miércoles, 15 de febrero de 2023

Hassan II Trophy return reaffirms Morocco’s resurgence on the global golf stage



Morocco is back on the international golf scene with a vengeance, underscored by the return of the prestigious Hassan II Trophy and the associated Lalla Meryem Cup after three years’ absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both tournaments have been taking place simultaneously at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in the nation’s capital, Rabat.

Held under the patronage of King Mohammed VI and part of the PGA Champions Tour, the 47th edition of the Hassan II Trophy attracted a host of great golfers on its Red Course including Major champions Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen, Paul Lawrie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin as well as Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jimenez and other golf legends.

Meanwhile, the Lalla Meryem Cup, part of Ladies European Tour calendar once again, has been taking place on Royal Golf Dar Es Salam’s Red Course with a strong field of international professionals, as well as Moroccan stars in the making including 13-year-old amateur sensation Sofia Cherif Essakali, winner of the Egyptian Ladies Open in 2022, and professional compatriot Ines Laklalech, North Africa’s first winner on the LET circuit with victory in 2022 Lacoste Ladies Open de France. Both made the cut.

Morocco saw international tourist arrivals reach 10.9 million in 2022, recovering to 84% of its pre-pandemic total in 2019 and exceeding the global recover rate by 20%.

The return of the two important golf tournaments comes as interest in Morocco as a golf holiday destination is also booming once again, post-pandemic. Benjamin Oosterveer, sales manager for leading Morocco DMC Premium Golf Travel, believes they are key to raising its international profile, adding: “Both events are massively important to give visibility to Morocco as a golf destination as well as to Morocco as a country. They are viewed by many golf enthusiasts and it is a unique opportunity to showcase what Morocco can offer.”

Oosterveer says that the company is receiving more requests for Morocco than ever before. “We are experiencing a big surge of requests and bookings for golf holidays to Morocco.”

The receptive golf operator offers packages for international golf tour operators with golf at Royal Dar Es Salam and at Bahia Golf Beach at Bouznika, between Rabat and Casablanca, and with stays at several luxury Rabat area hotels.

“Rabat is an up-and-coming destination with a bright future for golfers,” says Oosterveer. “The offer of quality golf courses combined with the historically rich city of Rabat triggers the interest of many golfers worldwide. We are trying to educate our golf tour operator partners about these opportunities in Rabat. The Hassan II Trophy and Lalla Meryem Cup are for sure helping to increase interest in Rabat for golfers as many will want to play the courses used for the events.”

Another advantage for golfers heading to Rabat is that it is located on the Atlantic coast, which he says means that the climate is mild compared with Morocco’s interior and golf can be played all year.

According to Zakaria Anouar, CEO and Managing Director of DMC Pure Morocco, the Hassan II Trophy’s return is very timely. “We think that the timing is perfect, especially when we see that travel demand has not completely rebounded from the pandemic.”

While Anouar says Morocco has not seen a strong return in the number of international golfers during the winter, he believes demand will increase in spring.

“Newly opened and upcoming new hotels by well-known chains will help increase the leisure segment for Rabat. That is one of the main strategies – to change the perception of Rabat and retain clients to spend more than one night passing through Rabat, which will surely positively impact the golf market.”

Hicham Berdai, Director of Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, maintains the Hassan II Trophy helps to better position Morocco in terms of international tourism. “Thanks to such an event, the country is more than ever a must-see destination for millions of golf fans around the world,” he states, adding that the event benefited this year from a TV audience of millions in over 130 countries worldwide.

The Asian Tour chose Royal Golf Dar Es Salam to host its debut event in North Africa when it staged the International Series Morocco in November 2022. It will also be the venue for the World Amateur Team Championships in 2027.

Berdai points out that Morocco has more than 40 high-quality golf courses and a rich golfing heritage, being blessed with 300 days of sunshine every year.

“At two hours’ flight from most European capitals, with an impressive geographical diversity, a most pleasant climate, an ancestral culture, a renowned gastronomy and quality courses, Morocco, and Rabat, are indeed the ideal golfing destination.”

Ghizlane Halaoui, Director of Sales for an international luxury hotel in Rabat’s Marina, explains that golf is very important for the hotel, with five golf courses within an hour and Royal Golf Dar Es Salam just 25 minutes away.

“We are targeting high-end golfers who want to combine golf, spa and discovering the city.” She adds: “Rabat is still unknown for golfers, but there are direct flights to Rabat from France, Madrid, Brussels, Barcelona, Malaga, Rome and London. And we are 90 minutes from the international airport at Casablanca. In Rabat, golfers can play all year; the weather is very nice.”

Besides hotels, riads are another accommodation option in Rabat and several new riads are opening in the city. Called the City of Lights and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rabat has been hosting the FIFA Club World Cup at the same time as the Hassan II Trophy and Lalla Meryem Cup, with the final played on Saturday in Rabat’s Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium and won by Spain’s Real Madrid.

For more details about golf in Morocco, go to www.visitmorocco.com and for photos, visit the Golf in Morocco Photo Library: www.iagto.com/MAphotos

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