Prince William and Kate Middleton's much anticipated royal wedding could provide a £620m shot in the arm for Britain's economy, a retail analyst has said.
Tuesday's news that the couple will tie the knot in either spring or summer next year was greeted with excitement by royal fans and many members of the public.
Local politicians were not immune to the royal buzz, with SDLP Lord Mayor of Belfast Pat Convery saying he would welcome a visit by the couple.
“Belfast in recent years has very much become a shared city and in that spirit I would be sure that all the citizens of the city would welcome a visit by the royal couple, either before of after the nuptials,” he said.
Alliance MP Naomi Long said many people here would genuinely want to be part of the excitement surrounding the wedding.
“It has the potential to highlight Northern Ireland again in the public consciousness of somewhere you can go and spend time. It is a tourist destination,” she said.
“And it will give people a boost. Prospects have been fairly bleak, people have been fairly miserable with one bad news item after another.
Mrs Long added: “I would be only too happy to welcome both Prince William and Kate to east Belfast and show them some of the exciting new developments like the Titanic Quarter.”
Analysts predict huge amounts will be spent on wedding souvenirs.
British tourism should also be given a boost.
Neil Saunders, consulting director of retail researchers Verdict, said: “It's hard to put an estimate on what benefit the royal engagement and subsequent wedding will bring to retailers but we believe in merchandise sales alone the engagement could be worth between £12m and £18m.
“Although times have changed since the last big royal engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, many people will still be keen to buy some form of keepsake or memento and retailers will rush to capitalise on the merchandising opportunities.
“The benefit of the wedding itself is much bigger; however, the scale largely depends on how it will be executed.
“If, as expected, it is a big set-piece event, it could well capture the nation's imagination and provide a fillip to the retail sector.
“We think wedding-related merchandise sales could easily top £26m in the UK, while food and grocery retailers could cash in to the tune of £360m as consumers buy extra treats to celebrate the occasion.
“All of this is before the benefits of travel and tourism are factored in; these could well add an estimated additional £216m benefit.
“In total that means we are looking at a £620m consumer spending boost.
“While that may sound like a lot, it should be remembered that this is a potentially massive event which will command not just the attention of Britons, but potentially most of the world.”
Mark Di-Toro, spokesman for Visit Britain, the official website of the British Tourist Authority, said the wedding would benefit areas across the land.
“It has Britain-wide appeal, from north-west Wales where the couple are based to St Andrews in Scotland where they met at university to down south.”
Mr Di-Toro agreed British tourism could be boosted by hundreds of millions of pounds because of the wedding.
“The wedding is great news for William and Kate but also for British tourism,” he said.
“We know from our research that anything to do with the monarchy — places, events, history — generated over £500m in 2009.”
And the tourism spokesman added: “We hope in the royal wedding year to do even better.”
Without British Airways there would be no Kate Middleton, so it seems proper payback that the national carrier will be a leading beneficiary of her marriage to Prince William. Untold thousands will fly with BA to London from across the globe for the holy wedlock of Prince William and the lovely Kate some time next spring or summer. And many, many more will fly out of Britain to escape it.
Nicholas Witchell, it seems fair to say, will not be invited to the wedding – except perhaps in his professional capacity as the BBC's royal and diplomatic correspondent. Tom Bradby, on the other hand, may well be on the bridegroom's personal guest list.