Golf in Istria

INTRODUCTION

The construction of golf courses in Istria is of strategic interest for the development of Croatian tourism.  

Such strong statement at the very beginning of this review of the development of golf in Istria and Croatia faithfully describes the decision and the efforts of the Istrian Region on the issue of the realization of golf projects. The fact that out of 23 locations planned for the construction of golf courses by the decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia of August and December 1999 as many as 14 are situated in the Istrian Region is both extremely flattering and obliging as far as it implies taking over the role of leaders of the entire golf project in Croatia. 

With the objective of further enlargement of the possibility of development of this entirely new, currently non-existent tourist sector in Istria, the number of potential locations for the realization of golf projects has been increased by the Physical Plan of the Istrian Region from 14 to a total of 22. The term -golf project” does not imply the mere construction of golf courses. It also includes the construction of complete golf centres with multifold accompanying and accommodation contents. In fact, the project is about creating an entirely new and very popular tourist product. On the other hand, it implies the opening of new markets, the arrival of new guests, and finally, the creation of an entirely new image of Istria as a tourist region.  

The continuation of this review offers a general picture of development and importance of golf in the world. It is a very attractive and healthy sport, which in time grew into a movement, a lifestyle accepted and available to an increasingly wider number of people of different social status. Finally, the review presents general activities and events regarding the realization of golf projects in Istria and Croatia.  

GOLF IN THE WORLD

Try to imagine an average golfer, male, aged 35-55, British. Starting from the beginning of October all through April, he sets off for southern Mediterranean, spends about ten days on his trip, on his average golf tour he passes through 3 to 4 golf courses and spends about 100 pounds a day (around 150 Euro). In other words, during his 10-day stay, he spends about 1.500 Euro!   

Let us say that this is a potential visitor of Istria who expects the construction of only one golf court with all the accompanying contents, (or 3-4 courts, which is the average number of golf courses visited during his stay), so that he could spend his 150 Euro a day in the destination of his choice, that is Istria. About 353.000 such guests leave Great Britain yearly and go in all directions with the only objective of playing golf! There are 176.000 golfers a year from Germany, the most interesting market for Istria. More than half a million people from only two countries!   

A rough estimate reveals the astonishing and almost unimaginable number of 75 million Euro this mass of golfers (from only two European countries) spends in only one day (!) mostly in Europe, not so far from Istria and Croatia. 

For this reason, if there is interest, and if the interest is quite great, why not meet the interest with a matching offer? Other countries are doing their best to be competitive in this specific and extremely popular market on the rise. A new golf course is opened in Europe every day!   

The strength of golf market is best illustrated by the data of the Economy Research Association - ERA, according to which Europe has more than 3 million registered golfers, and their total number is 5,5 million. The British are the most numerous with as many as 857.000 active players, the Swedes have 418.900, the Germans 318.300, while there are 261.500 registered players in France and 218.000 in Scotland.   

70 per cent of golf offer is located in these countries (golf courses and all accompanying contents which necessarily complete the courses) in Europe. The 1990s witnessed a 53 per cent increase in the entire European offer, and the highest increase was recorded in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Sweden.  

When it comes to international travel, 1,1 million persons a year (mostly Europeans) declare golf as the most important reason for their travel, 75 per cent of which come from Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, and France. Let us not forget that the passion for this game makes as many as 49 per cent of American golfers undertake the overseas travel to Europe.   

An average golfer has very strict criteria for choosing his golf destination. In fact, one of the most important criteria is the reputation or good image of the destination, or a possibility to meet a famous person during the stay (actor, singer, or top model), the characteristics of golf course and a variety of other accompanying contents (quality and accessible courses, type and vicinity of accommodation and the airport). The climate is also very important, especially the natural, untouched environment (everything in connection with nature, ecology, and healthy lifestyle is very trendy at the moment).  

Even a superficial glance at some of the primary characteristics a golf destination must have in order to be competitive reveals the fact that Istria will able to compete on equal basis with other regions "offering" golf, as soon as only one quality golf centre is constructed. Thus, we can conclude that there are all preconditions for the Strategy of the Development of Croatian Tourism to be most seriously launched in the direction of creating such tourist offer at the moment missing in Croatia.   

If we take into consideration that along with the already renowned golf destinations such as Spain (Costa del Sol), Portugal (Algarve/Lisbon), France (Coté Azur), Ireland, Scotland and the USA, there are also countries or regions on the rise such as South Africa, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the Caribbean, or Southern American countries, and the fact that the golfers are constantly in search of new destinations (the need for new experiences, emotions); Istria can find its place under the golf sun in a very short period.   

If Turkey could become a "hit destination" for golfers a few years ago, why could it not be Croatia/Istria in two or three years?

For further information and comments:  

Istrian Region
Department of tourism
Address:
Partizanska 5a, 52440 Poreč
Tel: 052/351-601
Fax: 052/452-811
e-mail: branko.curic@istra-istria.hr