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Cash-strapped California eyes royal tourism boost

08 june 2011, 14:32
California. ©RIA Novosti
California. ©RIA Novosti
Britain's Prince William and his new bride Catherine are due in California next month, for a trip the cash-strapped US state hopes will give a royal boost to its tourist industry, AFP reports.

While travel chiefs hope to showcase the Golden State's attractions for visitors, speculation is intense over exactly where the newlyweds will go and who they will see during the July 8-10 trip.

Meeting Hollywood stars, enjoying the beach at Malibu, dinner with Elton John or the Beckhams -- who may have some fresh baby tips for them -- nothing can be ruled out for the three-day trip, due after a seven-city tour of Canada.

"No matter where they venture in California, the royal visit will create a global postcard for the Golden State this summer," said Caroline Beteta, head of the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

"Certainly at a time when international travel is leading the rebound in the industry, it's a pivotal time for California to be on the world stage with a such a highly-publicized visit by the royal newlyweds," she told AFP.

The couple have already narrowed down the options, saying last week they plan to visit "Los Angeles and surrounding areas" on the trip, the first to the United States by Catherine, who married the man second in line to the British throne April 29.

That will have disappointed some of California's top tourism spots further north, including Yosemite and Redwood national parks, San Francisco or Death Valley on the other side of the Sierra Nevada.

But it still leaves open a swathe of possibilities centered on LA, home to an enormous British community as well as the center of the US movie industry, and playground to its Tinseltown stars.

"Their lives have already been made into a movie, so a stay in Hollywood seems natural," said celebrity bible People magazine, referring to a television film released to coincide with their wedding.

A meeting with David and Victoria Beckham -- guests at the wedding who live with their children in a Beverly Hills mansion -- is seen as among the most likely stops.

In theory, they could even catch the British soccer megastar in action when his team LA Galaxy plays on July 9 -- although that could be torpedoed by the birth of the Beckhams' fourth baby, due in July: who knows, the royal couple could be among the first to welcome the newborn.

Elton John, a close friend of William's mother Princess Diana, also has a place here, although he too has a baby to look after since he and partner David Furnish announced Zachary's birth by a surrogate mother in December.

Then again, they might prefer to hang out in Santa Monica, home to a huge British population who have long flocked to the sea-front community and its lively pier, end of the world-famous Route 66.

"We are very excited to have the royals coming to California, and would very much welcome a visit from them," said Lisa Powers, manager of Ye Olde King's Head pub, steps from the pier and beach.

"A lot of our customers are anticipating that they will show up for a pint of British beer and some fish and chips -- we would of course welcome them with open arms."

It will not be the first British royal trip to California: William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1983, stopping in LA, San Diego, Palm Springs and San Francisco.

Princess Diana was a hit when she came in the 1980s, while father Prince Charles and his second wife Camilla visited the San Francisco Bay area in 2005.

The trip comes as California, the most populous US state whose economy would make it the eighth largest economy in the world if it were a country, struggles to recover from the global recession.

But tourism chiefs say the travel sector is leading the recovery.

"Travel no doubt took a hit in 2009 when the global economy took a major downturn and people were forced to make tough spending choices. The good news now is that travel is on the rebound," said Beteta.

"Leisure travel from all of California's top international markets, with the exception of Japan, are forecasted to experience growth into 2015," she added.

And she said: "California is already a premier travel destination for visitors worldwide. The royal visit will not only cement that status but spur new demand for people to come and visit California."

By Michael Thurston

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