2021 and Beyond
by Vijay Daryanani
Commencing the year in another lockdown is not the start to 2021 we had all envisaged. This is the last thing our retail, hospitality and leisure industries needed after having experienced the most difficult year in recent history that was 2020.
With COVID-19 infections at a dangerously high level in the UK and Spain and increasing quarantine measures being introduced things look a little bleak to say the least.
In Gibraltar we have been fortunate that during the lockdown we have been able to control the number of infections and coupled with the excellent roll out of the vaccine we can now look forward to 2021 with some optimism.
The government has made sure that it has protected all businesses during these difficult times, we have consulted with our business organisations and all major stake holder in our economy providing them with the financial support required.
We now continue to plan and work towards making 2021 better than the last year. Let us not delude ourselves, this is not going to be easy. I have been working tirelessly, engaging with people in the tourism industry abroad to try and attract new business to Gibraltar. The aim is clearly to increase footfall. At the end of the day that is what businesses want, as only that will see an upturn in economic activity in this sector.
One Stop Shop for Business
Today the Government is launching the One Stop Shop for business. We want to promote the establishment of new business, they are the heartbeat of our economy. We want to make it easy for our entrepreneurs to embark on their corporate adventures. This will be handled by the Ministry for Business and I will be directly involved in helping our people to bring their ideas to full fruition.
This sector has been devastated. Where airlines, retail and hotels have had a respite after the last lockdown, Cruising companies have had to keep on waiting. At the moment there is no clear indication when operations will commence but in my informal conversations with people in the industry, I think we will see some movement towards the end of the summer.
Just before the pandemic started I was invited to meetings to discuss Gibraltar as a turnaround port following on from plans I had presented to them during the first month I became Minister for Tourism. I hope to start these discussions soon as I think this would increase Gibraltar’s visibility even more as a premier cruising destination.
Airport and Airlines
I think the Government has had more success in this area. The announcement of Wizz Air was excellent news for our airport, it’s not often that we get a new airline so to get one during the pandemic made it even more special.
I have made representations to a number of airlines who I would like to attract to Gibraltar. UK is our main source market and I hope to make another positive announcement soon in this regard. The possibility of forming part of the Schengen zone has now opened up the prospect of other interesting new routes.
I have already engaged with these airlines and although attracting them will not be easy, I can assure you that I will give my all to open up new markets and increase visitors to Gibraltar. Our airport has the capacity to carry one million passengers a year. I can tell you that my aim is to achieve that goal. I am very ambitious for our airport. We need to aim high. The only way we can do this is by opening up new routes and have as many airlines as possible operating from our airport. I hope to unveil plans on how I intend to market Gibraltar Airport during the course of this year.
Last year we conducted a marketing campaign in Spain. We will look at doing something similar again. In the UK we will want to see how the quarantine rules develop before we take concrete decisions on how to proceed.
Above all I feel that our people, our entrepreneurs, are ready to go. As we open for business today things will look complicated but with our work ethic and determination to succeed I have no doubt we will do so. We must remain positive and defeat this virus together.
Vijay Daryanani is a Liberal Party MP and Minister for Business, Tourism, Transport and the Port.