Rising costs force Dubai golfers to travel abroad

DUBAI — Escalating golfing costs in Dubai are driving local golfers to travel elsewhere while golfing tourism has generally seen a slight decrease, according to expatriates and a major tour operator.

By Zoe Sinclair

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Published: Fri 21 Sep 2007, 9:49 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:12 AM

Expatriates living within the city make up a large part of the Dubai golfing market and said the sport is increasingly getting unaffordable, particularly with the closure of the Dubai Country Club fast approaching and other venues significantly more expensive. Bea Wallace has played golf for several years in Dubai and said she was among those considering travelling to Thailand for a golfing holiday, especially after receiving email notification this month that her usual golf round would be hit by a 10 per cent municipality fee.

“To take the Country Club away from us and make us join an expensive club and then put it up 10 per cent, it’s too unaffordable,” Wallace said. “It’s just going to make it out of reach.”

Giving up a couple of rounds golf in Dubai would easily fund a trip to Thailand, including accommodation, golf for a week and breakfast each day, according to Wallace.

“We can play for a lot cheaper in South Africa and Thailand and it’s just so much more pleasant,” she said.

“If it’s going to get more expensive we might look at moving away,” she declared.

Arabian Adventures senior vice-president Frederic Bardin said green fees had increased between seven and 10 per cent year-on-year and the tour operator had seen a decrease in golf tourist numbers.

“In proportion to our total customer numbers, we have noticed a slight decline in the percentage of those seeking golf products and services,” Bardin said.

However, Emirates Holidays senior vice-president John Felix said it was difficult to measure golf tourist numbers.

“As most people from the GCC countries opt for family holidays rather than ‘sports breaks’, an increase in UAE residents seeking golfing holidays cannot really be measured,” Felix said.

“UAE residents generally opt for standard family holidays as against specific golf-focused breaks,” he noted.

Felix added that a majority of the golfing market was comprised of expatriates living in the city, or European tourists on vacation.

“For these tourists golf is part of their overall holiday itinerary and not its central focus,” he said.

“Hence in this sense, Dubai does not face much competition from cheaper golfing destinations.”

With more than five golf courses in Dubai and the city laying within easy reach of Europe, Felix said golf was still a desirable part of holidaying in Dubai.

“Dubai is also creating additional ‘celebrity golf ’ that are designed by famous golfers and offer their vision of the perfect course,” he said. “These new developments will ensure that the interest level in Dubai’s golfing remains high.”

According to Bardin, Arabian Adventures had stated that it aimed to cater specifically to golfers needs in a bid to rev up niche tourism.

“Among our key priorities for the near future is the creation of a qualified reservations team that understands the specific needs and requirements of golfers,” he said.

“We also intend to design tailor-made products for golfers in this region.”

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