Belek enlists support of a golfing legend

Posted on 14 February 2011

Date: 23/10/2008
Belek enlists support of a golfing legend

Many argue that Turkish tourism’s future lies in golf tourism, and Antalya’s Belek, with its 14 courses, is definitely the place to lead the country. A legendary professional player agrees Belek has the potential to be among the very best of the world

Belek, vying to become one of the world’s top golf destinations, has secured the support of one of the greatest names in the game.

Colin Montgomerie, probably the best European professional golf player, is sure that Turkey, led by Belek, will become the new Spain and Portugal of golf tourism.

“Turkey, and Belek, has the potential to become the very best in golf tourism,” he said yesterday in Belek, where he officially opened the Papillon Montgomerie Golf Course. “It is a new territory and there are many courses in a considerably small region that is bringing in large numbers of tourists.”

Montgomeire has a point when one recalls that the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, or IAGTO, earlier this year voted Turkey to be “the best golf destination in Europe 2008.”

According to the legendary Scottish player, dubbed Monty, what makes Belek unique throughout the golfing world is its climate. “We are here in October, and the weather is fantastic,” he said, smiling under a warm Mediterranean sun. “Back in western Europe and the U.K., it’s all rainy and windy.”

The climate alone, however, is not enough to become a golf tourism hot spot. “People here are doing so much to help the region progress,” Monty said. “Hotel facilities are first class, and the golf courses, all of them, are first class,” the 46-year-old Scotsman said, adding that he was very happy to see more and more direct flights to Antalya from different destinations in Europe. “Belek will only develop, no doubt about that.”

Golf tourism in Turkey is definitely on the increase, but the competitive sports side does not seem so bright. Support from key names like Monty is key to develop the sports side, said Ahmet Agaoglu, chairman of the Turkish Golf Federation, or TGF. “Montgomerie is a great player, and his contribution to Turkey will help us a lot,” he said. “We are doing great on the tourism side of golf, but we must develop the sports side, too.”

By the end of this year, around 65,000 golf tourists will have visited Turkey, Agaoglu said, having played just more than 200,000 rounds of games. He even predicted a brighter 2009, despite the global economic crisis. “I believe 100,000 to 125,000 golf tourists will visit Turkey next year, which means 400,000 to 450,000 rounds.”

A unique course

The Papillon Montgomerie will be Belek’s second signature course, following the Cornelia Nick Faldo Golf Course that began operating in November 2006.

“We have built a different golf course, from the design to the club house,” said Cahit Sahin, manager of the course. He said the Papillon Montgomerie was the only course on the Mediterranean designed by Monty. “Every golfer on the green will feel the difference.”

The course will form part of a new 200 million-euro golf and hotel complex. To complement the 18-hole championship golf course, there is a flood-lit nine-hole short course and a golf academy, as well as a 600-room five-star hotel and 31 holiday villas, which will join the four existing Papillon hotels in Belek.

“Papillon Belluna, which is part of the golf complex, will be operational in a year,” said Sahin. The hotel has the largest share in the investment. The total cost of the course, including the villas, is around 45 million euros.”

The choice to have a course by Montgomerie was based on promotional and marketing advantages, Sahin said. “Monty is an active player, and he is one of the best players on the professional tour, and he has also become famous due to his courses. It is a great advantage in marketing if you have a Montgomerie course, there is no doubt about that.”

Golf courses are sharply criticized by environmentalists, both for the trees cut down in construction and the amount of water used in maintenance. But Sahin said he thought the critics were way too harsh. “We had a recent forest fire in Antalya, thousands of hectares of forests burned down. The main reason behind that fire was lack of care. But here in Belek, the forests are now safe thanks to the golf courses,” he said, pointing out that the courses also create a great number of jobs for the residents of the region. “Golf tourism is a way to sustain and develop Turkish tourism.”

Turkish Daily – News 23 October 2008

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