Neil Costa is the minister for tourism and public transport in Gibraltar and he seems to be on quite some mission to encourage increased numbers of visitors to the famous Rock. The New Statesman recently quoted Costa as saying, ‘There are 180 visits scheduled to Gibraltar from cruise ships, and the ships are getting bigger…Some ships will have up to 3,000 passengers on board. That’s effectively a 10per cent boost to [Gibraltar’s] population, in a single day – except one day this year we had four ships in one day’. All of this emphasis on increased tourism has led some people to question why on earth a place as small as Gibraltar – under 3 square miles in size - would need to drive tourism sales when it already receives a relatively large proportion of visitors. The answer, according to Costa, is that few of their visitors are staying the night. The Gibraltar tourist board particularly wish to attract visitors from the UK who come for a weekend break, rather than just a day visit. At the same time, Costa is careful to point out that 3,000 visitors descending en masse to Gibraltar’s beaches may be a challenge to accommodate. It seems the Gibraltar tourism board wants its cake and to eat it, too.
All of this tourism talk is not the first time that Gibraltar has openly voiced its desire for increased tourism: in 2012 the tourist board declared that it would be equipping many of its attractions with QR (quick response) barcodes that could be scanned by mobile phones and offer immediate links to informative webpages as sightseers walked Gibraltar’s streets. With tourism as one of Gibraltar’s main sources of income, it’s little wonder they are so keen to enlist as many visitors as possible. However, as Neil Costa pointed out, the visitors that Gibraltar receives from cruise ships is often one of their largest markets: in 2012, 173 cruise ships glided their way into Gibraltar's port. It comes as little surprise that a small rock in the Mediterranean that has English as its official language, hot weather and beautiful scenery attracts many UK visitors on daytime trips, or as a stop-off while cruising the Med. On many cruise liners its a good idea - and actively encouraged - to pre-book onshore excursions before arrival. This often means visitors get better variety than trying to work out different deals once on land. As Planet Cruise states, 'Cruise lines typically offer a number of different shore tours to choose and for any budget and physical activity level'.
Getting around The Rock - taxi drivers you can trust
Taxi drivers are often astute observers and canny businessmen, and it didn’t take long for taxi drivers on Gibraltar to work out that driving visitors to and from the airport or the harbour was nowhere near as lucrative as driving travellers around the tiny territory, and showing them the whole array of beautiful sights. Of course, it usually doesn’t take governing bodies very long to work out when a fiddle is taking place and they swiftly changed licensing laws that prevented taxi drivers from stepping on tour guide toes. What’s a little tour guiding between friends, anyway? Well, until the taxi association really clamped down on drivers by having their cars fitted with a special kind of satnav that informs the association precisely where the cab had been, and how frequently it had arrived at the airport. The new telematics technology is very helpful for tour operators on the tiny island, but has prevented taxi drivers from gaining extra money as guides. To offset this, the taxi association has been able to offer drivers inside information based on their vehicle usage – such as things like braking and fuel consumption – to save money in the long-run. This all means that visitors can be assured that if they jump in a taxi cab they will be driven directly to their required destination with no encouragement to sightsee en route.
The Future of Gibraltar’s tourism
With tourism as Gibraltar’s major source of income, it’s little wonder they’re vocal about encouraging its growth. However, it seems unreasonable for them to worry: cruise ship numbers remain constant every year, with an anticipated 283,870 visitors from 179 cruise ships alone.