This is one of the quietest festive seasons ever in Gibraltar, with all the traditional events cancelled or moved online in a year in which coronavirus has left practically nowhere unscathed. However, Tourism Minister Vijay Daryanani is feeling positive.
What types of people normally come to Gibraltar on holiday, rather than just for a day trip?
Most of our tourists are from the UK, because that is where we have air links, and they stay for three or four nights. Our ‘typical’ visitors used to be people aged 55 plus, but since the Covid pandemic younger people have been coming, often with families. I think that will remain the case once the pandemic is over and more people realise what a lot Gibraltar has to offer.
The pandemic must have hit Gibraltar hard in terms of tourism, especially as cruise ships haven’t been able to come here for months now and the number of flights was significantly reduced.
It has had a huge impact, and we have just had to deal with it. In fact, our figures were not bad in comparison with other places. Our hotels were 70 to 80 per cent full on average through July, August and September; as there has been no automatic quarantine requirement for travellers arriving in Gibraltar, we have still received visitors from the UK since coming out of lockdown, people who wanted to go somewhere nice for a break. We have received major press coverage, several well-known journalists have paid us a visit, and that has helped. There is quite a bit of interest in discovering Gibraltar’s culture, history, and unique attractions.
Do you think that will continue?
Yes, I do. And after all, our flights are increasing. Wizz Air has just started a twice-weekly service between Gibraltar and Luton, and that will run all through the year.
What are your expectations for tourism in 2021?
I think we are starting to see some light at the end of a very, very long tunnel. People in the UK are now receiving the Covid-19 vaccine and here in Gibraltar we are expecting ours to arrive in January. The vaccine will help to protect people’s health and will also be good for the economy. I am confident that things will get better.
In general terms, Gibraltar has not had that many coronavirus cases and it seems to have handled the situation well. Is it likely that Gibraltar will gain a reputation as a Covid-safe destination for people who are nervous about travelling far?
I think that could be the case, yes. Especially with the vaccine available soon, it will create a sense of security. It’s true that Gibraltar has only had six deaths from coronavirus, but I have to make it clear that every one has been a tragedy for us. We are such a small community, we know our people, we are very attached to them, so we are very sad to have lost them in this way.
The Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December and the outcome of the talks between UK and EU is still not known. If there is no deal and it becomes more complicated for people from the UK to travel to Europe from next year, could that be to Gibraltar’s advantage?
Even if there is no deal between the UK and the EU, travel to and from Gibraltar doesn’t change, so yes. Flights will continue as usual, and in fact we are talking to different airlines about starting services to Gibraltar, as Wizz Air has just done. We are actively targeting different regional airports in the UK.
Are more flights to Gibraltar a possibility or a probability, would you say?
I’d say a bit of both, as things are at the moment.
Do you have any new attractions or events planned?
We are always looking to improve what we have to offer. In recent years we have opened a number of new attractions, and we have many exceptional events such as the music festival, which is the best in Europe, the wine festival, literary festival, and more. Obviously, these couldn’t take place this year, but I hope they will be back to normal next year. And 2022 might bring some more.