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HM The Queen, Cucumber Sandwiches and a Shanghai Surprise

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John Penrose

John David Penrose is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Weston-super-Mare

I’ve heard it said that around 70 per cent of us have had, at some time, a dream about meeting the Queen.

By the nature of things of course, this is a difficult thing to prove or, for that matter, draw any particular conclusions from. We are, after all, talking about the subconscious, a thing that is not particularly compatible with the normal rules of evidence.
But it does chime with what we know about the enormous public popularity of Her Majesty. Wherever she goes, crowds line the pavements and smiling faces greet her. And have done so for 60 years. I’m pretty sure that no one else in the world is regarded with such warmth and, as such, I think this makes her – in the strictly literal sense of the word – unique.*

Pop Up Party

So hats off to the marketing folk at VisitBritain who once again have come up trumps with a wheeze to promote the UK to the Chinese, using the Queen’s ‘image’ in a larky but clever way at something called a ‘pop up’ tea party in Shanghai.**
VisitBritain’s party took place in a shopping centre, with staff from British Airways serving a traditional English afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches and Twinings tea. The Shanghaian shoppers tucked into all this – with a certain amount of excited bemusement, I imagine – while a Beatles tribute band played nearby.
Queen impersonator - Elizabeth Richard

Queen Impersonator goes down a Storm

So far, so surreal. But the crowning (sorry) glory came a few moments later when a Queen lookalike arrived, unannounced, to join in. As our picture shows, the impersonator – Elizabeth Richard – is really rather good and by all accounts, she went down a storm. And original estimates that perhaps a few hundred locals would turn up to watch the fun had to be revised by a factor of ten.

Success Story

Multiply that number further to take in the people who would then have seen it reported in local and national media, and you have the makings of a serious success story. This matters, by the way, because the Chinese market is a really important one.
In 2011 we attracted 147,000 Chinese visitors, up 35 per cent on the previous year. Better yet, while they were here they spent, on average, £1,700 each. This is three times the average that other foreign visitors to Britain normally spend.

The Beatles

And it matters not one jot that an event combining cucumber sandwiches, replicas of Her Majesty the Queen and The Beatles is not quite what visitors to the UK can expect when they arrive this year. It’s all about image and branding, and the subconscious stuff that I mentioned at the beginning.
Oh, and fun too. Which, as the Beatles once sang ‘is the one thing that money can’t buy.’
*There we are, Mr Gill, sometimes we qualify the word, and sometimes we don’t.
**The inverted commas are courtesy of VisitBritain, I’m pleased to say, and provide helpful cover for the fact that I have not the faintest idea how a ‘pop up’ party differs from any other variety.

Photo credit: VisitBritain

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