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Opinion & Analysis

In my opinion Tourism rethink needed

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

By Jean Paul Lugaro

In these times of economic uncertainty, with an unkind Brexit deal still looming in the air Gibraltar needs to be doing far more to diversify and to bolster our economy.

The Rock of Gibraltar, the jewel of the Mediterranean, surely this icon has enough pull to attract travellers to spend time and money in our beautiful city? With the right investment, tourism could become THE sustainable pillar of our economic strategy. One that moves Gibraltar away from an extractive, construction-centred economy to one that creates sustainable growth and prioritises our quality of life.

Despite Gibraltar’s popularity as a destination, our tourism product is a relatively untapped market. Per the 2021 tourist survey report, the average expenditure of a cruise passenger was less than £45 per day. For those arriving via the frontier it was less than £30.

In today’s age, tourists expect more than just a landmark. Our nature reserve has the potential to be developed into a site which takes several days to explore, with a range of options for different tourists’ budget, interests and fitness levels. Right now, a quick bus or taxi ride to visit St Michael’s Cave and the Monkeys seems to be enough for most, after which they get back on the bus and disappear into the Spanish mainland.

Those who know me can tell you that I’ll never stop going on about the upper rock. There are so many beautiful untouched areas that could be put to use: Princess Amelia’s and Princess Anne’s Batteries are large open spaces with old defences that should be polished up. The Northern Defences which connect to Princess Caroline’s Battery and up onto Governor’s Lookout and all the open areas around it are ripe for opportunity. The product already exists to connect the whole of the upper rock, from north to south and develop it into one large attraction that demands and entices exploration over the course of several days, giving tourists the opportunity to spend more time on our shores.

For all the talk of heritage, we do not speak enough about how responsible development could itself become heritage for our future generations. With the right care and planning the upper rock can host small theatres, restaurants and other attractions which integrate with our unique natural environment and create experiences only Gibraltar can provide.

In exchange, these experiences can support thriving local businesses, create good jobs for locals, and help move us away from the industries which put our environment and our health at risk.

We must ensure this kind of initiative is done properly. We need to actually properly invest in our tourism ministry. Public servants must be given the tools and the opportunity to properly bring Gibraltar’s offering into the 21st century.

Together Gibraltar have shown they have the courage to build a truly sustainable Gibraltarian economy that prioritises our people and protects our quality of life. I’m proud to be working with them on seeing that goal through and I hope we can all get behind building a tourist product that shows off everything Gibraltar can be.

Jean Paul Lugaro is Together Gibraltar’s Spokesperson on Tourism.

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