Hosting 130,000 golfers annually, the Antalya Belek region is raising the bar in golf tourism, which contributes to year-round tourism and attracts some of the highest-spending tourists, with events like the 'Cornelia Masters Golf Tournament,' now in its third year, gathering Türkiye's best golfers.

Ali Şahin, founder of Cornelia Golf Club and General Manager of Cornelia De Luxe Resort Hotel, mentioned that for Türkiye to increase its tourism revenues, there needs to be an increase in per capita income. He said, "With 17 courses generating an annual revenue of 400 million Euros, Türkiye competes with countries like Spain and Portugal, which earn around 5 billion dollars a year from golf tourism. We need several golf destinations like Belek. If we expand golf tourism across Türkiye, not only will our market share increase, but many of our hotels will also enjoy tourism throughout the year."

Emphasizing the importance of diversifying tourism, Ali Şahin, in an interview with Türkiye Gazetesi, said, "Golf tourism is one of the most important markets for Belek. Starting from January 15th and excluding June, July, and August, we host approximately 130,000 golfers in Belek until December 20th during the golf tourism period. The Cornelia group fills its courses, especially during March, April, May, and the October-November period, with reservations made a year in advance."

Courses full for 2024

Şahin mentioned that the foreign exchange spent per golf tourist is four times that of a normal tourist. "We experienced a decline during the pandemic, but there was a significant increase in 2023. Our courses are already full for many months in 2024, and reservations continue at a high rate. In 2023, 500,000 rounds of golf were played in Belek. Our goal for 2024 is to reach 550-600 thousand rounds. A golf guest can spend between 1,500 and 3,500 Euros per week."

Spain is the largest

Speaking of the abundance of golf destinations in Europe, Ali Şahin said, "Spain, with nearly 400 golf courses, is the largest golf destination. There are about 104 golf courses in Portugal, but the most golf courses are in England. America is also one of the most important regions for golf tourism. We are fourth or fifth in this ranking.

To capture a larger share of this high-income and spending market, increasing direct flight numbers, adding at least 4-5 more 18-hole golf courses in the region, and increasing the number of qualified personnel are absolutely essential. We have been stuck in Belek for about 20 years.

Half of the market comes from the UK

There are 23 golf courses in total in Türkiye. This is not enough. I anticipate some activity in Mersin in the coming periods. If you want to be a golf destination, you need to have at least 34 courses in the same area.

To grow golf tourism in the Belek region, especially direct flights from Europe to Antalya are necessary, explained Ali Şahin. "The United Kingdom almost makes up 50% of our market share. Germany comes in second with 35%, and the other 15% is from various European countries. The Cornelia group has some plans regarding the Far East."

Golfers earn the most

Discussing the profile of golfers in Türkiye, Ali Şahin said, "It's not even one in ten thousand. Especially in Europe, there are some public courses established by municipalities. There are 800,000 golfers in Germany, 600,000 in Sweden, and 2.5 million in England. The highest-earning athletes in the world are golfers," he said, noting that there are athletes who are offered 600 million dollars, 1 billion dollars.