x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A conversation on golf in Abu Dhabi

q&a D J Flanders

The intent with TDIC is to create a tourism destination. Generally in this region you have a membership-style model, where here we've intentionally gone for a more daily-fee model. We're expecting 20,000 rounds to be played on the course this year. We think that it's going to play an important part in putting Abu Dhabi on the map as a golfing destination.

I think you could use more, but I think it's a good start with the amount of hotel rooms we have. TDIC actually has two properties. They have ourselves and the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, so there's quite nice stay-and-play packages for a weekend if you come and play those two properties. Yas Island is also going to have another nice offering, so it would be possible to play three distinct golf course in one trip to Abu Dhabi. I think if we're responsible about how we do it here, and we're competitive with our rates - we wrap them in with hotel pricing and add it to an airline - you might not be looked at as the most expensive golfing destination, and you can drive more business that way.

We are going to have a small component of what we call "passport holders", annual holders of informal memberships - but the real intent is to always have availability for tourist guests. We wanted to create a different name than membership, because if you say membership, you're a member club and tourists think they can't get in. There needs to be a property in the region, if you're going to be serious about golf, that has enough availability to support golf tourism. We feel that Saadiyat Beach is a good fit for that. Passport holders will pay Dh30,000 annually - that's unlimited play. We have about 118 who are on the waiting list to join and we're looking for approximately 150 in the first year.

There's no real affiliation with Mr Player, although it's a nice complement. It comes from a trip that I went on to visit Mr Player in South Africa. I met a lot of the staff over there and I thought the service mentality of the South Africans was phenomenal. There will be 100 staff.

The main market right now has been Germany. The UK is another big market. Europe tends to be one of our larger markets. We're seeing a bit of a pick-up in South Africa. Mr Player is going to help us get exposure there. I'm also keen to see what happens when Etihad launches in Japan. D?J Flanders interviewed by Rebecca Bundhun