Abu Dhabi's investment in the tourism sector, particularly its championship standard golf courses, has helped to catapult the UAE into the top 10 global golf tourism league table for the first time, according to the latest research by the global accounting firm KPMG.
The annual KPMG Golf Travel Insights study, released today includes Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the global top 10 destinations for the first time. The study is watched closely by the travel industry as a barometer of trends in the sports holiday sector. The pair are number six on the list of golfing destinations ahead of South Africa and the United States.
Top Abu Dhabi courses such as Saadiyat Beach have proven a major attraction for global golf tourists who are choosing the UAE over traditional destinations such as England, France and Thailand, which have been bumped further down the rankings. "The principal reason the UAE has risen so high up the list is that there is finally a critical mass of excellent facilities in Abu Dhabi in particular," said Andrea Sartori, the head of KPMG's golf advisory practice in Europe the Middle East and Africa, who runs the report.
"Dubai has long had good courses but with Abu Dhabi investing so much in golf courses and in tourism in general the whole country has now become an important destination for golf tourism," he added.
Mr Sartori singled out investments made by Etihad, the national airline, in bringing in golf tourists. "The promotion of Abu Dhabi as a destination by companies like Etihad has done a great deal," he said.
Golf tourism increased across the board last year, according to KPMG.
Global golf holiday sales grew by an average of 9.3 per cent to more than an estimated €1.5 billion (Dh7.17bn) compared with 2011, with as many as for 1.6 million golfers travelling overseas to play.
Spain continues to be the top destination for golf tourists worldwide, with Portugal and Scotland coming in second and third place, as they did in the previous year.