GIBRALTAR’s tourism may be the territory’s most heavily affected industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many businesses have had to rely on BEAT COVID government aid to keep afloat, with over £6million given to employees who have been made inactive.
This is especially true for restaurants and shops on Gibraltar’s main street that heavily rely on tourists that come through to Gibraltar by car, air, cruise liners, coach or on foot.
Phase 3 of the Government’s ‘Unlock the Rock’ phased plan saw authorised restaurants being allowed to take in local customers, albeit at a 50% occupancy.
In Parliament yesterday, Minister for Tourism Vijay Daryanani said that the Rock’s visitors before the lockdown in March were ‘typically aged over 55’, an age range which ‘remains the most at risk from COVID-19’.
Daryanani said that Gibraltar ‘must expect [tourism] competition to be fierce’ and to see spending from visitors ‘reduced due to long term effects of recession’.
“We face other issues too, in this in the sale chain, not all distribution operators in the UK may survive the crisis and will cherry pick their most lucrative destinations,” said the Minister.
Despite this, he highlighted that there was a ‘healthy stimulus’ of airline bookings for 2021.
He said that easyJet could be flying to Gibraltar in July, ‘at the earliest’, but that the government did not know all the airline’s plans regarding this.
BUSINESS OUTSIDE BORDER
Daryanani mentioned that the Government has a Tourism strategy in place which consists of three main parts; UK arrivals to Gibraltar, visitors from Spain through the border and cruise liners.
“We continue to speak with existing top rated partners in the UK to establish a timeline of when UK customers will be ready to visit Gibraltar,” he said.
The Minister said that the government is looking to introduce a new advertising drive for Gibraltar in the UK in the form of advertorials, television, radio ads and promotions on buses and taxis.
In regards to visitors coming from Spain, Daryanani said: “We will need to look to business across the border to simulate the hospitality sector in Gibraltar to give footfall to our main street traders, our restaurateurs and indeed our hotels.
“We’re in the process of putting together a marketing campaign in Spain to position Gibraltar for the nearby regional markets.”
Cruises are one of Gibraltar’s cash cows in regards to tourism, bringing in over 400,000 people in 2018, along with nearly £17million from 254 ship calls.
However, cruises won’t bring that much money this year as the cruise market continues to be ‘at a standstill’, with no clue as to when they will start up again.
In the meantime, Gibraltar has aided cruise liners by acting as a service point for maintenance and for repatriation of crew, a move which could bring more business in the future.
“In summary, recovery is largely dictated at this stage by a combination of government controls across Europe, which have a direct impact on the restart of air, rail and sea operations,” said Daryanani.
“This is a valuable time to get our services ready to promote and push out to audiences as our sector has halted but our activities and efforts have not.”
One more person has been detected having COVID-19 on the Rock, bringing the total active number up to 20 once again.
This figure consists of 13 Gibraltar residents and 7 cross-frontier workers which contribute towards the total tally.
The total number of people who have been infected since the virus reached Gibraltar in March amounts to 172.
Swab testing continues, with nearly 7,900 tests done on frontline workers and people who dial the 111 number.
The number of people in isolation now stands at 61, a number which consists of people who live with COVID positive people and those with reduced immune systems.
Further recommendations for the wearing of masks were given by the Gibraltar Government today.
They are already compulsory on buses and for health workers, but they are also being advised for those in shops.
“The public is advised to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces like supermarkets where usual social distancing measures may be difficult,” said the government.
“A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
“It can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.”
Health experts said it was important not to stop washing hands, however, especially before and after removing the mask.