Saudi Arabia not planning to legalise alcohol for tourists or at Neom, princess says

Tourism minister says the kingdom is 'doing well' in attracting visitors and current laws would remain

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Saudi Arabia has no plans to legalise alcohol — either at futuristic megacity Neom or in a bid to draw more visitors, assistant minister of tourism Princess Haifa bint Mohammed said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Princess Haifa said the kingdom has been “doing well” in attracting visitors since launching tourism e-visas in 2019 and that rules would remain “the same”.

“The short answer is that we’re going to continue with our current laws,” Princess Haifa said.

Possession, consumption or manufacture of alcohol is illegal in the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia has been very transparent on where it stands on everything, we were very clear and we even heard it from our head of state on where we stand on serving alcohol”.

She insisted that the ban on alcohol had not affected tourism.

“We have been out outperforming globally in tourism with what we currently have to offer today.”

Saudi Arabia rose 10 places in the WEF’s 2021 Travel and Tourism Development Index, which measures sustainable and resilient development of the sector, and was released this week at the Davos summit.

The kingdom was placed second in the Middle East, behind the UAE.

Saudi Arabia opened up to holidaymakers in September 2019, with the launch of the tourist e-visit visa.

This proved popular, with more than 400,000 visas issued within the first 6 months.

“There’s a lot to go around without introducing anything new,” Princess Haifa said.

Earlier this month, Andrew McEvoy, head of the tourism sector at Neom, told The National that “alcohol is definitely not off the table” for the city.

“We need to be competitive, and to do that, we have to match what competing destinations are offering,” he said.

But while the Saudi government had not made any specific comment previously about the sale of alcohol, state media cited official sources denying Mr McEvoy’s claim.

They insisted that while there will be a slightly different legal framework for Neom as a special economic zone, the city will still be governed by the rules and regulations of the kingdom.

Asked in a recent interview about easing alcohol rules, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declined to comment.

Updated: May 26, 2022, 12:58 PM
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