From left to right: Presenter Robbie Greenfield discusses the future of golf tourism with Christopher May, Mark Chapleski and Tom Phillips at AHIC on the Road in Dubai Earlie
Golf tourism in the Middle East has been able to make use of the Covid-19 shutdown to significantly grow its market position, delegates at AHIC on the Road have heard.
Following a brief shutdown in March, the sector has quickly rebounded, taking advantage of its safe reputation to welcome record demand over the summer.
Christopher May, chief executive of Dubai Golf, said: “It was a challenging time initially, but what it did was bring everybody in the industry together to create a safe environment to play the game.
“We focused on the important areas, collaborating to make golf as safe as possible.
“The demand to be outside, which golf provides, was very high – the challenge we then faced over the summer was managing demand.
“Summer can be a low season here in the Middle East, but we saw an uptick this year.
“The measures we took were then embraced in the region, as well as for the game of golf globally – we have been able to offer advice to golfers around the world.”
Dubai Golf manages the three leading golf clubs in the region including Emirates Golf Club and Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The third course, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, will this month host the World Golf Awards, an industry leading showcase of the global golf tourism sector.
Taking place on October 29th, attendees will enjoy 18-holes at Dubai Creek, before joining a sumptuous gala ceremony at the Park Hyatt Dubai in the evening.
May continued: “The Park Hyatt Dubai has a fantastic general manager, Mattheos Georgiou, who really understands golf; that it is important to have the right mix, to integrate golf so the location works as one.
“We had 2,500 golfers last year, who played at Dubai Creek, and that number will continue to grow.
“The importance of golf is significant, and a hotel that understands that can really benefit.”
Mark Chapleski, president of Troon International, echoed the sentiments, arguing golf had seized a window of opportunity.
He told AHIC delegates: “Our properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were ground zero for overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We saw there were going to be issues, and began to develop protocols to overcome them.
“We knew golf was a safe sport and we developed the safety measures – thermal screening, masks, sanitisation and single-use cards – so we could reopen on April 7th.
“There has been tremendous supported by the government, which meant we were only closed for a couple of weeks.”
He added: “There is huge pent up desire for travel – so when it does come back, demand is going to be astronomical.
“We are seeing a surge in demand for gold; across the summer in the UK demand was up 60 per cent, while the United States is seeing rises of 30 per cent.
“Golf is seen as a safe activity, and people who have not played for five-to-ten years, latent golfers, have returned as a way to get outside.”
Tom Phillips, head of the European PGA Tour in the Middle East, also confirmed the DP World Tour Championship would go ahead this year, although in the slightly later slot of December 10th-13th.
Hosted at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, the event is seen as the traditional season finale.
“Golf is a $25 billion industry, so it will come back; there are 390 million golfers around the world each year – and they are drawn to courses where the PGA Tour visits.
“From a hotel perspective, we need a team of at least 500 people to make a tournament, and they all need to stay in a hotel – so the economic return of hosting a tournament can be significant.”
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