(CNN) – The death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has led to shocking scenes in the UK.
In recent days, the ascension of King Charles III has taken place and the Queen’s coffin has traveled through the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh, where it was flown to London and taken to Buckingham Palace for a private ceremony.
On Wednesday, the coffin will be moved to Westminster Hall, where the state funeral – the first to be held in the UK since the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 – will take place on Monday.
The UK is currently in a period of national mourning, which will last until the end of the funeral day, with mourners from around the world flocking to the capital to witness these historic events up close.
In fact, on the day of the Queen’s death, travel app Hopper saw a 49% increase in searches for flights from the US to London compared to the previous day.
Increase in visitors
Hundreds of people paid their respects to the Queen outside Buckingham Palace in London on Saturday 10 September.
Shortly after the news broke, Rachel Shoemaker of Louisa White Travel, a boutique tour operator specializing in tailor-made tours in Britain, received several requests from people wanting to travel to London, some of whom were in the UK at the time. they wanted to extend the trip.
“The Queen had an extraordinary ability to inspire people around the world and there are many Americans, myself included, who feel a special connection to her and want to pay tribute to her,” explained Shoemaker.
But while some tourists have made or are making last-minute travel arrangements, there are many others who are arriving on pre-planned trips in unprecedented time.
Last-minute arrivals will likely struggle to find a hotel room, especially if they plan to stay in London.
Many of the capital’s hotels are now fully booked, and room prices have tripled in some cases, as visitors descend on the city from Wednesday to Monday in the hope of seeing and/or being among the Queen’s coffin at the Palace of Westminster. mourners on Monday, in the streets that have been declared a holiday.
Mourners were already lining up to see the coffin on Tuesday.
“London is quite busy in the coming days as many hotels close online bookings so that availability and prices can be manually managed by overseas delegations,” said Paul Charles, founder of travel PR agency The PC Agency and travel and tourism commentator. industry, he tweeted this week.
Budget hotel chain Travelodge, which operates close to 80 hotels in the UK capital, has reported a surge in bookings, with a spokesman saying staff are “busy preparing ahead of the Queen’s state funeral”. It says its hotels in central London and Windsor are “literally sold out”.
Witness of history
Mourners stand outside the gates of Windsor Castle in the UK following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 12, 2022.
Carl Court/Getty Images
Justin Allen from Illinois, who has visited London several times in the past, is delighted that his trip to the UK capital with his partner Matthew Anastasia coincided with these historic events.
“The trip has become even more historic for my partner who has never been out of America,” Allen told CNN Travel via email.
“Because of him [Anastasia’s] Her first trip to Europe is much more than just a typical London getaway.”
The pair were among those out and about watching the carriage of King Charles III after the UK’s new monarch was formally named on Saturday morning, and Allen says being in the city at this particular moment has been incredibly special.
“The city has become even more animated with the participation of many people,” he added. “I’ve never seen that many people on the streets in all the 18 years I’ve been coming to London.”
Unsurprisingly, one of the busiest sections today is the area around Buckingham Palace, which has become one of the main hubs for people paying their respects to the Queen, and a memorial garden has been established in nearby Green Park.
Several roads surrounding the area are currently closed to traffic, and there will be even more closures on Monday.
Sharron Stone, from Toronto, was enjoying a Baltic cruise with her husband when she docked in London on Friday, a day after the Queen’s death.
“We checked into our hotel and then went to Buckingham Palace,” he says. “We didn’t need directions, we just followed the crowd.
“Hundreds of people walking with us tied bouquets of flowers. Everyone around us was polite and kind, even the police who were on the road when we approached the palace.
“It was clear that people were going to the palace because they wanted to be part of this event that is changing the world.”
‘The event that is changing the world’
US tourists Matthew Anastasia (left) and Justin Allen are delighted to have joined these historic events on a pre-arranged trip to London.
While Stone has already gone home, Allen and Anastasia are still in the capital, hoping to see the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall on Sunday, if they can “wait out the crowd”.
And there will certainly be crowds. Network Rail, Transport for London and industry body Rail Delivery Group have released a joint statement urging those planning to use public transport to plan their journeys in advance during this time due to “unprecedented travel demand in the capital”.
“We expect large crowds, which may pose a risk to public safety. Travelers are asked to follow the instructions given by officials and the police.”
Some flight disruptions are also expected in the coming days, particularly at Heathrow Airport.
When contacted for comment, a spokesman for Heathrow Airport confirmed that some flights would be suspended on Wednesday to ensure silence in central London during the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.
“Passengers will be notified directly by their airlines of any changes to their flights,” CNN said in a statement.
“We are anticipating further changes to the Heathrow operation on Monday 19 September in time for Her Majesty’s funeral and will be announcing these in more detail over the coming days.
“We apologize for the disruption these changes cause as we work to limit the impact on upcoming events.”
People view flowers and tributes outside Windsor Castle on September 12, 2022.
Carl Court/Getty Images
While tourists like Stone and Allen are quite happy to have ended up in the UK this time, others will have a slightly different view, especially if their plans are seriously damaged.
“After postponing my trip to England several times, I finally made it here,” says a traveler named Rebecca from Florida, who is currently visiting the UK. “The next day the Queen will die.
“All roads around Buckingham Palace were closed. It was not possible to visit any of the planned sites.”
With most of the events taking place in the capital, tourists staying outside of London are unlikely to be affected by the crowds.
However, business closures are pretty much inevitable, especially on the day of a funeral, with no place where you are.
Many supermarkets and major shops will be closed on Monday, some for the whole day, others for part of the day.
Travelers who have pre-booked restaurant and theater tickets for Monday are advised to do so early, as many are temporarily closing.
London’s National Theater will close its doors on Monday, and performances of popular productions such as “Hamilton” at the Victoria Palace Theater and “Mamma Mia!” They have been canceled at the Novello Theatre.
Most of the UK’s major cinema chains will also not be open for business on the day of the funeral, although some, including Vue and Curzon, will be open for one screening – a free funeral screening.
Meanwhile, popular royal estates and attractions such as the State Rooms, Royal Mews and The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle have been closed since last Friday and will not reopen for the duration of the mourning.
The state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey, the famous church, which is a popular attraction, will be closed to tourists until September 21.
Cancellation of events
Tourists have flocked to London in recent days, and are expected to arrive in time for the state funeral on September 19.
Claire Doherty/In Pictures/Getty Images
Madeleine Fournier, Puerto Rico, will arrive in London on September 15th for a trip with a group of friends to attend the ABBA Voyage, the virtual concert home of iconic Swedish band ABBA, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
“We are a group of 32, so we have hotels, tours, restaurants, buses to concerts, etc.,” he explained about his journey of almost a year.
So far, apart from Monday’s pre-booked restaurant reservations, none of their plans have had much impact.
But like many other travelers arriving in the UK, Fournier is wary that things can change, and has contacted his hotel, as well as some of the companies the group has booked with, to make sure everything is on track. .
Meanwhile, Texan Cindy Martin is due to fly from Budapest to London on Sunday after completing a Danube river cruise and hopes to “experience some of the events surrounding the Queen’s death that we never got to experience”. We planned this trip months and months ago when we booked it.”
Martin, who has a room booked at the Doubletree By Hilton London in Hyde Park, says the rate tripled when he visited the hotel’s website on Saturday. Like many central London hotels, it is now fully booked on Sunday evening, the night before the funeral.
“[We’re] Hoping against hope that the British Airways flight from Budapest can land at Heathrow on time on Sunday (without being held up by dignitary landings) and we can make it to the hotel,” says Martin.
“Since Monday is a national holiday, we won’t be able to visit museums or do many tours as planned, though [we’re] hoping to see a bit of exchange history.’
Image above: Crowds watch as the hearse carrying Queen Elizabeth’s coffin leaves St Giles Cathedral en route to Edinburgh Airport on September 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr Josek)