Sunday, 31 January 2010

200 years on: the Bland Group celebrates its bicentenary

(The Gibraltar Chronicle and other sources) The Gaggero family (l. to r. James, Roseanne and Joseph), long synonymous in Gibraltar with the travel industry yesterday held a commemorative dinner attended by the Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Opposition leader Joe Bossano, Bishop Charles Caruana and other leading local figures and staff. The event marks the company’s 200 year history in Gibraltar from 1810 when the Blands first set up. Joe Gaggero emphasised the Gibraltarian focus of the event and the family’s delight in having played a major role in Gibraltar’s economic evolution.>

James, his son, paid tribute to the staff who had served the company and also noted how Gibraltar in many fields from sports to politics consistently shows an ability to excel.

From the company's own website:

The Gaggero family has been running and developing the Bland Group since 1891, through four generations.
The company actually began in 1810, when Marcus Henry Bland founded a shipping agency in Gibraltar. In 1861 he expanded into ship-owning, carrying passengers and cargo from Gibraltar to Tangier and points along the Moroccan coast, returning with supplies to the Garrison, and towing ships against adverse winds through the Strait.
In 1891 the Bland family, with no male heirs, sold the company to Joseph and Manuel Gaggero, who both worked in the company. Joseph became Chairman and was followed by his son George (later Sir) and then his grandson, Joseph, the Life president and great grandson, James Gaggero, currently Chairman, continuing the family tradition.
Each generation has made a mark on the historical evolution of the Group: the first two developed passenger and cargo shipping routes and port facilities in Gibraltar and Morocco. The coal bunker trade, for many years, was the core business together with salvage operations linked to the Bland ship repair yard.
The evolution after World War II was a diversification into travel and aviation, greatly extending the geographical spread of activities, whilst maritime services were concentrated on developing the passenger and car ferry link between Gibraltar and Tangier.
The Bland Group embroidered the fabric of Gibraltar's history in 1931 by starting Gibraltar Airways and pioneering flights across the Strait to Tangier with a Saro Windhover amphibian aircraft.
World War II saw the development of a runway in Gibraltar and in 1947, Gibraltar Airways later known as GB Airways set up a seven-seater scheduled service in cooperation with British European Airways to serve the Mediterranean region.
For the next 30 years, GB Airways operated scheduled services – primarily to Morocco – and also carried out charters to Portugal and France, operating DC3 and Viscount aircraft.
After the economic restrictions imposed by Spain on Gibraltar in 1964, the airline secured a licence to participate on the London lifeline route. In 1989, the airline transferred its operational base to the UK, with its own AOC under the name of GB Airways Ltd and it greatly expanded. Up until a successful £103 million deal with EasyJet in 2007, GB Airways operated 38 routes out of the UK across the entire Mediterranean area into the Red Sea and the Atlantic's Canary Islands and Madeira. GB employed almost 1000 people, carrying 3 million passengers in one of Europe's most successful aviation businesses. It is appropriate that the smooth transition to EasyJet has allowed the purchasers to build on the solid foundations built over the past six decades.
Following the sale of GB Airways, the Group has continued to develop, by investing in development opportunities and acquiring new companies. Additionally in 2008 the Gaggero family through the Bland Group formed The Gaggero Foundation, an independent charitable body with the purpose of giving to causes close to the heart of its Trustees. The Gaggero Foundation plans to distribute substantial funds each year specifically in the areas of Education, Family Welfare and Health.


These days the Bland Group is involved in a number of businesses, many but not all related to the travel trade. They range from a controlling interest in Gibraltar's leading hotel, The Rock Hotel, to a UK precision engineering concern, Griffon Hoverwork, and includes a Gib based advertising agency, Colorworks Design, as well as a high-end office complex, The Beehive, near Gatwick airport. Other interests include travel agencies, tour operators, bus tour companies and a Hovercraft service to the Isle of Wight, many of which extend throughout the UK, Gibraltar, Morocco, Spain and beyond.

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