Down Under hopes royal fever lasts, even after Will, Kate and George are gone
Down Under is expecting hordes of visitors from Up Top thanks to a popular little prince named George and his mom and dad, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
As the royal family wrapped up its three-week visit to Australia on Friday, many Americans are already planning their own trips to the region, spawning an anticipated tourist boom.
Many want to see what Kate and Will and Baby George saw — from the fabled Blue Mountains west of Sydney to the iconic Opera House to the Red Centre and beyond. Web traffic is up as much as 40% at the locations Will and Kate visited. During the couple’s stay at a luxury camp next to Ayers Rock, there were reportedly 250 hits a second on the resort’s website, according to The Australian newspaper.
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According to The Australian, more than 508,000 Americans visited Australia last year — an increase of more than 6 percent. That jump was linked to the visits of celebrities Ellen DeGeneres in 2013 and Oprah Winfrey in 2010. Now, thanks to these popular young royals, the number of overseas visitors is expected to climb even higher.
The increase in international interest is also being felt in New Zealand, where the news is especially welcome. Tourism there plummeted after the devastating earthquake in Christ Church in 2011. But with 450 accredited members of the media — including TODAY — covering this royal tour, the world saw a vibrant and thriving New Zealand on display as the royal couple raced yachts, learned about local culture, and admired baby Prince George frolicking with other tots during his first royal play date.
Thursday as Will and Kate took in the sights in Australia’s national capital, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the couple’s visit — the 50th royal trip to Australia — would be remembered as one of the best. But what many locals like best is that this has been a relaxed, family friendly tour, as the couple enjoyed spectacular scenic attractions and Australian wildlife — not only the real marsupials at Taronga Zoo, but the cuddly pretend kind. Speaking in Canberra Thursday, Prince William said, “George goes away with his cuddly wombat which he has taken to chewing so lovingly.” George also has a kangaroo backpack, which sold out almost instantly (the backpacks are back on the site of the Australian Koala Foundation, though the page warns they're "selling fast."
In addition to tourism dollars, the mania for all things Kate and George is fueling another economic boom. When the Duchess wore a cream eyelet dress by Australian designer Zimmerman to the Easter Show, the designer’s website temporarily crashed from an overload of excited repli-Kates.
The Duchess also has sported Kiwi-born designers Emilia Wickstead and Rebecca Taylor. Taylor's blue suit Kate wore in Wellington sold out online in just 30 minutes. Taylor has since created a similar version of the suit online.
Indeed, even items Kate almost wore can be sell outs. At TORY & KO, a jewelry boutique in Wellington, NZ, designers Victoria Taylor — sister of Rebecca Taylor — and Kirstin O’Brien announced on their website that Kensington Palace had selected four pieces of their jewelry for Kate to possibly wear during the tour. In the end, Kate did not, but that has not stopped fans from snapping them up.
The royals may have departed, but royal fever remains.