Abu Dhabi seeks larger share of $17.5 bn golf tourism pie

The Abu Dhabi Golf course

THE Gulf’s travel, tourism and leisure sectors are poised to seize a potentially large slice of the $17.5 billion global industry in golf tourism.

A world-class championship golf course, new courses planned for landmark property developments, and the worldwide attention attracted by the annual, season-opening Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, a PGA European Tour-sanctioned event, combined with excellent airline connections, a choice of luxury accommodation, culture, heritage and unlimited sunshine to ‘significantly boost’ golf tourism in the UAE’s federal capital in the short to medium term, according to industry experts.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which seeks to attract up to three million visitors a year to Abu Dhabi by 2015, a three-fold increase from the current annual average, has identified golf tourism as a key area for growth. ‘Golf tourists’ – those who go on holiday primarily to play golf, or who play golf as a secondary activity on a business trip or vacation, or who attend tournaments as spectators – are well known for generating significantly above-average per capita revenues in destinations.
Playing a major role in attracting these affluent, high-value-adding tourists to Abu Dhabi is the $2 million Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which was won by American Chris DiMarco in 2006, its inaugural year. DiMarco returns to defend his title when the 2007 tournament tees off on January 18. Joining him are an A-list of stars, including Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen.
“While the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship draws spectators from overseas, it’s the awareness the event creates among the global golfing community through live television broadcasts and print coverage that is expected to significantly boost golf tourism in Abu Dhabi,” said Mubarak Al Muhari, director general of ADTA.
“Last year, 17,500 spectators followed the stars around the National Course, but live TV coverage reached more than 120 million homes in 28 countries. The tournament places the international media spotlight on Abu Dhabi [and presents] a destination that is in many ways more attractive than those in highly developed and mature golfing markets.”
Golf courses are an obvious beneficiary of the attention a major tournament attracts. The development of two new courses on the landmark 27 sqkm Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness) project in Abu Dhabi, which is being developed in three phases between 2006 and 2018, will further enhance the emirate’s appeal to golf tourists.