Eilat takes off with planned desert golf course as tourism to Israel grows

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The number of golf courses in Israel will double in the coming years with a new set of greens and bunkers planned for the desert around the resort town of Eilat.

Israel’s only 18-hole golf course is in Caesarea. It was built in 1961 by the Rothschild family, who hired a famous American golf course designer, Pete Dye, for the world-class course. He has since returned to refresh the course. A second nine-hole course was also built next to the main Caesarea course. But another nine-hole course at Ga’ash, near Netanya in central Israel, is now closed.

In early September, the Ministry of Tourism and the Israel Lands Authority told The Times of Israel that they were launching a public tender for the new golf course and hotel in northern Eilat. According to Hezi Magen, president of the Golf Association, local golfers were involved in the discussions.

The total area of ​​the development is approximately 1,229 dunams (1,229,000 square meters, 300 acres) and the successful bidder will be required to build housing and commercial space along the course. The intention is to add 560 new hotel rooms, a shopping complex, the golf course covering approximately 600,000 square meters (6,458,346 sq ft) and space for an adjacent golf academy.

California, Nevada and Arizona are already demonstrating the potential of the desert landscape golf course. With this project, the Negev will come into play.

Israel Lands Authority Director Yaakov Quint sees a growing demand for hotels and leisure activities in Israel and believes that not only will this development strengthen Eilat as a resort for international and domestic tourists, but will also create a “unique golf resort with high scenic value. Developers have until May to submit proposals and the winner will sign a six-year development contract.

Then-Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov identified golf as a way to attract the highest spending tourists to the country in 2009. In conjunction with the Israel Lands Authority, the Ministry of Tourism planned 16 new golf courses across Israel, which will be built over a 15-year period. period at a cost of NIS 760 million ($200 million), estimating that the investment could increase tourist numbers by 20%. Total golf tourism at the time in Europe, the Middle East and Africa was estimated at $2.7 billion (over NIS 9 billion). Courses for Eilat, the Dead Sea, Tiberias, Savyon and Rishon Lezion were in preparation. And then the plans were quietly shelved.

The golf tourism industry has continued to grow – $4.44 billion last year with $4.8 billion forecast for this year (NIS 15 billion to NIS 16.5 billion in 2022). So-called golf tourists travel the world playing different courses. They often stay in places longer than other tourists, thus spending more. But they have around 33,000 existing golf courses around the world to choose from.

Golf has always been about more than the game itself. Some say it’s no coincidence that there are 32 golf courses in California’s Silicon Valley. Golf courses are places where deals are made, and young Israeli entrepreneurs might discover that an additional Israeli golf course could prove to be a place to seal international deals.

Ten million tourists by 2030 is the stated ambition of the Ministry of Tourism. This year’s budget for tourism infrastructure is $85 million (NIS 300 million), and in looking at how to attract new visitors and diversify what Israel has to offer them, golf is back on the agenda. national day.

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