Senior cruise executives from across the globe showed considerable interest in plans to permit gambling on cruise ships docked overnight in Gibraltar.
The proposal was outlined by Gibraltar Deputy Chief Minister Joe Holliday in a speech to over 100 industry leaders at the 1st World Ports Summit in Brussels, on the eve of the European Cruise Council.
It also coincided with publication of draft legislation that, once approved, will make the move a reality. The draft law could lead to vessels staying longer in Gibraltar, which in turn would increase the economic impact that passengers have on the economy.
In respect of the cruise industry, the Minister said Gibraltar was not complacent about the competition it faced from neighbouring ports and that it had to fight for its share of the market.
We are proud of the fact that in the fifteen years the present administration has been in office, there has been a growth of 241% in the number of cruise passengers handled, he said.
Cruise ship bookings for 2012 suggest a good year, with 170 calls so far scheduled, with an expected total of over 315,000 passengers.
There was considerable interest among the delegates when he spoke about current legislative amendments being made to allow cruise ships to open all their onboard revenue-earning outlets, while still alongside, from 6pm onwards.
While plans had already been drawn up to expand and refurbish the Cruise Terminal, these will now also take account of the Government's longer-term goal to turn the Western Arm into a dedicated cruise facility.
The move to allow cruise ships to open their casinos and shops overnight had been announced some time ago but the draft legislation that will bring it about was only published last week.
Ships usually sail in the late afternoon in order to reach international waters and be able to open their revenue-earning onboard outlets for their passengers, even if their next port of call is close by.
This government said its initiative would give both passengers and off-duty crew the opportunity of going ashore in the evenings, leading to additional business opportunities for local traders. Ships would save fuel by remaining tied up for a longer period of time.
Likewise local tour operators will have greater scope - and time - to offer shore excursions.
It is a win-win situation for everybody, said Mr Holliday when the move was first announced last April.