Friday, April 22, 2005

Lack of value for money in Government Tourism Policy, says Garcia

Drop in visitors to Gibraltar

GSLP/Libs has once again questioned the direction of the Government’s tourism marketing strategy and what it describes as the “lack of value for money” and its “inability” to generate improved results.

In a statement to the Chronicle yesterday, Opposition spokesman for Tourism Joseph Garcia said there has been a drop in tourist arrival figures from Spain in various categories, and accused Government of failing to provide “consistent or credible explanation to account for this drop.”

Dr Garcia argues that Government tend to blame external factors like the threat of terrorism, and often change their excuse “whenever they got caught out,” pointing out that despite a considerable annual investment in marketing Gibraltar in Spain, “we have received a reduced share of the tourism cake.”

Dr Garcia said:

“The increase in admission fees to the Upper Rock will not help to attract more visitors. This downtrend in the number of visitors is already reflected in the latest figures Government has made available to us.

The latest statistics show the number of visitors coming through the frontier were less in 2004 than they had been the previous year. In 2004 the figure was 7.3 million compared to 7.5 million in 2003, a drop of nearly 200,000 persons. This trend is also apparent in the number of private cars that came into Gibraltar which fell from 184,000 (2003) to 175,000 in 2004.”

The Liberal Party leader says coaches and coach visitor arrivals has also fallen every year since 2000 and the figure for 2004 of 10,810 coaches is lower than it was in 1996 (11,597). He said:

“The drop in visitors coming through the border has come about despite an enormous marketing budget for tourism of nearly £1m a year. A significant proportion of the overall budget has been spent projecting Gibraltar in tourism fairs in Spain, in the GTB office in Madrid and in inviting the Spanish travel media to Gibraltar.

Logically the drop in visitors by land is matched by a corresponding drop in visitors to the Upper Rock which has fallen every year since 2002 and is now lower than it was in 1998.

The exaggerated claims of success made by Government are not matched by the results they obtained last year showing there were less visitors by land.

There is a tendency for Government to blame external factors, like the Gulf War, the exchange rate of the euro or the threat of terrorism. Despite considerable investment in marketing Gibraltar in Spain, we have received a reduced share of the tourism cake which has no bearing on the high level of expenditure that has ensued.

There is now the added risk that the increase in admission fees to the Upper Rock will put even more people off.”

Cheap Flights sought

Gibraltar is seeking agreements with low cost airlines to fly to the Rock, Nicky Guerrero is quoted as saying to the Spanish press in Madrid. He said that they were talking to airlines like Easy Jet and Thompsonfly in a bid to extend the average stay to above three days.

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