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Golf has brought over half a million visitors to Andalucía for the first time

A moment during a game at Hotel Villa Padierna, between Marbella and Estepona.
A moment during a game at Hotel Villa Padierna, between Marbella and Estepona. / SUR
  • The Costa del Sol boasts 67% of the golf courses in the region and the sector expects at least 5% more visitors this year, which would be a new record

Last year 530,000 tourists came to Andalucía to play golf, and this figure was 10.4 per cent higher than the previous year. This was the largest number of visitors of this type ever, and the first time that over half a million people stayed in Andalucía specifically because of its golfing facilities.

These figures were announced this week by the regional government’s minister for Tourism and Sport, Francisco Javier Fernández, at the official presentation of the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, in San Roque (Cadiz province). This competition is part of the European Circuit, and it will be held at Valderrama from 19 to 22 October. Many top players will be competing, including Sergio García, and on this occasion there will be an added attraction because Jon Rahm, ranked fifth in the world, will be making his professional debut here.

Fernández explained that the results of the golf segment in Andalucía are very positive, as there has been an accumulated growth of 25 per cent over the past five years. He also pointed out the many attractions of this region: for example, it has the highest concentration of golf courses in the whole of continental Europe and 20 per cent of the total in Spain: of its 102 courses, approximately half are in Malaga province and just over 20 per cent in Cadiz.

Forty per cent of golf tourists who came to this region in 2016 were from the UK, followed by Spanish (15 per cent) and German (12 per cent). The minister also explained the importance of this type of visitor for year-round tourism, because they mainly come out of season and spend a large part of their budget on eating out and other activities.

In fact, in 2016 these visitors spent about 117.5 euros each per day, almost double the amount spent by tourists in general, which is about 65 euros; they also stayed for an average of 10.8 days, two days longer than other types of tourists. They gave the destination a score of 9.2 out of 10, which is the highest registered so far.

Francisco Javier Fernández said that that golf “is experiencing one of its best times ever” in the region, not only because of those figures but also because it has become a leader in terms of events, for example, the forthcoming Valderrama Masters, and also the Spanish Women’s Open which was held in Marbella last month, and in which Azahara Muñoz succeeded in holding on to her title.

The minister stressed that the Junta de Andalucía is committed to supporting the golf sector because of its importance to tourism and sport, and announced that in the near future his department is planning to put together an enhanced sales team to contact travel agents and tour operators in different countries and provide them with information about the facilities in the region.

The Andalucía Valderrama Masters, which is supported by Spanish golfer Sergio García and his foundation, could reach a potential audience of over 400 million homes on five continents thanks to the European Tour being televised. There will be 15 hours of live broadcasts in such important markets as the UK, France and the USA, among others.

Support for tournaments

Finally, Fernández explained that the support for this competition on the European circuit forms part of his department’s promotional strategy. Organising major events which have wide coverage abroad is a very good way to showcase the golf courses in Andalucía, he said, and they provide a positive return in terms of income and job creation.

The golfing infrastructure and the level of service are the two most highly valued concepts among tourists who come to Andalucía. According to the results of the regional government’s surveys, on a scale of one to ten the visitors gave 8.6 points to the golf courses, slightly higher than the 8.5 points scored by the region’s cultural attractions.

This type of visitor is interesting for any tourist destination because of the length of time they stay and the amount they spend, but according to the surveys 69 per cent of these tourists say they chose Andalucía specifically in order to play golf.

Despite the positive figures, experts have detected some weaknesses in the sector in Andalucía, such as the increase in IVA (VAT). This went up from eight to 21 per cent at the end of 2012 , because golf courses began to be treated as sports facilities instead of tourist facilities. In addition to this problem, which the Junta and some members of the Spanish government warned about at the time, professionals we consulted were also critical of the prices charged by some courses or complementary services.

In terms of strengths, the experts include the fact that the destination is famous (the Costa del Sol is an internationally renowned brand), in addition to the climate, the extensive number of golf courses and complementary facilities, and the proximity of the main source markets, thanks to good communications.

The Andalusian strategy changed direction once the economic crisis began. The Junta stopped hosting professional tournaments on the European Tour, because it would have been too expensive in times of recession, and started to maintain a presence in golf fairs and other events in the sector instead. It promoted the region on amateur circuits, small competitions where the message can be put across directly. Andalucía has forged alliances with, in addition to others in the segment, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, with the aim of carrying out joint promotional activities in international markets.