Gibraltar: A business guide

By Tim Hulse for Business Life magazine

Photography by 123rf

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July 2016

It may be small, but Gibraltar has big ambitions to become a significant European startup hub in the next few years.

The lowdown

Gibraltar has a proud history of entrepreneurism. Take George Bassadone, for instance: back in 1965 he formed a company that cleaned the hulls of visiting ships, reducing their drag and thus increasing fuel efficiency. He went on to diversify into ship repairs and fuel bunkering, and Gibunco, now run by his son, has since grown to become Gibraltar’s most prominent private enterprise, with an annual turnover of £2bn.

Don’t expect Mediterranean siestas and late dinners, Gibraltar rocks to a British beat

While most of the money in this British Overseas Territory at the foot of Spain (population: 32,000) nowadays comes from financial services, e-gaming, shipping and tourism, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on and is fuelling ambitious plans to make Gibraltar a major European tech hub over the next few years. And it’s going to be a steep growth curve. Local lawyer Philip Vasquez, who worked in fintech in London and is now one of the organisers of not-for-profit Gibraltar Startup, says the first “meetup” he went to, last October, numbered around five people. But since then growth has mushroomed, and the organisation counts more than 300 investors, entrepreneurs and developers as its members. Vasquez cites the quality of life in Gibraltar plus a reservoir of accomplished developers employed by the e-gaming industry as two significant factors in its potential as a future hub.

Local success stories include online transactions company Easy Payments Gateway, domain name specialist Famous Four Media, and Odobo, an online marketplace for gaming designers. And there are plenty more small companies who aren’t going for the Moon shot but are nevertheless helping to carry the impetus forward.

The Gibraltar government has been supportive of the nascent startup scene on its doorstep, paying particular attention to the cryptocurrency area. Vasquez is bullish. “We have a vision that by 2020 we could be right up there with London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona,” he says. “There’s no reason why this can’t happen.”

Discover our cheapest Club fares to Gibraltar

  • The lounge bar at The Rock Hotel ©The Rock Hotel

    Relax and unwind

    The famous Rock Hotel was built in 1932 and has welcomed guests and dignitaries for decades, including Sir Winston Churchill, Alec Guinness and John Lennon. Book return flights from London to Gibraltar, plus a 7-night stay at the Rock Hotel from:£261 pp

    Book flights and hotel

Business etiquette

Don’t expect Mediterranean siestas and late dinners. Gibraltar rocks to a British beat, so mealtimes and office hours are generally similar to those in the UK. ‘Smart casual’ attire is fine for most business meetings, which are conducted in English. If you’re making small talk, the topic of sport will usually go down well. And you’ll also get extra points for knowing that the Gibraltar Football Association was recently accepted as a member of FIFA, so the national team can now take part in the World Cup. Or at least the qualifying rounds...

Food & Shopping

For such a small place, Gibraltar has a surprising variety of food on offer, from fish and chips to haute cuisine. You can even find unique Gibraltarian delicacies, such as calentita, a pancake made with chickpea flour.

Best Business Breakfast: Corks

It may be a wine bar, but it does great breakfasts, from a fab Full English to more healthy options. (79 Irish Town;

Best Power Lunch: The Lounge Gastro Bar

Wunderkind head chef Matt Birtwistle serves up a high-class menu of modern classics in a plum location on the Queensway Quay Marina. (17B Ragged Staff Wharf, Queensway;

Best Slap-Up Dinner: La Mamela

You can’t beat the Genoese village feel of the location or the view of the Med and distant Morocco from the terrace. And the fish-based fare is pretty unbeatable too. (Catalan Bay, Sir Herbert Miles Road;


Gibraltar is in effect one big duty-free shop, so there are plenty of bargains on offer on Main Street if you’re that way inclined, and plenty of high street stores that will seem familiar. However, your time may be better spent exploring the fascinating history and sights of the Rock, the huge limestone ridge that dominates the place.

There’s plenty to see, including the Great Siege Tunnels and WWII Tunnels, the cathedralesque St Michael’s Cave, with its enormous stalagmites and stalactites, and some stunning views. Oh, and there are monkeys. Or Barbary Macaques, to be more accurate. Don’t mess with them.

  • The five-star Sunborn Gibraltar is located in Ocean Village Marina © Sunborn Gibraltar Hotel
  • The Lounge Gastro Bar, perfect for a power lunch © The Lounge Gastro Bar

    Fresh and satisfying

    Dishing up favourites with a modern twist, The Lounge offers top-notch food and perfect wine pairings.

    Discover Gibraltar
  • Wisteria terrace at The Rock Hotel ©The Rock Hotel

    No monkey business

    The Rock Hotel is ideally located with views of the Strait of Gibraltar and the Spanish mainland.

    Book a holiday to Gibraltar


Sunborn Gibraltar

The only five-star in Gibraltar is located in a luxury ‘superyacht’ in the Ocean Village Marina. It also has excellent conference and meeting facilities.

Book a stay at Sunborn Gibraltar

The Rock Hotel

A swish Gibraltar institution on Europa Road. All the rooms have a sea view, and the suites have huge terraces.

Book a stay at The Rock Hotel

O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel

Handily located right in the middle of town on Governor’s Parade, with terrific views from the rooftop terrace.

Book a stay at O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel

Did you know...?

1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono got spliced here, taking advantage of the fact that Gibraltar has no residency restrictions for weddings and civil partnerships, and only 24 hours’ notice is required. Sean Connery also got married here. Twice.

2. Like a giant Swiss cheese, the Rock is riddled with tunnels, mainly constructed by the British military over the last two centuries. The total 34-mile length of the tunnel network is around twice the combined length of all of Gibraltar’s streets.

3. In 1967 Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones visited Gibraltar with Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull. During his stay he decided to play a tape of some music he had made to the local monkeys. “We ceremoniously approached the troop of monkeys,” Faithfull later wrote, “and told them we were going to play them some wonderful sounds. They listened to all this very attentively, but when Brian turned on the tape recorder, they seemed alarmed and scampered away shrieking. Brian took it personally. He became hysterical and started sobbing.”

4. By share of total inhabitants, Gibraltar has the second-largest Jewish population in the world after Israel. Four working synagogues include the Great Synagogue, which dates back to 1724 and is one of the oldest on the Iberian Peninsula.

Your tips:

We asked our LinkedIn followers for their Gibraltar tips.

“My favourite place is Europa Point, where I can make my to-do list and enjoy peach iced tea and scenic views of the Rif Mountains.”

Yashovardhan Dadhich

“Stroll down through the botanic gardens to Queensway Quay for lunch at either The Waterfront or The Landings – both have wonderful menus.”

Denise Beckley

“Ocean Village is a fantastic place to grab a drink and relax; the atmosphere is always buzzing. I love going for a cream tea or a drink on the top deck of the Sunborn Hotel.”

Julia Coelho

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Getting around:

BA flies from Heathrow to Gibraltar up to twice daily. Gibraltar International Airport is situated at the north end of the Rock and intersects the main road leading out of Gibraltar to Spain. Taxis are available outside the terminal, and your journey is likely to be short – Gibraltar is not a big place. Remember that the local currency is the pound, not the euro.

Discover our cheapest Club fares to Gibraltar >