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GSD says London base for next GTB head ‘highly questionable’, Govt replies Opposition ‘shortsighted’

Pic: Johnny Bugeja

The GSD has described as “highly questionable” the Gibraltar Government’s decision to base the next chief executive of the Gibraltar Tourist Board in London, drawing a rebuke from the Minister for Tourism for being “shortsighted” when Gibraltar needed to be “imaginative and innovative” to attract new business.

The government said the next CEO, who will succeed Nicky Guerrero when he retires later this year, will work from London to maximise established relationships within the industry and to concentrate on Gibraltar’s largest target market.

But the GSD queried how shifting the role to London ties in with the strategic approach to tourism that it says is needed after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has dealt a harsh blow to this crucial sector of the Rock’s economy.

“This represents a significant departure from what has been tourism policy for the past 25 years and without further explanation it is not clear what the justification is other than the Government is removing the role from Gibraltar and shifting it to London without replacing the top position in Gibraltar,” said Damon Bossino, the shadow minister for tourism.

“It represents a detachment and separation which makes no immediate sense to us.”

Mr Bossino said that, in making the announcement, the Gibraltar Government should have set out its wider thinking on its approach to tourism, particularly given the dual challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.

It urged the government to either explain its thinking in greater detail or consider an alternative approach, adding that the GSD would consider the full implications of this “sudden and surprising” announcement.

Vijay Daryanani, the Minister for Tourism, was swift to respond and suggested he had discussed the plan with Mr Bossino before it was announced.

“As usual the GSD are being shortsighted, offering no ideas and no solutions,” Mr Daryanani said.

“Their lack of foresight shows that they live in the dark ages.”

“I had discussed my intentions in advance with Mr Bossino in detail.”

“The tourism industry has evolved greatly over the last twenty-five years, more so over the last year with the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“We need to be imaginative and bring innovative ideas to the table.”

“The Government has received messages of support from our tourism sector at the prospect of this announcement, with all the benefits this will bring in having someone based at the core of Gibraltar’s most important source market for tourism.”

“We will no doubt be able to reach a larger tourism market for the trade and the consumer by having the CEO located in London than in Gibraltar.”

“In these very complicated times we need to be more ambitious and forward thinking in trying our best to deliver for Gibraltar PLC in this extremely challenging industry.”

Mr Guerrero is retiring towards the end of 2021 and, as a first step, a new Chief Executive Officer will be recruited.

The government said it was seeking a strong candidate well-placed in the tourism, transport and maritime sector with the contacts and initiative.

It has engaged the services of a prestigious UK recruitment company for this task and the post will be advertised both in Gibraltar and in the UK.

The Chief Executive Officer will be tasked with leading and raising the profile of Gibraltar’s tourism industry, the government said.

The CEO’s remit will focus in particular on the development of commercial air services and the growth of the cruise ship business.

In addition, the CEO will be tasked with the development of port and maritime-related business.

In questioning the government’s decision to base the new CEO in London, Mr. Bossino thanked Mr Guerrero for his work in the sector.

“I take this opportunity to thank Mr Guerrero for his contribution to the tourism sector throughout the last 25 years, not least in his role as CEO,” Mr Bossino said.

“We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

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