How UK Hospitality Boomed While Nation Mourned the Queen

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Hospitality Trends

World events can have a massive impact on what’s happening in hospitality.

It only takes one major thing - a major sporting event, the Eurovision song contest, or, the death of a queen - to send things spinning in an unpredictable direction. 

So when her majesty Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September 2022, the ripples of shock were felt from Balmoral to Barbados. Not since the passing of Princess Diana had the world seen such a collective outpouring of grief. 

Nearly one million people, from home and abroad, came to pay their respects. At its peak, the queue to see her Lying-in-State reached 10 miles and a 24-hour waiting time. 

And the hospitality industry, which had been brought to its knees by the pandemic, suddenly saw a surge in demand for accommodation, travel and dining. 

One million people flock to London

As the country went into mourning, tourism went into overdrive. Global Data had already predicted nearly 21,500 visitors per day in London for 2022. However, shortly after the announcement of the queen’s death, this figure went into overdrive. reported a surge in bookings by 85% for the day of her funeral on the 19th of September, as people flocked to the capital to take part in history. 

Pressure mounts on the hospitality industry

The problem was, it was not your usual, run-of-the-mill tourists. 10,000 police officers were brought in for security, which amounted to around 45,000 rooms over the 10-day mourning period. 

In the days prior to the funeral, 2000 or so foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and officials flew into London, the most important of whom either stayed at Buckingham Palace or Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair. 

Meanwhile, the world’s press descended in droves putting massive strain on hotels and restaurants in London and Windsor, where the queen had more or less retired to, in the months before her death. 

To close, or not to close

With many staff keen to pay their own respects, the industry entered into a lively debate on platforms like Twitter asking what was appropriate. The Drinks Business even ran a poll on LinkedIn to see what the public thought about closing or not. But for many it was a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Centre Parcs, which has six venues across the UK, was heavily criticized for announcing that it would close on the Monday of the funeral, leaving guests already booked in without somewhere to stay. They quickly u-turned and announced guests already on-site could stay, but on-site facilities like restaurants, would be closed. It was not a popular decision.

Pubs across Britain largely stayed open, and extended opening hours, as a way of bringing communities together. While fast food outlets like McDonalds, which has nearly 1,400 restaurants across the UK, announced it would close until 5pm on the day of the Queen’s funeral to allow staff to pay their respects. 

Other establishments like cult London steakhouse, Hawksmoor, said they’d be sticking with business as usual only to have some call them out as ‘disrespectful’. 

City of London begs hospitality industry to keep doors open

With genuine concerns about how they were going to feed and house the people flocking to the capital, the Greater London Authority appealed to the hospitality industry to stay open. A move that was welcomed by the industry.

Price hikes and bumped reservations 

Many hotels and guesthouses hiked prices between 30 and 40%. Others, bumped guests booked months in advance to make way for VIPs and ‘funeral tourists’ with deep pockets. The average price of a five-star hotel in London soared to €1,200, as the industry saw bookings increase to 95% occupancy across all categories. It’s estimated 60% of those guests arrived from abroad. 

One disgruntled guest tweeted it was tantamount to "treason", while UK Hospitality responded: “Thank you to all those hospitality businesses and their staff who taken the decision to remain open on the day of the funeral to help people pay their respects to the Queen and her family, be it in their local communities or those who have traveled, at this sad time”

The trickle-down effect

Sales of marmalade were up 40% in the week after her funeral, while Dubbonet (an old-school aperitif, said to be the Queen’s favourite drink when mixed 2 parts Dubbonet to 1 part gin) sold out in stores across the UK. But the economic boost was not limited to Britain. 

Across the pond in New York’s Greenwich Village, nicknamed ‘Little England’ in some circles, British style restaurants did a roaring trade over full English breakfasts, fish and chips, and ‘bangers and mash’. Eater critic Robert Sietsema reported it was impossible to get a seat at Tea and Sympathy, which was established by London transplant Nicky Perry in 1981 and lavishly decorated with framed pictures of her majesty Elizabeth II. 

A brighter future for hospitality

After such difficult, and unpredictable times, it comes as little surprise that the industry looked to make gains where it could. And it points to a trend in a recent study by American Express, that hotel prices will rise across the board in 2023. 

London is predicted to rise by 6.2%, Paris by 10%, New York by 8.2% and Buenos Aires, a whopping 30%. And this means exciting new opportunities for those working in the industry. Check out Hosco’s huge variety of hospitality jobs, across multiple countries and start on the road to your dream job today.



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