HOLE IN ONE

Dubai 2016 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdulaziz Bukhatir, Executive Director Corporate Services of Jumeirah Golf Estates, on the growing gold industry in Dubai, developing real estate, and plans for the future.

Abdulaziz Bukhatir
BIOGRAPHY
Abdulaziz Bukhatir has been heavily involved in senior financial management for more than 20 years, beginning his career with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce as Head of the Foreign Company Department in 1994. He graduated in Business Administration and Commerce at the University of UAE a year earlier and in 1995 joined DP World Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, managing accounts across the entire group. He worked for nearly two decades with Dubai World and then began in 2007 with Nakheel as an Assistant Development Director. Over the next five years, he worked his way up to the position of Executive Director of Finance before joining Jumeirah Golf Estates as Executive Director. He has received numerous accolades from the highest authorities. These include his graduation from the Dubai Leaders Program and two letters of appreciation from the government of Dubai in the categories of Best Financial Employee and Performance Team Work. He is also a certified lead auditor.

Jumeirah Golf Estates has held the DP World Tour Championship since 2009. What is the significance of this tournament for Jumeirah Golf Estates?

This will be our eighth year hosting the championship. This is one of the best events worldwide and, being a host venue, pushes us to continue to provide the same level of quality and support every year, which we align with our partners at DP World and the European Tour. Dubai Sports Council recently gave a five-star ranking to the DP World Tour Championship, which further enhances the tournament's status as one of the premier events in the UAE. The DP World Tour Championship—the season Finale of the European Tour's Race to Dubai—also presents a first-class opportunity to showcase our world-class golf courses—Fire and Earth—to a world of the sport's enthusiasts.

Jumeirah Golf Estates recently awarded a contract for Alandalus housing project to Al Habtoor STFA Soil Group. Why did you decide to include mid-market housing on a golf development and what have been the latest developments of this project?

Alandalus is a collection of 674 affordable luxury apartments and 54 townhouses. We have seen a 6.5% population growth in Dubai, which has made way for increased demand in the mid-market sector. We always adjust ourselves to the market's requirement; therefore, we decided this was the right time to focus on what the end user requires. We have awarded the piling contract for the Alandalus project to Al Habtoor STFA Soil Group. The construction is going as scheduled, and we are set to complete two buildings by 2018. Everything is progressing as planned.

What are the unique environmental challenges in running a grass golf course in this region of the world?

It has always been a challenge to run a golf course in such an arid environment and climate. Despite this, our golf courses are among one of the best in the world. We have always maintained our golf courses in house, and we are using all of the available sustainable resources to maintain the pristine greens. We are using recycled water, and we have been using state-of-the-art equipment for all aspects, like irrigation. We are pioneers in our developments, and not just in terms of the golf course. We have 15 lakes and 1,700 constructed and under construction homes, all linked together by two championship golf courses built for world champions.

What is your contribution to the local economy?

The golf industry in Dubai is worth $131 million. Golf contributes 30% to sport's total economic impact of $421 million, or $131 million per annum. Golf events in Dubai generated an estimated $92 million of total sports expenditure of $1.1 billion. As hosts of the DP World Tour Championship, we are proud of the impact we are having on the local economy. This year's event is expected to attract 65,000 spectators, which will further increase the spotlight on Dubai and its leading golf facilities. Furthermore, the gross expenditure of golf clubs alone stands at $120 million, representing revenue from memberships, green fees, and food and beverage sales. We have always wanted to be number one, and that has been the top-level priority from the beginning and we are maintaining that.

How do you expect the real estate sector to evolve in the short term in the region?

Our yields are stronger compared to most of the world—in the 5-8% range, compared to 2-3% in the UK. To be more precise, at Jumeirah Golf Estates, our apartments yield is 7-8% and the villas yield 5-6%. It is a promising trend and we have a great marketing team, so I am very confident that our latest developments, including Alandalus will make an impact on the real estate market. As an organization we are constantly listening to the market's needs, and because we are not as large, we are very agile, so we are actually able to accommodate the market and what our buyers and investors are looking for.