Not just in the Middle East, golf is seeing a strong revival around the world as a sport of choice with the gradual and careful lifting of quarantine measures, Clinton Norris – Director of Sales & Marketing, Troon International, tells TTN over a virtual interview.
“We are seeing record high numbers as people want to be outside post the lockdown, they want to enjoy the great outdoors and be healthy, whilst also following social distancing guidelines: golf is the perfect answer. You can play by yourself, it can take you two hours or four hours depending on how many holes you want to play and even with golf carts – that all our golf courses provide - you would still do at least 10,000 steps if you play a full round of 18 holes. You can play golf with your family members as well – age is no bar - that's another great thing about golf.”
Norris tells TTN: “Troon International manages 10 of the top golf courses in the UAE, which is about 50 per cent of the total number of golf courses in the country. Outside of the UAE, in the Mena region, we manage Royal Golf Club in Bahrain, Royal Greens - Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt we have the Allegria and the soon-to-open Madinaty Golf & Country Club.”
Troon International, the world’s largest golf management company, has a portfolio of over 465 properties in all, a large portion of which are in the United States, with a significant presence in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia.
“The UAE, in particular, has positioned itself as one of the safest countries in the world, which is fantastic for all of our ten properties here. We're hopeful that the major golf feeder markets in Europe - UK, Scandinavia and Germany - will take note of this. We expect some last-minute bookings coming from these markets this winter, maybe two to four weeks in advance.”
During the global pandemic, the UAE made an early commitment to ensure easy access to healthcare services for all individuals and have conducted the highest level of testing per million in the world. They introduced an early-detection strategy with mass testing drives in densely populated areas to detect and treat early cases. The Ministry of Health and Prevention has also introduced the latest forms of technology to assist the UAE’s population every step of the way, ensuring help and support is not only provided to all of its citizens but is also available at all times.
Abu Dhabi’s three championship venues, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links Abu Dhabi have all aligned with government guidelines to implement many health and safety measures to protect employees, members and guests visiting the clubs. The additional measures include; thermal scans at the entrance to each facility, stringent social distancing measures, dividers to separate golfers in each cart, a reduction in the maximum capacity of all food and beverage outlets, and many other protocols to ensure the clubs are able to welcome players back safely.
The courses closed for a period of 14-days at the end of March, during this time they were able to safely implement agronomy and general maintenance work that was scheduled for later in the year, to ensure the courses were perfect for golfers to return. Since reopening, golf in the region has seen a rejuvenated interest from the local community as an opportunity to safely exercise and stay active in the outdoors.
Francisco de Lancastre David, Cluster General Manager at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links Abu Dhabi, commented: “Almost every country and industry has been significantly affected by the pandemic, but we are firmly back on our feet. We are fortunate that golf is one of the safest sports to play and can be a healthy outdoor activity to enjoy in the current climate. We are very confident of the country’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment to everyone visiting this autumn and winter.”
Abu Dhabi Golf Club continues its plans to host the 16th Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January 2021 and following this year’s success the Troon Abu Dhabi Pro-Am will also return for 2021.
Apart from this, Race to Dubai, which is the grand final tournament of the European Tour will take place at Jumeirah Golf Estates this year, with the date being revised from November to December. The Omega Desert Classic is expected to return in January next year at Emirates Golf Club as well. “During these three major golfing events, we usually see eight weeks of really busy season with international visitors coming in to watch the world's best players in action and to play golf in some of the world-class courses that the UAE offers,” says Norris. Royal Greens - Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia will host the Ladies European Tour for the first time in October 2020 as the Inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund.
“Golf holidays is a premium holiday segment. From Europe to the UAE, for example, people pay at least $1,000 for a golf holiday, plus flight costs on top of that. With pay reductions across the world, people may reconsider a golf holiday this year or book one much later in the year.
“Another pattern that we see across the whole tourism industry is later bookings. The three big European markets generally book at least three months in advance, sometimes even 12 months in advance. This year we expect much smaller lead-in times and we are prepared to tackle this.”
Apart from these trends, Norris points out that the regional feeder markets to the UAE will be of more importance this year as domestic flights open up from countries such as Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. “We forecast that these regional golfers will extend their stay, so rather than coming to Dubai for a two to three-night holiday, we expect they'll come for five or seven nights for a number of reasons including convenience and a lack of long-haul holiday options.”
By Rashi Sen
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