Over the last two years the Chamber of Commerce and the GFSB have made numerous representations to the government over its ill-judged decision to give a local trader by, direct allocation, a de facto monopoly of a duty free shop at the cruise terminal. Despite the government having acknowledged to the Chamber its mistake in allocating the duty free shop and giving verbal assurances at the time that it would make arrangements to close down the shop before the start of the 2017 cruise season, the shop remains open and continues to do a roaring trade, much to the detriment of numerous local businesses.
This shop is bad for Gibraltar for the following reasons:
• Cruise passengers visit the shop, purchase their duty free and get back on board the ship without bothering to come into town. This does nothing for Gibraltar’s tourism, restaurant or retail industry. In fact, it damages it.
• The duty free shop pays no import duty on the products it sells, so presents a very unfair competition to businesses in town, all of which have to pay import duty on the products they sell.
• As the shop pays no import duty, the government has also missed out on hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) of pounds in import duty from all the goods it has sold in the last 2 ½ years.
In 2016 the Chamber raised a petition from more than eighty local traders (members and non-members alike) whose businesses had all been adversely affected by the duty free shop at the cruise terminal. This petition was presented to the government, but it seems that the government continues to ignore the legitimate concerns of all of these businesses and of the Chamber of Commerce and GFSB.
What sort of message does this send to the business community? Where is the level playing field?
The Chamber of Commerce and the GFSB call on Government to honour its commitment without further delay and close the duty free shop. The government needs to show that it genuinely has the interests of Gibraltar’s tourism industry, Main Street traders and of the entire business community in mind and not just those of a few…….
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