The debate about Britain's constitution should not be cheapened by the promise of a few extra tourist dollars, yet the myth of the monarchy's tourism value is persistently promoted by monarchists. Let's be clear: tourism would thrive in a British republic.
Monarchists tell us, as if this is the killer argument, that the monarchy is great for British tourism. It is sad that we have to include tourism as a subject of our campaign. This question should simply have no place in any debate about our constitution. As former Economist editor Bill Emmott observed: "This [argument] is embarrassing because it suggests we should maintain a constitutional arrangement for purely commercial reasons." In other words, monarchists seem to believe we should sell our democracy for the price of a postcard.
Unfortunately this argument is repeated too often for us to simply ignore it. So let's take it on face value and answer the claim that monarchy is good for tourism.
Quite simply there isn't a single piece of evidence to support the claim. The question that monarchists cannot answer to their advantage is this: would tourism suffer if the monarchy were abolished? We can't tell the future, but we can point to a number of facts, statistics and arguments which allow us to safely conclude that tourism would not only continue successfully in a British republic - it would probably benefit from the abolition of the monarchy.
The 'tourism argument' for a republic
A simple piece of reasoning is a good place to start.
Tourists come to see the sights and to pay for experiences while on their holidays.
In so far as the monarchy provides any tourism value it is in the shape of palaces and castles.
Buckingham palace is closed to tourists for most of the year. When it is open the visiting public are only allowed to see a small fraction of the rooms. It is reasonable to conclude therefore that if the palace were open all year round, and if the entire palace and gardens were open to the public, tourist visits would increase considerably.
Why wouldn't they? It would be a far better bang for the tourist buck.
This point is demonstrated by contrasting the success of the ex-royal Tower of London with Buckingham palace.
Buckingham palace is falling down and the palace officials have been demanding more cash from the government. As a tourist attraction it doesn't even make it into the top 20 in the country. The Tower of London's funding is entirely independent of government grants and the tourist revenue they bring in allows them to maintain the buildings to a high standard, while providing tourists with an exceptional experience.
VisitBritain, the body responsible for researching and promoting Britain as a tourist destination, surveyed 26,000 people about what attracted them to Britain. The monarchy was well down the list. A spokesperson from VisitBritain said the palace is: "one of those iconic photo destinations and we try to discourage 'tick-box tourism' - just going and having your photo taken somewhere and moving on." So even though people may go to see the sights, the monarchy is of limited value to the tourist industry as it does not generate revenue and is not the reason people visit Britain.
Even if there were a small minority who came to Britain for the monarchy - a minority no doubt outweighed by the extra tourists who would come to see a fully accessible palace - such tourism only benefits central London. The monarchy can do little for tourism in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.
As we've said, Buckingham palace doesn't make it into the top 20 of tourist destinations. Of the top 20 tourist attractions in the UK only one royal residence makes the grade, Windsor Castle at number 17 (beaten comfortably by Windsor Legoland, in at number 7). It has been estimated that royal residences account for less than 1% of total tourist revenue.
Finally let's speak up for the ingenuity, creativity and hard work of ordinary people in this country. It is our heritage, our culture, our attractions that people want to come and see. We don't need the Windsor family to lend a helping hand for us to bring in tourists. We're doing pretty well without their help and would do better still if they handed the palaces back to the people who paid for and own them.