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Dubai 2017 | TOURISM, SPORTS & RETAIL | FOCUS: GOLF TOURISM

Long part of Dubai's sporting fabric, the Emirate's stunning golf greens are becoming a key focal point for the burgeoning tourism sector.

Deloitte's commissioned report on Dubai's sports sector has highlighted the growing importance of golf tourism in bringing international exposure to the Emirate's world-class facilities as well as outlining the revenue the sport will bring to local coffers.

The Economic Impact of Sport in Dubai study, published by Deloitte, has calculated that sport's direct economic impact is valued at USD131 million annually, with a total impact of USD670 million, and an economic footprint of over USD1.7 billion a year.

Golf's contribution to these impressive figures comes from the 80 events held across 11 facilities and courses. Golf's direct economic impact is USD131 million, a whole 30% of sports total economic impact. An aggregate of over 1 million people attend golfing occasions every year. The most attractive of these are the internationally renowned DP World Tour Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The report, which was commissioned by the Dubai Sport Council and Falcon, shows that the gross expenditure on golf in Dubai amounts to USD270 million.

Dubai has a strong appetite for golf and its surrounding events, with the 11 golf courses equating to a population per course ratio of 200,000 per course, compared to popular golfing destinations such as France and Spain, which have one course per every 112,000 and 134,000, respectively. There are a further four courses under construction which would bring Dubai's ratio to 143,000 per course. Dubai's 6,000 golfers equate to a participation rate of 0.26%, about a third of the European average of 0.73%. The nine golf courses currently operational generate annual revenue of USD120 million, of which USD109 million comes from local residents. With the anticipated growth in population, these numbers show room for growth within the sector, potentially in the field of cheaper, more affordable courses.

HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, explained to TBY: “Golf is huge in Dubai, and we have world-class facilities here in the UAE. People seek to come here just to play golf in the UAE. The number of world-class greens here is huge for the size of the population.” The 80 events which the Emirate holds, including the DP World Tour Championship, which includes world-class players, including previous winners Rory McIllroy, Martin Kaymer, and Henrik Stenson. The championship is the last installment of the European Tour's Race to Dubai, a series that travels 26 countries and includes tournaments in neighbouring Abu Dhabi. Hosting the finale brings prestige and media attention, as it is where Europe's number one player is crowned after accruing points over the 47 tournaments.

Dubai's growing prestige over the past decades has established the Emirate as a key player in the international golf landscape. Hosting leading events at its world-class facilities has brought not only golfing superstars, but amateur golfers hoping to walk the same greens as their heroes. In a 2013 KPMG study, Dubai tied for 6th (alongside Abu Dhabi) as the most popular golf tourism destination, only edged by seasoned European destinations (Scotland, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland) and Turkey. Deloitte's more recent study estimated the golf tourism sector to be worth USD38 million in Dubai. Golf is a sport that tends to be played by the wealthier classes and so returns an impressive spending break down; the 16,000 international golf visitors per year typically stay five nights in Dubai, spending USD410 per day on accommodation and additional expenditure, average flights cost USD1,350, of which an estimated 27% are with Emirates airline. The volume of these visits will certainly increase with the continuing Airbus and Boeing orders from Emirates, coupled with the ever-growing airport traffic and high tourism projection of 20 million tourists by 2020.

As well as providing an estimated 1,800 people with jobs, the sport also supports employmentin numerous ancillary industries in the supply chain. As it stands, around 440,000 rounds of golf are played in Dubai every year. With the current investments coming to fruition, that figure is only expected to rise in the years to come.