Skift Take

Even one drop of legal alcohol in Saudi would be a huge change, and likely one all luxury hotels would want to be part of.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to open its first and only alcohol store, according to a report by Reuters Wednesday. The store will be in capital city Riyadh and only sell alcohol to visiting “non-Muslim diplomats,” said Reuters, citing an unnamed source and a document.

According to Reuters, customers will have to register via a mobile app and get a clearance code from Saudi’s foreign ministry, and then “respect” monthly quotas.

The store is expected to open in the coming weeks, and though “strictly restricted,” would mark a significant change for the conservative Gulf kingdom. The new store is said to be opening in the Diplomatic Quarter, where embassies are located.

Saudi Arabia and Alcohol

There has been speculation about whether Saudi Arabia would permit some alcohol consumption given the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to attract tourism.

This effort includes everything from super luxury resorts, to a major presence in global football, to a streamlined entry process for travelers.

With these luxury hotels, which already include the likes of St. Regis along the Red Sea coast and the Six Senses in the desert, many wondered how Saudi would pull in international travelers without alcohol.

An article in 2021 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 in 2022, 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.


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Tags: saudi, Tourism news, travel news

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