Mounties, maple syrup, and... Meghan and Harry? Royal move could boost Canada brand

Moira Warburton and Kelsey Johnson, Reuters

Posted at Jan 17 2020 08:32 AM

TORONTO/OTTAWA - Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's decision to step back from royal duties and split their time between Britain and Canada is expected to boost Canada's brand abroad and benefit tourism, although marketing consultants say the effect will be limited.

Royalty is big business globally. It is estimated that the British monarchy as a whole contributed 1.77 billion pounds ($2.31 billion) to the UK economy annually, a 2017 report by London-based brand valuation firm Brand Finance found.

That comes from intangible assets such as the uplift given to brands with a royal warrant, tourism to landmarks like Buckingham Palace, and the impact of their service as goodwill ambassadors on trade.

Last week, Prince Harry, 35, and former actress Meghan, 38, said they would reduce their royal duties and spend more time in North America, while also becoming financially independent. That sparked a crisis in the British monarchy and led to questions about what it will mean for Canada.

Any potential economic boost will depend on how Canada's newest immigrants relate to their new home, said Charlie Scarlett-Smith, a marketing director with Brand Finance in Montreal.

"If they start really cherishing Canadian brands and cherishing a Canadian identity, then we'll see aspects of those parts of our economy - tourism, etc - start to boost as well," he said.

But any broader impact is likely to be negligible, especially given that the couple appear to want out of the limelight, said Doug Porter, chief economist for BMO Capital Markets.

"The very fact that part of what's motivating this is to step away from the public eye suggests we can't expect any big boost in merchandising or tourism or that sort of thing. I don't expect it would really move the needle at all on the Canadian economy," he added.

The couple, who announced the decision to step back shortly after spending their Christmas holidays in the Canadian province of British Columbia, have trademarked the Sussex Royal brand name.

The UK royal family remains generally popular in Canada, a former British colony that retains Queen Elizabeth as its official head of state.

A poll by pollster Angus Reid found 69% of 1,154 Canadians surveyed hold Prince Harry in a favorable light, although 45% of respondents said Canada should not continue as a constitutional monarchy indefinitely.

Destination BC, the official tourism bureau of British Columbia, estimated that when Prince William and his wife Kate visited in 2016, the print and online coverage of that trip translated into the equivalent of some C$2 million ($1.53 million) worth of advertising in the UK alone.

"As they start doing public events, and confirm their plans for their stay in Canada, I'm sure we'll see more spikes in interest which could certainly lead to visitation as BC gets itself gets more attention," said Clare Mason, spokeswoman for Destination BC.