'Gibraltar is a natural tourist magnet with few people failing to be impressed by the massive limestone outcrop which towers over the city. Government policy has been successful in attracting over 5 million visitors annually. Most of these enter via the land frontier with Spain, but, as Minister for Tourism and Transport Joe Holliday told the House of Assembly in May, 'Gibraltar has great potential as a cruise port of call.' He added 'it is now necessary to dedicate time and money to improving the product offered to cruise operators.'
Minister for Tourism and Transport
Within an area of just 2.5 square miles, Gibraltar boasts first-class shopping facilities, extremely good value VAT-free stores, quality hotels, a range of excursion opportunities, a unique blend of 14th century Arab, 15th and 16th century Spanish and British Colonial architecture and numerous historical sights. It is an ideal combination for the cruise visitor with a limited amount of time ashore: a lot can be seen in a short space of time because all points of interest are in close proximity.
But with cruise ship calls lasting just five or six hours, this doesn't allow much time for passengers to properly appreciate what the city has to offer.
One or two cruise operators have experimented with lunchtime arrivals and midnight departures which has changed the shape of activity time spent ashore. 'Passengers looked around the Rock and did all the tourist things during the day and then returned to the ship to change and go out for an evening meal, a visit to the Casino or headed for some of the pubs,' says George Gaggero, head of agency/tour company M H Bland. Holliday would like to see more calls similarly timed and added that to bring about this change 'we would offer adequate night entertainment and late night shopping.'
Demographic studies of cruise passengers show they have more spending power than most other types of tourist. Tony Welsh of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce says shopkeepers see their daily takings rise significantly when a ship like Oriana calls. Although shops sell many goods VAT-free, import and other taxes have increased prices on luxury items. To tip the balance back in Gibraltar's favour, tax refund schemes are being looked at says trade, industry and finance minister Peter Montegriffo.
Cruise traffic has grown almost by itself over the past few years. Now Gibraltar is specifically targeting the development of this sector.The Gibraltar Cruise Liner Terminal is a key instrument in realising this goal.