The GSD has questioned how it would have been possible to operate the record number of flights from the old air terminal, after the Gibraltar Government said the increase was unrelated to the new facility.
This comes after the Gibraltar Government last week announced that the airport was to host 35% more flights than in summer 2015 and Tourism Minister Samantha Sacramento said that this was not associated with the new terminal.
In a statement the GSD said it was “astonished” with that statement made during an interview on GBC last Thursday.
The Opposition added, nonetheless, that it gladly noted the increase in air activity although it has its reservations as to how Gibraltar will be able to cope with the impact of increased runway closure without the alternative tunnel to enter and exit Gibraltar.
GSD MP with shadow responsibility for tourism Lawrence Llamas said: “It is obvious the Tourism Minister has a problem with accepting the work from any administration that is not her own.”
“Air connectivity is increasing around the world and it is only natural that Gibraltar should benefit from these increases too.”
“No doubt the work done by the Gibraltar Tourist Board plays a role in achieving this, but, I’d be interested to learn how, according to Minister Sacramento, it would have been possible to operate the record number of flights from the old infrastructure which was already bursting at the seams before her administration got into office and made the wonderful expansions to the tourist product which she boasts about,” he said.
The GSD’s statement drew a reaction from the Gibraltar Government, which countered: “An expensive terminal does not an attractive destination make.”
The Government said that in order to generate the will amongst major airlines to increase their seat offerings by 40%, there has to first be a demand for those seats.
“Such demand is created through investment of time and resources, which has been unprecedented under the current administration, to ensure that Gibraltar has a tourist product that we are proud to sell, and which rivals the most interesting of destinations worldwide,” it said.
The “tourism boom” that Gibraltar has experienced over recent years is because people want to come here, the Government said.
“The strong partnerships that the Government and GTB have fostered with our partners is evident; increasingly Gibraltar is promoted as a destination by third-party Press and bloggers, is featured in in-flight magazines and our representatives are invited to attend tourism conferences and events worldwide.”
The Minister for Tourism, Samantha Sacramento, said: “What is really astonishing is the Opposition’s suggestion that an expensive new terminal would by itself attract such a huge increase in the number of scheduled flights as has been achieved for the forthcoming summer season.”
“Tourism has been made a priority for this government and the results speak for themselves.”
“The air terminal was built at extortionate cost – and ran grossly over budget – to comfortably service a million passengers a year, but the previous administration did this with no obvious plan as to how they would bring a million people a year to the Rock. Building a terminal is one thing, building a tourist industry is something else altogether,” she said.