The Port Aventura theme park on the Costa Dorada, Tarragona province, is having a difficult year. Visitor numbers in the first 6 months of the year were down 9% compared to the same period last year, with British visitors leading the exodus, down 20%. That doesn’t sound good, but it’s not tourism but the property crisis that has really taken the shine of Port Aventura’s potential value.
How so? Because Criteria, the investment arm of La Caixa, Spain’s behemoth savings bank, which owns Port Aventura, has had to shelve plans to launch a 2,500 home residential development as part of Port Aventura’s expansion.
Criteria was considering plans to invest 400 million Euros in developing a residential zone in the theme park, made up of semi-detached and detached properties to be marketed as holiday homes. A place like Port Aventura can only really offer holiday homes, as few people actually want to live in a theme park, the late Michael Jackson being an obvious exception.
Tarragona province, south of Barcelona, is reported to be one of the areas in Spain with the biggest glut of holiday homes. So it makes sense for Criteria to postpone plans to build more holiday homes there until the market recovers, which could take years.
But it is unlikely that the plans will be postponed indefinitely. The profits to be had from a development of 2,500 holiday homes would be a veritable gold mine. And gold is clearly on Port Aventura’s mind. The big event this year at Port Aventura was the launch of the Hotel Gold River, modelled on a gold rush town in the Far West, with Larry Hagman (J.R., remember) flown over to support attend the opening dressed as a sheriff . It’s only a matter of time before the owners of Port Aventura will want to start blasting away on the real gold mine.