Saudi Arabia will not lift ban on alcohol, princess tells World Economic Forum

Saudi Arabia will not lift ban on alcohol, princess tells World Economic Forum
Saudi Arabia's Assistant Minister of Tourism Princess Haifa Bint Mohammad said at the World Economic Forum that the kingdom would not lift its ban on alcohol sales, after speculation that rules may change.
2 min read
27 May, 2022
Media reports had speculated that the kingdom would lift the ban on alcohol [Getty]

Saudi Arabia will not lift its ban on alcohol sales as it continues to market itself as an international tourist destination, a Saudi official has said.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Princess Haifa bint Mohammad's clarification on the matter at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos followed speculation that the rule may be changed.

"Saudi Arabia has been very transparent on where it stands on everything, we were very clear," Princess Haifa said, responding to a question on whether alcoholic beverages would be sold in the kingdom's NEOM megacity.

"The short answer is that we’re going to continue with our current laws."

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) issued a similar clarification denying media reports that NEOM would be treated as "a country within a country".

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The PIF said the city would be "absolutely subject to the sovereignty and systems" of Saudi Arabia and denied reports that residents and locals would "enjoy a special characteristic or nickname to distinguish them from others" in the kingdom, according to Saudi Press Agency reports.

Saudi Arabia opened up applications for tourist visas in 2019 as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 plan to wean the country off its reliance on oil revenues.

According to the WEF's latest Travel and Tourism Development Index published this week, Saudi Arabia has achieved a 10-mark jump from its pre-pandemic levels, putting the Gulf nation in 33rd place.

But the kingdom's modern makeover has been mired in controversy, with rights groups accusing it of glossing over its human rights record with its modernisation drive.

To make way for NEOM's construction, thousands of people were displaced from their homes in northwest Saudi Arabia.

Among them was tribal activist Abdul-Rahman al-Huweiti, who was killed by security forces in April 2020 while attempting to resist eviction.