates of different sizes and we've got larger ten inch plate, a seven inch plate and a five inch plate and we have bells, mugs, key rings," Hewitt said. "We have buntings, tea towels, pens, lighters and shot glasses. It is selling very very well and we're very happy."
Still, not all the economic news is good, partly because so many people are taking time off because of the wedding. This week has been a bit of a holiday bonanza for Britons. It started with the four day Easter weekend.
There's another day off scheduled for Monday, a so-called "bank holiday". But Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to give everyone another holiday on Friday.
"It is estimated that in the UK an additional bank holiday costs between $8 and $10 billion," said Andrew Cave, of the Federation for Small Business. "And that is obviously going to impact on small businesses that employ people and having to allow their staff to take a day off will have a significant impact on the management of their businesses."
Add to that the security price tag for the wedding itself, estimated at more than $30 million, and it might cause some here to grumble. After all, Britain is living through tough times with shrinking living standards, job cuts and more pain to come.
So it might be surprising that a poll released this week suggests 75 percent of the British public believe the wedding will cheer up those who are feeling gloomy.
London taxi drivers, usually a sceptical bunch, seemed to agree with the poll.
"I think it will cheer people up because it takes peoples' minds off all the other rubbish," Richard Bowman said.
Fran Cornish agreed but also said the feel good factor will not last.
"It's probably a lifter," Cornish said. "But I think there are more important issues at the moment. You need some financial stability. And we need to see growth. And that's what's going to cheer people up more than anything."
As for their own fortunes, the cabbies are feeling pretty upbeat. Whatever the mood in the country, lots of people are going to be looking for taxis on Friday and that is enough reason for them to celebrate the wedding.
Regent Street, London (Copyright Jeff Overs / BBC)
Donalda Ammons and her partner Diane Morton (Photo: Laura Lynch)
London cabbies from (left to right) Richard Bowman, Fran Cornish and Eddie Powell-Freeman (Photo: Laura Lynch)
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