Royal Staffers Face Layoffs as Palaces Lose Millions in Tourism Income amid Coronavirus

The Royal Collection charity is faced with losing tens of millions of dollars this year because the palaces are closed to tourists

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Royal staffers face being laid off this summer as Queen Elizabeth’s palaces and castles remain closed amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

Talks are underway at the palaces to discuss redundancies that some estimate could affect around 200 staff members.

The staff is employed by the Royal Collection Trust, the charity that runs the opening of the palaces and the accompanying stores. The Trust’s income comes almost entirely from visitor funds in the form of ticket sales and gift shop sales and, with the palaces closed due to coronavirus, the crisis means that tens of millions have been wiped off the expected earnings this year.

The Master of the Royal Household, Vice-Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, reportedly told staff in an email, "We may not be fully operational across all of our various activities until 2021. As a result, we have had to start considering some very difficult decisions."

Buckingham Palace would not comment on the email, which was first published in The Sun.

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<a href="" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> II
Queen Elizabeth II. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

A spokesperson for the Royal Collection Trust would not confirm the redundancy figures, but tells PEOPLE, "The Covid-19 pandemic has posed by far the greatest challenge to Royal Collection Trust in the charity’s history. The closure to the public of Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, and The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh has had a very significant and serious impact on our finances."

Income from tourists and the shops inside the palaces was expected to be $97 million but is now forecast to be $16.5 million.

"Based on current cost assumptions, it is estimated that Royal Collection Trust will incur a loss of £30 million ($37.6 million) by the end of 2020/21," the spokesperson adds.

Buckingham palace back garden
Rear garden at Buckingham Palace. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

The annual summer opening of Buckingham Palace was canceled earlier this year, and around 400 temporary staffers were laid off as they wouldn't be needed to help with the tours. But the Royal Collection Trust is hoping to reopen some of the residences and galleries to the public in late July.

"We believe that, for the foreseeable future, lower visitor numbers can be accommodated within a five-day-week opening at all sites, with Tuesday and Wednesday as our closed days, but we will keep this arrangement under review," the spokesperson says.

In order to continue to operate in the future, they will have to do so with a "lower cost base to recover our financial position. Inevitably this must include a reduction in staff costs, which is our greatest single expense," the statement adds.

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