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There has long been speculation that hotels in Saudi Arabia would need to relax its restriction on alcohol to attract global tourists.

The Luxury Collection NEOM, located in Saudi Arabia’s Sindalah Island, put out a call for mixologists and bartenders ahead of its opening next year – though the hotel’s operator, Marriott, says the job listings were a mistake and being removed.

Saudi Arabia bans alcohol but there has long been speculation it would need to relax that restriction to build its global tourism industry.

The job description for a “beverage/mixology attendant” was posted on Marriott’s career website Thursday. It read, in part: “[The candidate must] prepare drink orders for guests according to specified recipes using measuring systems. Issue, open, and serve wine/champagne bottles.” And later on: “Secure liquors, beers, wines, coolers, cabinets, and storage areas.”

As of Thursday, Skift could see 28 open Marriott positions in Saudi Arabia mentioning alcohol in the job description, from serving champagne to being aware of state and federal alcohol laws. These positions included bartender roles within resorts at The Red Sea, another island project near Sindalah.

Marriott said the posts were made by automatic systems and that they were being removed. A spokesperson said in a statement: “We looked into this and found that the postings were due to an error within our HR system, which automatically uploaded our template job descriptions for similar F&B positions.”

On Friday, the job posting that referenced “mixology” read simply, “Beverage Attendant,” and references to alcohol had been removed.

NEOM did not immediately respond to Skift’s request for a statement.

An article last year in the Wall Street Journal cited planning documents and sources to report that a “tony beach resort” would be serving alcohol in Saudi Arabia.

At a conference in Dubai last year, Andrew McEvoy, former head of tourism at NEOM said on stage that “alcohol was not off the table” within the project. McEvoy stepped down from his role and left the country following the conference. Two weeks later, the local government said it would not legalize alcohol.

The Saudi Press Agency issued a statement surrounding McEvoy’s comments at the conference, stating that his comments do not reflect the plans or beliefs of the country.

‘No Need’ for Alcohol in Saudi

In an April 2023 interview at the Future Investment Initiative Institute, the Red Sea’s group CEO John Pagano, said serving alcohol was “not on the agenda.” He continued: “I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. The non-alcoholic drink industry is booming.”

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Tags: Sindalah

Photo credit: A rendering of the completed Sindalah Island

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