Belated season’s greeting to everyone. At the end of what can only be described as a tumultuous year we look forward to 2018 with optimism and anticipation of another busy but challenging one.
2017 brought us Trump, his tweets and his oversized button, Brexit negotiations, volatile Sterling, Catalan separatists (in exile), record visitor numbers to Spain, Fake News and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, bring back Sean Spicer all is forgiven and Bitcoins. If you’re only beginning to understand them you’ve missed the crypto-rush. Rory and Sergio wedded (separately) and the latter won the Masters in Augusta and the Andalucian Masters at Valderrama but Rory is still adjusting to his new, new golf clubs.
Other more tourism related news items were Ryanair pilots needing holidays, and Mick O’Leary recognising Trades Unions, French Air Traffic controllers did some work in between their strikes, the second runway at Malaga Airport is finally being used to land aircraft as visitor numbers topped 17m. We lost Monarch Airlines which caused much distress to many. Nikki Lauders’ dream also went the way of the Doddo.
One could be forgiven for wishing for a slightly less eventful 2018 to give us time to catch breath. But as Oscar Wilde once said “The only constant in life is change”. Of all the uncertainty one thing is sure – 2018 will be another very busy year for tourism to Iberia and that the early bookers (like now) will be best served. So if we have one really important message for 2018 it’s book early to avoid disappointment and higher prices!
Golf Course News
Pick of the year.
We would like to offer some advice for what we consider to be good value in general terms for golf courses on the Costa del Sol for 2018. This takes into account client feedback during 2017 and contracted rates for 2018. Of course value for money is very date specific so this is not an exact art.
At the value end of the market we like in particular Calanova and Doña Julia GC. Calanova has invested heavily in 2017 and opened a very popular new clubhouse with commanding views on the Mediterranean.
At the middle market we would highly recommends Almenara, Alcaidesa (both the Links & Headland course) and Rio Real G.C. Again all 3 have seen big investments in recent years and Golf Experience has negotiated unbeatable rates with them. Almenara has benefited considerable from its new American investors and client reaction has been very positive. Alcaidesa has excellent value for groups happy to play both their courses which are very different in layout.
At the upper level we note a big improvement in customer service at San Roque Resort. We had been critical of its service level dropping below par in recent years but are happy to say that things are improving and client reaction is much more positive.
La Reserva de Sotogrande!
La Reserva de Sotogrande was the “mover of the year” with a very ambitions re-positioning and moving to a unique place in the market just one step below Valderrama in terms of price.
Huge investment was made in the course and service levels. The jury is still out as to whether the market will follow. Early indications would seem to suggest some softening in their stance on pricing. Meanwhile their neighbour Real Club Valderrama was bough during the year by its members in a complicated deal which may mean a restriction in the number of tee-times available to the public. Time will tell.
Los Naranjos Developments
During this year, a few major developments have taken place at the popular Nueva Andalucia course.
New Restaurant, La Hacienda Food & Golf.
Los Naranjos has always been a popular clubhouse for après-golf with its views down the 18th fairway and golf valley.
The newly opened restaurant is headed by British-born executive chef, Simon James and a new manager, Christian Andresen.
The new restaurant serves; breakfast, lunch and dinner. La Hacienda Food & Golf, has a large terrace is an ideal place to enjoy the more than 300 days of sunshine that Marbella has throughout the year. It also has private rooms and a fantastic wine cellar.
Improvements to the driving range.
Their goals here is to offer more fun and perfecting the swing of the players. Now they have 8 target greens strategically placed along the driving range. There are greens designed to practise the approach and the backspin. In fact, they simulate the natural appearance of the lawn in both soft and semi-hard surface conditions.
The opening of the new halfway house.
The new half-way house is strategically located between the green of the hole 9 and the tee of the hole 10. It is also adjacent to the putting green and driving range.
As hotel occupancy rates sky rocket in Iberia the yield managers are having a field day. A certain arrogance is setting in and one sometimes gets the feeling that they are doing you a favour to sell you a room. However such are the market forces so we will have to live with it. And again the best way to avoid feeling hard done by is to book early!
The much loved but somewhat tired Atalaya Park Hotel in Estepona is now closed for a complete refurbishment and won’t reopen until June 2018 when it will be the Sol Marbella – Estepona Atalaya Park and managed by the Sol Melia chain. We expect this to be a big player in the golf market upon reopening and look forward to seeing what a few million Euros can do for one of the best located and spacious hotels on the Costa.
Kempinski Costa del Sol , Estepona
The five star Kempinski Hotel Bahia in Estepona, Marbella is delighted to announce that the redesign of their lobby and culinary venues will begin at the end of this year, as part of an extensive investment in the hotel. The Management Team and Architects, Akos Bara, have ambitious plans to create modern, elegant and opulent public spaces, embracing the very essence of Kempinski Hotels, Europe’s oldest luxury Hotel Collection, synonymous with luxury travel worldwide.
The redesign will run from December 2017 to March 2018, and for the comfort of guests, the hotel and spa will be closed from the 11th of December 2017 until the 16th of February 2018
Destination Malaga – As a base for golf trips!
Malaga is fast emerging as a destination in its own right and a potential alternative base for golfers. Vast improvement to it tourism infrastructure has transformed the city into a vibrant and hip destination. While, previously, we would have steered away from basing golfers in the city there is now a valid argument for staying ithere. It’s now very much a Barcelona experience in the sun!
There have been major development of its Cruise port which can accommodate 4 Cruise ships a day delivering up to 10,000 tourists on certain dates.
Its city centre has a rich vibe of bustling bistros and tapas bars (most of which are extremely inexpensive). Malaga now oozes culture with its new Picasso (who was of course born in the city) Museum and the Pompidou Centre. Realising that not all golfers want their “après golf” experience to be party time and that some would prefer a rich cultural or genuine Spanish city-break experience we are now suggesting that you consider the city as a base. We have contracted rates with some of the major 4 star hotels in the city.
A couple of issues are that it limits the choice of courses but within a 20 minute transfer time you have 8 courses. City traffic can make gauging transfer times a little difficult but we can allow for this. Malaga is not a sprawling city – it is quite compact. On the other hand the transfer to and from Malaga Airport is only 10/15 minutes. City accommodation tends to cater more for the business traveller than the tourist and as such even 4 star hotels may not have swimming pools. So the pre-dinner drink will more likely be in the small bustling bar than pool-side.
The provincial capital has, for the moment at least, La Liga football and Premiership basketball for the sports enthusiast.
Check out this gallery for a wider flavour of Malaga:
We have always believed that transportation is the vital link in the success of a golf holiday. That’s why we don’t skimp when it comes to wheels! For groups we use only the best and most luxurious coach company on the Costa del Sol. Our preferred partner Garcatri has a fleet of tailor made micro coaches. On board WIFI and complimentary water are standard. English speaking, well presented and courteous drivers who are familiar with all the golf courses.
Garcatri Luxury Coaches
Similarly when it comes to car hire we deal only with the best. The car hire industry has given itself a poor reputation in recent years with must misleading marketing communications. At Malaga and Gibraltar airport and any points in between we work with Espacar which is a midsize family run company who “get” customer service. What we sell is what we deliver which explains the exponential growth in our car hire business in recent years which would seem to run contrary to the tide of on-line bookings. We now offer the complete range of Renault and Nissan cars and you can even refer a friend.
Our price always include;
- All taxes and charges
- No surcharge for additional drivers
- Fully comprehensive insurance (no excess). You are only responsibility is loss of keys, damage to wheels and underneath of car – usually as a result of going off-road.
- Honest fuel policy (either return as you receive it or pay and return empty)
- Car booked is what you get – not the inferior “or Similar” model!.
- No charge for late arrival or early departure.
- No cancellation fee in the event of cancellation – full refund.
- Airport meet & greet (so no queuing). Fast drop off facility
- Unlimited mileage
- No hidden extras
And all it takes to book is a quick phone call or email with your flight details and we do the rest. And you’ll be met by a friendly face on arrival.
Golf Experience has just returned from a fact finding mission to explore the recent wave of investments in the golfing infrastructure in neighbouring Morocco. The kingdom stands out in the Arab World as a country with a genuine home grown love of golf. The sport may not have filtered too far down the social ladder (starting with the king) but is developing fast if the number of new courses is anything to go by.
A number of new projects with courses designed by the likes of Colin Montgomery, Tony Jacklin and Cabell Robinson are spouting on the outskirts of the bigger cities such as Casablanca and the capital Rabat. Marrakesh and Agadir already have established golf infrastructures. We played the Royal Club Dar el Salam and Mohammedia both well established and mature clubs in addition to some of the excellent new golf resorts. The new courses however, as is the pattern throughout the world, are designed to sell Real Estate and will take some time to bed down. It would appear that many of the money classes are abandoning the cities to live behind the gated communities on the new courses.
With low cost airlines such as Ryanair & Easyjet and very competitive rates from Royal Air Maroc, Morocco is an interesting golf destinations particularly for anyone wanting to mix a culture and sightseeing with their golf. We stayed at the 5 star “Amphitrite Palace” on the beach near Rabat and 20 minutes from the Dar el Salam courses (45 holes) . 7 night packages half-board with 4 rounds of golf and airport and golf transfer are as little as €890 per person sharing. Cheaper 4 star packages are also available.
The comfort and style of the 5 star hotels is the ideal way to see Morocco. It’s probably not the ideal destination for a group of alcohol thirsty young men although don’t think for one moment that the Moroccans don’t know how to party – au contraire!!. Alcohol is of course freely available in all the 4 and 5 star hotel but it’s not cheap. Morocco produces its own excellent wines and beers. And as for the food!!
A Big Thank You!
In November we made an appeal to all our contacts including clients, suppliers – everybody basically for financial help to the victims of the massive landslide which killed in excess of 1,000 people in Regent village on the outskirts on Freetown, Sierra Leone. Your response can only be described as heartening. This single tragedy claimed more lives by far than all the hurricanes and earthquakes which hit the Caribbean and Mexico last Autumn put together.
Donations flowed in and some were exceptionally generous and we can only say how grateful we and www.action4schools.gi , the Gibraltar based charity is. The Christmas raffle raised a further £35.000 for the education programme in Sierra Leone. The people of Gibraltar are an extremely giving people. Donations continue to be welcome!