The Forgotten Destination Icons

Royal Barge at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River PageantWhen we think about travel and destinations, we often default to focusing on the icons, monuments, feats of engineering and natural wonders. We speak of their majesty, their history, their importance, their creation, and how they define aspects of each destination.

What we so often forget are the iconic personalities of a place – the people, past and present, who add a depth of richness and meaning to a place.

At no time, and nowhere, has there been a more powerful display of this than in London from 2nd to 5th June 2012. It was over these few days that the people of the United Kingdom and the world, came together, to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 60 year reign.

Through English summer weather of  a cold pouring rain and winds blowing Union Jack flags into a dizzy show of the red, white and blue, an estimated million people lined the banks of the Thames to soak up not only the rain, but the spirit of her majesty. As the Queen and her family sailed down the Thames on the royal barge, decorated in Diamond Jubilee best, with a never-seen-before one thousand water craft following, she herself standing for a solid four hours despite the challenging weather, tens of millions around the world watched in warmer, drier environments, many with envy, thinking ‘how I wish I was there!’ And this was only the start of the events that took place in honour of the Queen.

One woman, 60 years at the throne, truly an icon. And while Big Ben stands tall, Westminster Abbey stands proud and Buckingham Palace stands royally, London’s icons simply became backdrops for the icon that was the crowning glory of not just the Commonwealth, but of the world – Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

For all of us in the travel and tourism industry, there is an important lesson here – one that we must literally and figuratively take to heart… we mustn’t forget the importance, influence and incredible impact of the iconic personalities of a destination.

The spirit of the Diamond Jubilee that took over not just London but all of the United Kingdom was not about a place; it was about the love and respect for a person. With this came an incremental hundreds of thousands of tourists to London in early June – shoulder period in tourism industry terms – as a random act of tourism impulse, or to see the city before the Olympians moved in. It was because of a Queen – a woman who has embraced for sixty years the duty that fell onto her elegant yet sturdy shoulders at a young age. Even the most cynical of royal family followers, could not deny it – She is special.

Through all of the celebrations, the pageantry and beauty of the city, ensured that destination Britain remained aspirational, and through the Queen a renewed ‘must see’ on “travel wish lists”. One iconic personality can be the difference between tourism industry stability and fragility. Iconic personalities are tourism assets, and must be celebrated with equal importance as buildings and history.

Destination London is able to see through the rain of the ongoing global economic crisis because of its love and appreciation of its most majestic of icons.

God save the Queen.