Saudi Arabia Considers Selling Alcohol At Airports

Saudi Arabia Considers Selling Alcohol At Airports

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If Saudi Arabia is serious about growing its tourism industry, alcohol will have to be allowed sooner or later. We’re now seeing the first (very small) signs of that.

Saudi Arabia may sell alcohol in duty free

Arabian Business reports that Saudi Arabia is considering introducing the sale of alcohol in duty free areas at select airports. While no final decision has been made, a consultation process is currently underway with stakeholders.

According to the plan, alcohol would initially only be available for purchase by international transit passengers, meaning that anyone departing from or entering Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be allowed to buy alcohol. Currently Saudi Arabia has a full ban on alcohol (including onboard flights), unlike nearby Gulf states, which largely restrict alcohol to certain venues.

This discussion is taking place as Saudi Arabia prepares to launch RIA, a new Riyadh-based airline that’s expected to grow at a pace we’ve never seen before. Saudi Arabia has the goal of building its own version of Emirates, but in a quarter the amount of time.

The airline would be heavily reliant on international transit passengers, simply using Saudi Arabia as a transit point while traveling between two other countries. Saudi Arabia obviously has the funds to start this kind of project, though I’m not sure what exactly the country is hoping to accomplish, since the benefit of having travelers simply transit a country is fairly limited, if it can’t be done profitably (and it’s highly questionable how this would make money).

Could alcohol be coming to Saudi Arabia’s airport duty free?

It’s only a matter of time until this happens

Lots of countries trying to cater to tourists struggle to strike the right balance between maintaining their “traditions,” and catering to the expectations of travelers from around the globe. I think that’s pretty clearly going on in Saudi Arabia as well.

The thing is, Saudi Arabia isn’t just trying to cater to tourists a little bit, but rather the country is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in growing its tourism sector. The scale of Saudi Arabia’s current tourism investments are unprecedented, from starting an airline, to the massive Red Sea project (where you’ll see just about every hotel brand on earth), to developing major cities for tourism.

Suffice it to say that many visitors have major hesitations about visiting the Kingdom. While alcohol is hardly the primary concern that some people have about visiting Saudi Arabia, it’s going to eventually have to be allowed on a larger scale.

Rumor has it that Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project will allow alcohol, though I’d have to imagine that it will go way beyond that. I suppose selling alcohol in duty free to international travelers is at least a very low risk place to start. As I view it, this borders on pointless, and I can’t help but wonder if this might lead to some incidents where people try to consume alcohol during the flight that they brought onboard.

It’s always mocktail o’clock on Saudia!

Bottom line

It’s only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia starts to normalize the consumption of alcohol, at least for international travelers. That’s not just true for those visiting Saudi Arabia, but also for passengers on the country’s new mega-airline.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering selling alcohol in airport duty free, which would be a small first step to bringing alcohol to the country. I’m not sure I really see the point of that, but at least it’s something, I suppose.

When do you think Saudi Arabia will start to serve alcohol?

(Tip of the hat to @gyo900)

Conversations (46)
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  1. Intakhab Alam Guest

    I think Allah want to see Muslims Iman (believe) power.
    Its never ever should be allowed in any Islamic Countries, its not about only Saudi Arabia. Its about all humanity.

  2. Mansour Guest

    I'm Saudi, and i would love if this bullshit of changing our culture stop, we enjoy and happy of not being alcoholists.

  3. Mirza Guest

    This cannot happen as it is Haraam.

  4. Khalid SULIMAN Guest

    Hopefully not to allowed

  5. Khalid SULIMAN Guest

    Hopefully not

  6. ITMAN Guest

    No they will not do that. It will never happen fortunately. Saudi Arabia stills the only and great direction of billions of Muslims around the world. And Alcohol is forbidden in Islamic law. Rather than other religions too.

    We, as Muslims have strong belief no matter how normalization our rulers have reached.

  7. Sand is so coarse Guest

    Dont support a terrorist regime

    1. Hello Guest

      Hahahhaha. Yeah do support USA. The most friendiest country on earth. Never thinks of anything other than peace.

  8. Charles Guest

    I buy alcohol selectively at airport duty free shops. Since we split our year between homes in Canada and California, we usually buy two bottles on the way up, since British Columbia has heavy alcohol taxes. On the way down we rarely do so if we're going home, as it's often cheaper at a regular liquor or grocery store in California than in the duty-free shops at YVR. As for Saudi Arabia? Alcohol or not...

    I buy alcohol selectively at airport duty free shops. Since we split our year between homes in Canada and California, we usually buy two bottles on the way up, since British Columbia has heavy alcohol taxes. On the way down we rarely do so if we're going home, as it's often cheaper at a regular liquor or grocery store in California than in the duty-free shops at YVR. As for Saudi Arabia? Alcohol or not I'll never set foot in that hateful, murderous dictatorship that laughingly calls itself a "kingdom."

    1. Zel24 Guest

      In my own opinion, its pointless to have alcohol to be sell in saudi arabia airport for travelers since its only limited to/from airport and yet still prohibited inside the kingdom. Also, there is a risk of taking or bringing alcohol drinks while inside the airplane. So, it is better not to have alcohol in tourist duty shops inside saudi airport.

  9. Michael J Guest

    To Blis - because any other regime in the World has never murdered political opponents right? Stop the hypocrisy and the bigotry...

    1. Rama N Guest

      Yes in democratic liberal nations also people and opponents of the govt. are killed so it is not restricted to autocracies only.

  10. Malc Member

    @Lucky -- I wouldn't say it borders on pointless because it's most likely news or consideration aimed at domestic consumption, if you'll pardon the pun. It's a soft launch for alcohol into the kingdom. Many locals will know that having alcohol in the country (at least for tourists) a distinct possibility, but this is a way of getting them used to the idea, rather than ramming it down their throats from the get-go.

  11. Brandon Biden Guest

    Lot of H8 towards SA and their record is bad but MbS is trying to bring the Kingdom into the next century, and making great strides but its not an easy task with what/who he has to deal with. Read and learn for yourselves.

    NEOM will be great, human rights are and will increase there, albeit slower than you want. Funny that same commentors here have no beef w Vlad, Xi, Un, Maduro or their...

    Lot of H8 towards SA and their record is bad but MbS is trying to bring the Kingdom into the next century, and making great strides but its not an easy task with what/who he has to deal with. Read and learn for yourselves.

    NEOM will be great, human rights are and will increase there, albeit slower than you want. Funny that same commentors here have no beef w Vlad, Xi, Un, Maduro or their sympathizers....btw, Khassoghi, he was an MB Sympathizer, so no heartburn there.

    In 10 years, you will be laughing at this Post bc SA will look a lot different

  12. LoveToTravel83 Guest

    Some comments on here is just sad.

  13. Nirmal Guest

    I welcome the decision considering the future of tourism and to attract international passengers.selling alcohol not only to the transit passengers also to the international passengers who else departing from Riyadh also can be Allowed to buy alcohol. #vision 2030

  14. iamhere Guest

    Very offensively written. "It's just a matter of time" and other comments within. Your idea is that it will happen anyway. Consider their standpoint. Often times you don't. You just are considering they spent a lot of money for attracting tourism and you look at this in a very Western mindset. If they allow it on exit then it will not be within their borders for consumption if they maintain strict Muslim law. The Red...

    Very offensively written. "It's just a matter of time" and other comments within. Your idea is that it will happen anyway. Consider their standpoint. Often times you don't. You just are considering they spent a lot of money for attracting tourism and you look at this in a very Western mindset. If they allow it on exit then it will not be within their borders for consumption if they maintain strict Muslim law. The Red Sea project may be similar to that of Macau or Vegas for example where things are allowed there which are not necessarily allowed in the rest of the country. One would have to consider their enforcement if this is the case and who the consumer is. If a local stayed vs a foreigner, for example.

    1. Rama N Guest

      It is nothing new. There is free flow of Alcohol in Aramco Country in Dhahran ,EP.

  15. Hiro Gold

    Do people actually buy alcohol at airports these days? In many countries it's cheaper to buy them online even if tax is included.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      You seem confused.

      The unique point of this article isn’t that its being sold in an airport, but that it’s being sold in SAUDI ARABIA.

    2. Hiro Gold

      I know, my point was if the alcohol was going to be sold airport won't be the most ideal place to start with, compared to hotels, inflight, and expat residential areas.

  16. globetrotter Guest

    Unsure how Saudi government will maintain national security when the influx of tourists clashes with Quran teaching. Osama bin Laden found the al-Queda and launched terrorist attacks at home and abroad because the Saudi regime hosted US army to restore Kuwaitii monarchy in 1991. The Shiite Muslims attacked Saudis during the Hajj pilgrimage decades ago. SA is the guardian of Islam's two holy mosques and exports the extreme wahhabism to neighboring Muslim countries. It will...

    Unsure how Saudi government will maintain national security when the influx of tourists clashes with Quran teaching. Osama bin Laden found the al-Queda and launched terrorist attacks at home and abroad because the Saudi regime hosted US army to restore Kuwaitii monarchy in 1991. The Shiite Muslims attacked Saudis during the Hajj pilgrimage decades ago. SA is the guardian of Islam's two holy mosques and exports the extreme wahhabism to neighboring Muslim countries. It will be open season on tourists in SA like Egypt experienced in the past. Lots of $$$ cannot solve societal ills and religious extremism to bring harmony and happiness in life.

  17. Its so course Guest

    Nobody should be funding terrorists

    1. Edgar Guest

      And instead they should be funding countries like the USA which is teeming with crime and murder....

    2. Rama N Guest

      Why is the USA one of the poor Nations like some of the Nation's in the Third World.

  18. LEo Diamond

    A close female friend of mine just flew their fifth freedom between SIN-MLE in Business, and they still require females to wear both long pants and clothes onboard....

    1. Icarus Guest

      And clothes. Who would have thought lol

    2. Rama N Guest

      In which carrier? Saudia?

  19. Murad Guest

    Hopefully this never happen neither sooner nor later

  20. BLis Guest

    This regime murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi and countless others. Why are we giving them the time of day? This farcical tourism push is offensive at best.

  21. Zamzad Guest

    I can't believe you're even addressing this point when they're still sending people to prison for the sin of being homosexual. This 'kingdom' needs to be wiped off the map, not given a tourism sector.

    1. LEo Diamond

      Strongly abstain from your opinion, they don't even allow females to wear non-long clothes and pants onboard their fifth-freedom service right from check-in. I would rather fly Oman Air instead!

    2. Icarus Guest

      Apparently royalty in Saudi already have wine cellars and throw parties where copious amounts of alcohol is served. Why is this even important? Do people fly based on the availability of alcohol ?

    3. Rama N Guest

      In which carrier? Saudia?

  22. Reyyan Member

    “If Saudi Arabia is serious about growing its tourism industry, alcohol will have to be allowed sooner or later”

    Umm why exactly? sorry to say, but people pretend like alcohol is some form of a basic human need. Times are changing, many people stop drinking… + a lot of people don’t drink or never drank before and are doing just fine.

    1. Ned Member

      You're perfectly entitled to this opinion, but it's unnecessarily condescending to Ben to act as if this isn't a legitimate business reality.

    2. David Diamond

      And yet bars are everywhere and alcohol is a thing in any half decent restaurant. Do you think airplanes are a basic human need? Plenty of things are well beyond "basic human needs" but nevertheless commercially necessary.

    3. RichM Gold

      While there are many people who don't drink, I still think it's fair to say that a majority of European or US tourists would be put off from taking a holiday in a place that is completely "dry". Imagine telling a French, Italian, or Spanish potential tourist that they can't even have a glass of wine with their dinner....

      As Ben hints in the article, there are also plenty of other issues with Saudi "traditions" that make it currently unsuitable for leisure travel.

    4. GLCTraveler Guest

      Hey Reyyan...... Alcohol is a gotta-have to operate a successful worldwide tourism venture that makes money!! That is the only reason MBS is spending trillions to bring tourists to KSA, so alcohol is a for sure thing!! So, regardless of your personal preferences, this is the FACT of the situation! Got it?

  23. Ray Guest

    Anyone who objects is swiftly sent to jail. They could sell golden egg caviars for $5 each and I still would avoid it

  24. Alec Guest

    I wonder if they’ll have to import foreign workers for this since Muslims shouldn’t even handle alcohol.

    1. Hiro Gold

      Many airport staff in the Gulf are already foreign workers anyway.

    2. Rama N Guest

      Oh Alec what are you talking. Locals and Expats used to flock to Bahrain on Thursdays and Fridays to consume Alcohol. They also used to travel on Saudia and Emirates flights on Wednesdays to Dubai for enjoyment and duty free purchase over the weekend. Many of them used to down so much Alcohol that they were left with no money and were jailed in many instances. They also used to get booze in their Dickey on their way back thru the Causeway.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Hiro Gold

Many airport staff in the Gulf are already foreign workers anyway.

3
Ned Member

You're perfectly entitled to this opinion, but it's unnecessarily condescending to Ben to act as if this isn't a legitimate business reality.

3
BLis Guest

This regime murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi and countless others. Why are we giving them the time of day? This farcical tourism push is offensive at best.

3
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