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Food & Travel

Mar 7, 2014

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?

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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.”

Cathy Alexander —

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

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