Golf to take off in Israel
Golf to take off in IsraelIsrael news photo:

The Tourism Ministry announced Monday it is investing 760 million shekels ($200 million) to develop 16 golf courses in an effort to encourage golfers to visit the country. It hopes the investment will pay back 3 billion shekels ($790 million) in spending by tourists.

The ministry is banking on a 20 percent increase in hotel occupancy.

The first potential sites for golf courses are in the Eilat area; between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the Dead Sea; Tiberias, located on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), and Hadera, several miles east of Haifa.

"Developing golf tourism will diversify tourism, encourage high-value local and international investment from a tourism, commercial, employment and regional development viewpoint,” according to  Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.

He expects that “tens of thousands of golf tourists will come to Israel annually and that golf tourism will help Israel compete with other countries in the region including Egypt, Jordan and the Mediterranean basin countries, which have long been preferred golf tourism destinations."

The number of golf courses and golfers around the world has almost doubled to an estimated 33,000 golf courses and about 55 million golfers in the past 20 years. A report published by Oxford Economics on golf tourism found that the average golf tourist spends more than $200 a day and that golf tourism in Europe, the Middle East and Africa directly generated $4 billion and 60,000 jobs in 2006.