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April 16, 2008
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Gibraltar a WTM hotspot as relationships thaw




Gibraltar - situated at the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula - returns to World Travel Market for the first time in four years, intent on proving it is moving with the times.

Despite the issue of its sovereignty being a long-held issue for the UK and Spain, government officials on 'the Rock' believe a significant thawing in relations is set to transform its tourism outlook for the better.

In September 2006, Spain and Britain set aside many of their differences over Gibraltar, signing the historic Cordoba agreement.

Fiona Jeffery, World Travel Market's Managing Director said: "We are delighted to be welcoming back our friends from Gibraltar who clearly will be able to enjoy the global business opportunities that the event offers to exhibitors.

"Significantly, the deal now allows Spanish flights to fly direct to the British Overseas Territory - previously visitors from Spain were routed via London."

Gibraltar Tourist Office UK spokeswoman Tracey Poggio said: "Iberia and British Airways have begun flights and the route is already proving a tremendous success. A new Barcelona route is also promised.

"In addition, the new agreement now includes Gibraltar in European aviation regulations, allowing carriers from the rest of Europe to fly in. What it has done is open up Gibraltar to a new international audience.

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"Malaga has become a viable hub, and as a result there has been significant marketing of Gibraltar in Spain. Importantly, we are hopeful of spreading the word across Europe at World Travel Market - we can sell Gibraltar like a new destination across the continent."

To cater for the expected increase in visitors by air, the territory's government has unveiled a major redevelopment programme for Gibraltar Airport scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.

The proposed new two-storey glass and steel will take up 20,000 square metres - dwarfing the existing facilities.

Related to the airport improvements is significant spending to update Gibraltar's hotel and leisure infrastructure, currently stretched to capacity.

"UK visitors have been our mainstay and figures remain strong," said Poggio. "If we are honest the numbers bring us close to saturation point. We welcome around eight million visitors a year, which in terms of area means we are one of the most densely populated places in Europe.

"But there is lots of building work going on to cater for visitors. Improvements to the infrastructure have been underway for some time and Gibraltar wants to become a vibrant, European city. To remain a successful destination we must ensure we have a modern outlook."

Work on the Ocean Village development - a mixed use retail, leisure and residential complex - is expected to be complete in 2008. This marina area will cater mainly for day visitors with a range of top-quality bars, restaurants and shops.

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Meanwhile, work is expected to start soon on the £350 million Sovereign Bay development on the eastern side of Gibraltar. Top British architect Sir Norman Foster is involved in the project to create a marina, luxury hotels and fine dining options on an area of reclaimed land.

Up to 11 hotel projects are currently under consideration by planners which would potential treble the existing bed stock by 2014.

Similarly, refurbishment is underway in the Europa Point area, one of Gibraltar's most important physical and historical assets. Sitting at the point that the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean converge, it offers stunning views of the Strait.
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27 July 2007

For further media information telephone Jane Larcombe on +44(0)1892 785071 or email jane@janelarcombecommunications.com


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