Call for more Greek links

Greece remains a laggard in investment in golf courses, although golf tourism is one of the most rapidly expanding forms of the industry in recent years. Presenting the Third Aegean Airlines ProAm international golf tournament, Aegean president Theodoros Vassilakis said yesterday that Greece may only have six courses but golf is acknowledged across the world as an excellent market for tourism as it comprises 50 million high-income consumers as well as 32,000 courses. The tournament taking place on June 5-7 at Hersonissos, near Iraklion in Crete, is the only one in Greece that is under the auspices of Europe’s Professional Golfers’ Association. Most courses are in Northern Europe, with Britain having about 3,000, while Sweden, with over 450, is showing a considerable growth rate. Golf is estimated to directly contribute some 15.4 billion euros to the European economy every year, with a total of 6,300 courses and 4.1 million registered players. An average of 83 new courses are created each year in Europe costing some 4 million euros each. This means that approximately 333 million euros are invested annually in golf courses, while a similar amount is spent on improving and upgrading existing installations. According to a study by the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Greece should have 46 rather than just six courses, based on number of arrivals and courses in competitor destinations. Vassilakis said it is quite encouraging that new golf courses will be created in the southwestern Peloponnese as a result of the Costa Navarino investment, as well as additional courses through the major investment program at Cavo Sidero on Crete. Furthermore, thanks to the Mediterranean Games of 2013 to take place in Volos and Larissa, two new courses will be created for the event in Thessaly. In response to environmental criticism about golf courses, Vassilakis said that they complement the ecosystem, offering a habitat to animals and facilitating the survival even of endangered species. «Barren areas such as Hersonissos will benefit from having a golf course because it creates new green zones,» he stated.