London flight, hotel fares surge ahead of Queen's funeral

·3-min read
Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London

By Muhammed Husain and Chandini Monnappa

(Reuters) - Hotel prices in London and airfares to the British capital are soaring as hundreds of thousands of people flock there ahead of Queen Elizabeth's funeral on Monday, potentially providing some respite to the city's tourism business amid economic woes.

The death of the queen, 96, on Sept. 8 ended a 70-year run on the throne that made her Britain's longest-reigning monarch and one of the world's most recognisable faces as the only British monarch most living people have ever known.

Since the announcement of her death, the average rate for a hotel in London increased to $384 per night from $244 per night, according to Hayley Berg, lead economist at travel startup Hopper.

The rush for accommodation comes as members of the public visit the capital to pay their respects and foreign delegations arrive for the funeral on Sept. 19, with authorities preparing for a huge turnout.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to file past her coffin in a round-the-clock lying-in-state from Wednesday evening to early on the day of her funeral.

High-end hotels - Claridge's, the Connaught, The Dorchester, and the Berkeley in the upmarket Mayfair district - were sold out for Sunday night, their websites showed.

Rates had breached 1,200 pounds ($1,388) for a five-star hotel on Monday and were expected to double in the next five days as the city's hotel system reaches 95% occupancy levels, HotelPlanner said.

More than 60% of travellers were foreign visitors, it added.

Standard hotel chains have also been inundated. More than a dozen hotels operated by Premier Inn owner Whitbread in the city centre were booked out, a Reuters search showed.

Travelodge, which has 78 hotels in the capital said it had seen a surge in booking from all corners of the UK.

POST-PANDEMIC TRAVEL

Average prices for a return flight from the United States to London leaving on Sept. 15, 16 and 17 were $1,120, $1,054 and $967, respectively, Hopper's data showed. That compares with an average price for a transatlantic round trip of $710.

Increased travel as pandemic restrictions eased have boosted hotel rates to record levels this summer, data from analytics firm STR showed. Britons also spent heavily on celebrations to commemorate Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee over a four-day weekend in June.

A weaker pound is also attracting people from abroad and the influx may provide a boost to restaurants, pubs and museums still recovering from the pandemic and as record levels of inflation bite.

It's too early to estimate how big an impact it may have.

Most businesses will likely be shut on Monday, which has been declared a public holiday, limiting the benefit for the hospitality and tourism sector, said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Still, many will be able to make up for it, as most of them did in June after the extra holiday for the Jubilee and similar events in the past had minimal impact on consumers' confidence and their spending decisions, he said.

For now, Pantheon is expecting a 0.2% hit to September GDP levels from the funeral.

($1 = 0.8647 pound)

(Reporting by Muhammed Husain and Chandini Monappa in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by William Schomberg in London; Writing by Pushkala Aripaka, Editing by Josephine Mason and Jonathan Oatis)