The CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, Adrian Bridge, has compared the company’s ambitious €100 million tourist attraction, The World of Wine, to the museums of South Kensington in terms of the variety of experiences on offer.
Due to open in 10 months, Bridge is adamant that the project is the “first of its kind”. “I would argue that is not remotely close to Cité du Vin,” he said, referring to the sculptural, wine-focused museum located in Bordeaux, which opened in 2016 at a cost of €81.1m.
“It offers just one of the six different experiences we are going to provide at The World of Wine,” Bridge stated.
First announced in 2016, the project sees the Fladgate Partnership convert more than 30,000 m2 of old Port lodges in Vila Gaia de Nova, overlooking Porto, into a tourist attraction it predicts will attract one million visits a year.
Located just beneath the company’s hotel called The Yeatman, The World of Wine is set to include a museum on the history of Porto, a museum on the cork industry, a wine school, a slow food restaurant and events space, along with nine further restaurants, a retail area, and a fashion and design museum to celebrate the textile industry of northern Portugal.
“Our project is the first of its kind and I guess the best comparison would be the museum district in Kensington. There’s a wide variety of choices on offer and you can spend the day there. That’s what we’re aiming to create,” said Bridge.
For a project on such a large scale, progress has remained virtually on track.
“It was scheduled to open in May, but we’ve had to move this to mid-July,” said Bridge. “The biggest delay has been caused by the planning authorities. Basically people don’t like change and are concerned about the appearance and scale of what we’re going to create.
“We could have sold the land, but this is our home and it has been for over 320 years. We passionately care about what the project will look like, particularly as it’s directly in front of The Yeatman. If I didn’t care I would have just sold it to a property developer.”
Still very much a building site, dotted with cranes, the project has been divided into phases, with the third stage set to begin shortly. On a walk through the site, Bridge explained each of the different areas of the site, stating that much excavation was needed in order to create the space required.
Also set to feature as part of the project will be an area for trapeze artists, a dessert-focused restaurant and a giant cork tree bursting through a round aperture in the ceiling, which is currently being constructed in Birmingham. Bridge said he is also in talks with the WSET in order for The World of Wine to become a course provider.
He added that the centre would aim to gain one million visits each year, based around the idea that 60% of those that come would visit at least two different “experiences”.
Each experience will last two hours and will be priced at €20 each, with a discount available for those that visit more than one.
For Bridge it was important to capitalise on the 1.7 million visitors that the city of Porto attracts each year.
“People think that if there’s a lot of tourism, we must build more hotels,” he said. “But you only need hotels if you can’t fit all there is to do into one day. Historically, there were not many museums and attractions in Porto, it was more of a business town. Under the control of the bishop, the nobility were prevented from living in the city and were fined if they spent more than three days in Porto.”
The company’s next climate change conference is set to take place in 2021, owing to the opening of The World of Wine next year.
Bridge also mentioned that he was planning a further project in Pinhão, using land owned by Fladgate, and focusing on the products of the Douro including Port, table wine, sparkling wine and olive oil.
Tourism has been a major part of Fladgate’s strategy for some years. In 2010 it opened The Yeatman, later carrying out a 26-bedroom extension to the five-star hotel. In 2015 the group opened a visitor centre at Croft’s Quinta da Roêda in the Douro, and in 2016 a new large-scale Taylor’s visitor centre next door to The Yeatman.