Abu Dhabi’s golf tourism is on the upswing

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi ... the course is designed by sports legend Gary Player

NEW figures released by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) show the emirate’s golf tourism offering grew by 49 per cent in the number of overseas rounds played in 2013 compared to 2012. The figures reaffirm the emirate’s status as one of the world’s most desirable golf destinations, validating Abu Dhabi’s strategy to deliver sustainable golf tourism via its ‘Golf in Abu Dhabi’ initiative.

The latest figures also show the emirate’s dominance in the wider UAE framework as the runaway destination of choice. Total Abu Dhabi course rounds consistently contributed over 30 per cent of all international rounds played in the UAE through the latter part of 2013.

Abu Dhabi’s golfing industry partially attributes the huge surge in overseas bookings to the runaway success of the ‘Golf in Abu Dhabi’ initiative – an umbrella marketing, communications, product packaging and distribution platform designed to increase the emirate’s penetration of the lucrative golf tourism segment.

“With an international promotional campaign working in key markets, positioning the emirate’s fluid and straightforward approach to business, there is reason to suggest numbers will continue on this upward trend,” says Chris White, general manager of the award-winning Yas Links course.

“We have benefitted from our collective approach, generating awareness with international tour operators. The feedback is consistently positive, which stems from sales agents having happy customers and experiencing strong enquiries with resulting package sales. Abu Dhabi has all the right ingredients to be a force to contend with in golf and that’s why we’re outperforming forecasted growth.”

More packages are available than ever before, via select tour operators offering a wide variety of Abu Dhabi golfing experiences. Nearly 400 operators have been engaged, all in unanimous support for Abu Dhabi’s prospects.

“Abu Dhabi has made a lot of the right moves in positioning itself, but more importantly for us is the quality and simplicity in working relations that has helped the significant growth,” comments Edward Terre, Lotus Super Travel, one of the UK’s foremost premium golf travel specialists who has seen a major shift from its customers, increasing sales 200 per cent from 2012 to 2013. “The appeal of leisure attractions to our clientele, who are keen to experience what the region has to offer beyond the fairways, plays a significant part in the booking criteria. Abu Dhabi has certainly burst onto the scene in some style.”

During the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January, guests on ‘Golf in Abu Dhabi’ packages experienced the finest the emirate has to offer in terms of golf, cuisine and culture, while watching top golfers compete at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Matteo Manassero, Abu Dhabi’s global golf ambassador, was joined by some of the world’s best players including Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

“It’s without doubt one of the world’s finest golf destinations,” says Manassero. “At every corner of the globe I travel for golf tournaments, I am inundated with people asking me about Abu Dhabi and what experiences are on offer. I tell them it’s where I spend my time practising between events, because of the golf facilities and because of the hotels and relaxation it affords. It is number one for me.”