The Government have hit back at the GSD saying the Opposition's latest press release on cruise calls "shows a lack of understanding of the tourism industry".
A statement from the Government said:
The latest press release on cruise calls by the GSD is churlish and shows a fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding of the tourism industry.
In addition, when the GSD spokesman makes comparisons between today’s spending levels and those of the GSD when they were in power, he is doing exactly what the Opposition complain about when the Government do it! They cannot have it both ways!
And whenever, the GSD struggle to find factual reasons for criticising Government, they fall back on their old standby, ‘It’s all spin.’ In recent months we have seen them use this over and over again.
Was the Chief Minister’s meeting with Theresa May ‘spin’? Were the Island Games ‘spin’?Is the new Children’s Health Centre ‘spin.’ They really need to learn the basic difference between ‘spin’ and ‘facts’.
The facts of this matter are clear. The Mediterranean is indeed the second largest cruise market in the world and will show growth this year, but what the GSD fails to note is that the Mediterranean is divided into regions when it comes to the cruise industry. Gibraltar is in the Western Mediterranean cruise region and this has shown a decline for 2019. As markets recover further east in the Mediterranean and cruise lines deploy ships to newer markets globally, this particular region has suffered.
Once again the Government is required to repeat that the decline in cruise calls this year is due to operational decisions by cruise companies rather than reasons concerning Gibraltar as a destination. This decline is also affecting neighbouring ports for cyclical reasons and also includes reasons such as ships being taken out of service while they wait for new ships to be delivered and new itineraries being introduced.
In the time that the GSD were in office, total arrivals by sea also showed years in which cruise calls declined and then rose again. For example in 1997, a year after they came into office, visitor arrivals by sea dropped to 87,043 from 113,988. This shows that the industry has always shown variances due to its cyclical nature. By contrast, arrivals by sea in 2018 were almost 420,000, up around 70,000 from when the GSD left office in 2011.
Again and very importantly, the GSD fail to state that bookings for 2020 are already up on this year and that passenger numbers will increase next year.
2018, “Expenditure from Excursionists from Cruises” stood at £13.16 million in 2011 and reached £16.7 million in 2018. Hotel arrivals hit a record high for the third year in a row in 2018. The overall number of arrivals increased year on year by 6.4% in 2018.
In terms of the amounts allocated for marketing expenditure, for the financial year 2010/11 (under the GSD) the figure was around £700,000 whereas the approved estimate for 2019/2020 (under the GSLP/Libs) is £1,050,000. This represents an increase in tourism marketing expenditure of a staggering 50% compared to what the GSD spent.
Minister for Tourism Gilbert Licudi QC said “The numbers speak for themselves. There is no need for any “political spin”. We are dismayed at the lack of knowledge, information and understanding of the industry that the GSD is showing in their attempts to scare the local tourism, hospitality and retail industry. We know from the pro-active work that we carry out in all facets of the tourism industry, not only here but globally, that the industry is robust and showing great signs of resilience for the future. We have very professional teams at the Gibraltar Tourist Board, the Gibraltar Port Authority and at Gibraltar International Airport that are fully aware of the latest trends in the industry. In addition, we partner with a great set of professionals in the private sector in Gibraltar who work actively to promote tourism and all these hard working teams will not be encouraged by such reckless statements being made by the GSD.”