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Santos seeks to ‘tap into Gib’s energy’ as he explores tourism opportunities

by Shania Ticknell-Smith

Christian Santos, the new Minister of Equality, Employment, Culture, Youth and Tourism, has only been in office for three weeks but is already thinking of new ways to attract new tourists to Gibraltar.

While many tourists come to Gibraltar to primarily visit the monkeys up the Rock, Mr Santos also wants to focus on the potential of the town.

The GSLP/Liberals’ electoral manifesto included projects such as the beautification of central areas including Casemate square, Chatham Counterguard and Main Street.

But the minister, whose professional background is in the performing arts and creative sector, seems to have more in mind.

“I want to offer new opportunities downtown, bring a different vibe, a different feel, by just exploring what we already have,” he said.

“It's about an energy, and this is something that's not palpable.”

“In Gibraltar, we have an energy. Gibraltar has an energy and I think it's [about] tapping into that.”

Mr Santos shows enthusiasm for his job as he offers more insight into what Gibraltar can expect in the tourism industry in the next upcoming years.

The GSLP/Liberal manifesto at the last election highlighted a number of projects and initiatives to develop areas such as sustainable heritage tourism and encouraging visitors to walk and cycle around the Rock.

Specific projects include the refurbishment of the WWII tunnels which will be known as the “WWII tunnel experience.’

This is set to include a new gift shop, a 1940’s inspired bar, brand new exhibits and a new conference centre.

The manifesto also mentions the plans for an artillery park which will display the military
architecture of Gibraltar from medieval times to modern defences.

This project will be linked with the development of the Northern Defences and will provide a walking trail.

Other projects in the pipeline include the restoration of the 9.2-inch gun which will hopefully be relocated to its original location at Levant battery on the upper rock, creating a new attraction for tourists.

“This is why I'm quite excited about tourism because we are looking at all the different opportunities that we have,” Mr Santos said.

Underpinning many of these projects is the goal of encouraging visitors to spend more time on the Rock to explore the many different sites and attractions on offer.

But getting visitors to stay for more than a day or two can be a difficult task, with the government exploring different types of offerings including events-led tourism and other such niches.

“We have a lot of new plans that will bring a new type of visitor as well,” Mr Santos said.

“We want to focus on niche tourism as well.”

Although he has only been in office for three weeks, Mr Santos has also started making progress on his plans to revamp youth centres and training opportunities in Gibraltar.

The GSLP/Liberals introduced many new plans in their manifesto at last month’s general election,
including refurbishment of Gibraltar's youth centres.

“I want to turn it or use it more like a youth community and resource centre,” he said.

The minister plans to offer a safe space where young people can socialise, do group schoolwork or simply go to the cafeteria and hang out with friends in a fun environment.

“A way where young people who don't have the appropriate age to be out and about on a Friday
night can kind of hang and not have to be outside a park,” he said.

“That is fine too, but we need to offer young people different venues, premises and opportunities.”

In order to replace the work experience system which used to be offered to students in year 10, the minister also plans to implement a careers advice office for young people in the youth centres, for those who might be struggling with deciding what it is that they want to do.

“In the new centres, I want to have a careers advice office because this is something that I think is very important for kids to have access to and have a professional who will tell you, ‘listen, what are your skills? Okay, this is what you can offer the world.’”

He further added: “What I think we need to do as a community, not even as a government, as a
community, is teach our young children from a very young age that there are many different options, many different professions.”

In the manifesto there are plans to incorporate llanito and Arabic into Gibraltar's schooling system, in order for the younger generations to learn more about Gibraltar's culture, not just in the sense of language, but also learning about the gastronomy, history and beliefs.

The minister talks about the importance of llanito, and how it goes beyond the language.

“We are our background, [the people] who came into Gibraltar to make us the unique Gibraltarian
person that we have today. We are not just British. We also have Genoese influences and

"We are a mixed pot of cultures here.”

Shania Ticknell-Smith is a Westside student on work experience with the Chronicle and she was
accompanied by a Chronicle journalist for this interview.

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