tip off

A caravan for Kate? Budget tips for the royals’ trip Down Under

Will and Kate’s trip to Australia will cost the government millions. Crikey provides suggestions on how the royals can slash costs … but can Kate pitch a tent?

Australian taxpayers face a $2 million bill from next month’s visit by British royals Will and Kate — so a tourism expert has suggested the pair hold barbecues and fly Tiger to cut costs.

As Crikey detailed yesterday, the federal and state governments pay for visits from British royals:  flights, meals, accommodation, even the gifts they give out. Crikey estimated Will and Kate’s 10-day Australian adventure with baby George will cost $2 million.

It’s lavish. They’re visiting Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Canberra, Uluru and Adelaide. Air force jets will transport the royal entourage (the family plus 11 assistants, including Kate’s hairdresser). They’ll stay at vice-regal mansions and commercial accommodation and attend a slew of official receptions. Royal tours can cost $100,000 an hour.

So is this a good use of taxpayers’ money? The federal government faces a $122.8 billion deficit over the next four years, and Treasurer Joe Hockey says he wants to eliminate waste; “there’s no free lunches from government,” he has said. The royal family will certainly get a few — in the Blue Mountains, Brisbane’s city centre, Parliament House’s Great Hall, etc.

Bearing in mind Hockey’s campaign against “the age of entitlement”, Crikey has devised these tips for Will and Kate to cut costs, with the help of University of Technology, Sydney, tourism lecturer Dr David Beirman …

1. Fly commercial airlines and hire a minibus

The royals will travel by Royal Australian Air Force jet, which costs about $17,000 per hour, on seven flights to and around Australia. “The cost is absolutely prohibitive,” Beirman said. He suggests they fly Qantas — which “needs all the help it can get” — or Tiger or Virgin.

If security is the issue, the royals could fly business class. They’re flying back to London on a regular British Airways flight, so why can’t they do the same in Australia?

Beirman encourages the royals to hire a minibus for their local transport at about $160 a day. On day trips such as to the Blue Mountains on April 17, they could kit out the bus with a portable gas barbecue and esky for lunch. “One of the media people can throw a couple of steaks on the barbecue, weather permitting,” Beirman suggested. In inclement weather the visitors could commemorate family connections with an affordable pub lunch at the Victoria and Albert guesthouse near Katoomba.

2. Stay in budget accommodation

The royals — sans George, who stays behind for that leg — will sleep in commercial accommodation near Uluru. We don’t know where yet. Beirman says royals usually stay in five-star accommodation, so it’ll likely be the Voyagers resort. The fanciest option there is a deluxe suite at the five-star “Sails in the Desert”, at $900 per night. There’s also glamping at $2200.

But “if they want an authentic trip of Australia, they really should stay the way I do; a night in a caravan park would be pretty good,” Beirman said. He suggests the royals stay in Voyagers’ two-star lodge, which is $240, or $198 with shared bathroom. The local campground has a cabin for $160 and campsites at $38. Will and Kate going camping might suit Hockey’s budget strategy, but Beirman isn’t sure it would work. “It’s probably going to be a little much to expect them to pitch a tent, although Will was in the army. I don’t know if Kate is much good at roughing it.”

3. Explore sponsorship options

Beirman suggests Will and Kate investigate contra deals, where they could stay, travel or eat for free in exchange for a testimonial. “I reckon they could get it for free … Mr Hockey will certainly appreciate it.”

The royal family already endorses everything from Weetabix to Nestle and Coca-Cola. There are around 800 holders of “royal warrants,” awarded to companies that provide services to the family. Looking at alcohol alone, the Queen has issued a royal warrant to John Dewar Scotch, Bulmer cider, Harveys sherry, Johnnie Walker whisky, Tanqueray gin, Pimms, eight champagne companies, and more. The Queen supplies a royal warrant to several suppliers of portable toilets, Volkswagen, Bentley, etc. The late Queen Mother apparently had her crest displayed on packs of John Player cigarettes until she died. So the family is not shy in endorsing companies.

While Beirman enjoyed providing budget tips to the royals, he has a more serious point: the government spending $2 million on the visit could be an excellent investment in promoting tourism, particularly from well-heeled British visitors. Australia might get an “absolutely enormous” dividend as pictures of Will and Kate at Taronga Zoo, Manly Beach and Uluru beam around the world.

For a different opinion, republican Greg Barns told Crikey: “It’s a very expensive exercise in letting us all know that no Australian can be head of state … They ought to pay for it. They’re hardly over-taxed. The royal household is worth billions.”

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  • 1
    Aphra
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Committed republican I might well be, but QE2, until the Constitution tells me otherwise, remains the legal Head of State of this country. As such, I think that she and her direct heirs and successors should be welcomed in Australia. Arguing over the cost of these visits seems both childish and churlish to me. They’ll cost less than half the price of Oprah’s visit and there’s three of them - much better value for money - and even more people want to see them!

  • 2
    JohnB
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Aphra nearly convinced me there for a moment. Maybe we should show respect to our German/Greek(etc) inbred rulers.

    But wait a minute! When we visit, we pay to see the royal treasurers. Why should they not pay the going rates to see ours?

    As I said yesterday, if the primary value of this jaunt is to advertise Australian travel to well-heeled Brits, then the travel industry should pick up the tab.

  • 3
    JohnB
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    …to see the royal treasures…”

    Not “treasurers”, it would be worth paying for a meeting with the royal treasurers.

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Crikey, please stop this.

    Surely there are more important dilemmas facing Oz than hypothetically whittling down the expenses of a royal visit. So puerile.

  • 5
    paddy
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Listen Crikey, one day of this nonsense was tiresome and worth ignoring. But two? It’s not even as though it’s a large amount of money in the grand scheme of things.
    There are *real* issues out there that a worth your focus.
    This isn’t one of them.

  • 6
    Ron Edgar
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey Joe and Tone, maybe it would worth the Government investing in a couple of Entertainment books? The coupons would be really handy for Royal visits and hosting foreign dignitaries. They cover everything from food, car hire and airline discounts! Very handy!

  • 7
    BruceHassan
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear. The most interesting thing about two days of this is just how much it reveals of the anti-royal fascination with royalty! Top marks to Ms Alexander for persistence, now hot on the track of Prince Harry’s mini-bar bill, and whether the costs include actual clothes for the Duchess (which will presumably be designed and made by actual Australians). The commentary from Mr Barns, apparently an expert on the costs of royalty in Britain; and the opportunity for some readers to make snide racist remarks about German ancestry (63% of third generation Australians claimed some German ancestry in the last census), just add to the pointlessness of the two articles.
    BTW, the “lavish” cost, by my calculations, works out at about 12 cents per Australian, or about four-times the daily rate of a Crikey subscription. Both good value, but only Crikey manages to be occasionally irritating with such silly “news” stories.

  • 8
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what it would be like if we did have our own, proper, republican Australian head of state (like a president or some such) and had to create a budget for them to do their thing, how generous we, as a nation, would feel like being? Would we require a suitably ostentatious, even pretentious lifestyle with frequent tours OS and local - ie. much more lavish than our current GG? I wonder because we don’t seem to demonstrate that we think the role of head of state, of keeper of the Constitution, of head of the armed forces, is anything very special. We seem to want to treat the current head of state with a kind of contempt - perhaps because we can’t connect her with the rest of celebrity world. But she’s not a celebrity, she’s the head of state.
    Unlike Paddy, I think this is a real issue, but one which so many people simply aren’t interested in. Which is why we can’t get the republic to happen.

  • 9
    Take A Letter Maria
    Posted Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I won’t complain about paying taxes if the Govt can guarantee me my taxes will not contribute to utter wastages like this.

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