For most people traveling to London, the list of things to do and places to see is long and exhaustive, with stops, perhaps, at the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
But Paris Schmidtke isn’t like most people. Her list consists of one thing: See Meghan Markle, and ideally her newborn child.
It’ll be her first vacation in five years.
“The birth of Meghan’s baby is the sole driving purpose of this trip,” Ms. Schmidtke, 37, said in a phone interview from her home in Orlando, Fla. “Some people will pay thousands to see Beyoncé. I’m spending a little over a thousand to see Meghan and the baby.”
But perhaps she is not so unusual. The London tourism industry excels at building up to royal babies, royal weddings and other royal events, said Laura Citron, the chief executive of London and Partners, the mayor of London’s official promotional company.
“Visitors and Londoners alike can feel like they’re really part of something special,” she said.
And while Ms. Schmidtke will likely find the majority of Londoners going about their lives as usual when she arrives in mid-April, other royal superfans will be there, as will small nods to Baby Sussex in the city’s restaurants, hotels and bars.
In honor of the upcoming birth, the Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, began offering a royal high tea in March intended to bring in mothers and mothers-to-be to celebrate their pregnancies.
The Kensington Hotel is offering parenting sessions with Sarajane Ambrose, the founder of nanny and maternity nurse agencies Imperial Nannies and Maternally Yours. Another hotel, Dukes London, launched a Baby Butler service where a butler is specifically “on hand for the baby’s every wish!” Parents who use the service, which was created in honor of the royal baby, get a call from the butler before their trip to make plans, and they receive a special babysitting rate when they arrive. Their babies can also have organic food and rooms will be set up with a cot, diapers, blankets and toiletries specifically for their babies.
Although the plans around the birth of Baby Sussex have been kept under wraps by Kensington Palace, previous royal births have led to a buzz in the city and involvement from the city’s most famous landmarks.
When Prince Louis was born last April, Tower Bridge and the Golden Jubilee bridges were illuminated in blue to celebrate, BT Tower in Fitzrovia projected the words “It’s a boy” at the top of the building and the London Eye was lit in the union jack colors. A 62-gun salute was fired from the Tower of London.
Prince Louis, like his other two siblings and his father and uncle, was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. At each birth, well-wishers gathered outside, some dressing up, others carrying flowers and all waiting for the new parents to come outside with their newborn.
Although it’s impossible to quantify the effect of a royal birth or wedding on tourism to the city, experts said that royal history and events are key drivers of tourism to London and surrounding areas.
“Windsor Castle’s bookings increased by 92 percent in just three months following the royal wedding last year,” Ms. Citron said. “It’s clear that our royal properties are hugely popular amongst visitors from all over the world.”
This birth may prove even more popular. The excitement around the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has been evident from the moment they announced their engagement in 2017. That Ms. Markle is older than the prince, divorced, biracial and American resonated with many people, including Ms. Schmidtke, whose son is biracial.
[Everything you wanted to know and more about the royal baby, answered here]
“That Meghan is biracial excites me,” said Ms. Schmidtke, who had hoped to travel to London for the wedding, but couldn’t afford it at the time (a former teacher she is now back in school). “Their relationship is this reminder that it’s O.K. to cross borders, to love outside borders, to love people who are different, and we need to protect that. People physically showing up for Meghan, Harry and their baby is just that.”
She was one of 29.2 million people in the United States who watched Ms. Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding on television, in comparison to the 22.7 who watched Kate and William’s wedding in 2011. More recently, the popularity of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was seen when they opened an Instagram account that amassed more than 4 million followers in less than a week.
“This birth is quite different because of the American link,” said Patricia Yates, director of Visit Britain, Britain’s national tourism agency. “This is a continuation of the love affair between Americans and Britain.”
In a 2016 survey, London and Partners asked Americans who they would most want to give them a tour of London. The top choice? Her Majesty The Queen. Princes William and Harry came in second and third. If the survey were administered today, it’s likely that Ms. Markle would be on the list.
“Meghan speaks to a new demographic,” Ms. Yates said. “She represents a modern lifestyle that people can understand. She makes royalty a little more accessible. She has been a breath of fresh air.”
Terry Hutt has been waiting outside St. Mary’s Hospital for five royal babies: William, Harry, George, Charlotte and Louis. He has also attended several royal christenings, weddings and funerals. He spent 13 days camped outside the hospital’s Lindo Wing when Prince George was born in 2013. Mr. Hutt said if Ms. Markle does have her child at St. Mary’s and he is in town, he will be there.
“It’s lovely to see William and Harry grow up and see them get married and have children. Seeing them start their own families brings life into the royal family. They are youngsters modernizing the royal family,” he said.
“God, I hope to be in the crowd and I hope Meghan comes outside and takes a photo,” Ms. Schmidtke said. “I just want to be there to inhale and take in all the excitement.”
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