by Shanaya Ticknell-Smith
Cristian Santos, the new Minister for Equality, Employment, Culture, Youth and Tourism, has only been in office for three weeks but is already thinking of new ways to attract new tourists to Gibraltar.
Although many tourists come to Gibraltar primarily to see the monkeys on the Rock, Mr Santos also wants to focus on the city’s potential.
The GSLP/Liberal election manifesto included projects such as the beautification of central areas including Casemate Square, Chatham’s Counterguard and High Street.
But the minister, whose professional background is in the performing arts and creative sector, seems to have more in mind.
“I want to bring new possibilities downtown, bring a different vibe, a different feel, by just exploring what we already have,” he said.
“It’s about energy, and it’s something that’s not tangible.”
“We have energy in Gibraltar. Gibraltar has energy and I think so [about] touching it.’
Mr Santos shows enthusiasm for his work as he offers more insight into what Gibraltar can expect in the tourism industry in the coming years.
The GSLP/Liberal manifesto at the last election highlighted a number of area development projects and initiatives such as sustainable heritage tourism and encouraging visitors to walk and cycle around the Rock.
Specific projects include the renovation of the Second World War tunnels, which will be known as the “Second World War Tunnel Experience”.
This will include a new gift shop, a 1940s-inspired bar, brand new exhibits and a new conference center.
The manifesto also mentions plans for an artillery park that will showcase the military
the architecture of Gibraltar from the Middle Ages to the modern defences.
This project will be linked to the development of the Northern Defense and will provide a footpath.
Other projects in the pipeline include the restoration of the 9.2 inch gun, which will hopefully be moved to its original location in the Levant Battery on the upper cliff, creating a new tourist attraction.
“That’s why I’m very excited about tourism because we’re looking at all the different opportunities that we have,” Mr. Santos said.
At the heart of many of these projects is the aim to encourage visitors to spend more time on the Rock to explore the many different sites and attractions on offer.
But getting visitors to stay for more than a day or two could be a tall order, with the government exploring different types of proposals, including event-driven tourism and other similar niches.
“We have a lot of new plans that will also bring in a new type of visitor,” Mr. Santos said.
“We also want to focus on niche tourism.”
Although he has only been in office for three weeks, Mr Santos has also started to make progress on plans to revamp Gibraltar’s youth centers and training opportunities.
The GSLP/Liberals presented many new plans in their General Election manifesto last month,
including refurbishing the youth centers in Gibraltar.
“I want to convert it or use it more as a youth community and resource center,” he said.
The minister plans to offer a safe space where young people can socialise, do group school work or just go to the cafe and hang out with friends in a fun environment.
“A way for young people who aren’t the right age to be out on a Friday
the night can kind of hang and it shouldn’t be out of the park,” he said.
“That’s good too, but we need to offer young people different places, spaces and opportunities.”
To replace the work experience system that was offered to Year 10 students, the minister also plans to introduce a careers advice office for young people at youth centres, for those who may be struggling to decide what they I want to make.
“In the new centres, I want there to be a careers advice office because that’s something that I think is very important for kids to have access to and to have a professional to say to you, ‘Listen, what are your skills?’ Well, this is what you have to offer the world.
He further added, “What I think we need to do as a community, not even as a government, as
community, is to teach our young children from an early age that there are many different opportunities, many different professions.”
The manifesto has plans to include Lani and Arabic in Gibraltar’s school system so that younger generations can learn more about Gibraltar’s culture, not only in terms of language, but also to learn about gastronomy, history and beliefs.
The minister spoke about the meaning of llanito and how it transcends language.
“We are our origin, [the people] who came to Gibraltar to make us uniquely Gibraltarians
man we have today. We are not just British. We also have Genoese influences and
“We’re a mix of cultures here.”
Shanaya Ticknell-Smith is a Westside student on work experience with the Chronicle and was
accompanied by a Chronicle journalist for this interview.