Saudi Arabia lifted the complete ban on the sale and drinking of alcohol that had been in place for seven decades. In Riyadh's diplomatic district, Saudi Arabia is setting up a booze store that will only be open to non-Muslim diplomats. In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 strategy, this is a major step. The big project intends to liberalize the country, draw in foreign businesses and tourists, and develop its economy beyond oil.
In Saudi Arabia, alcohol became illegal in 1952. The latest change permits diplomats who are not Muslims to buy and drink alcohol inside the diplomatic area of Riyadh. Recent research states that 93.4% of Saudi Arabians do not drink alcoholic beverages, a high figure that can be attributed to religious and legislative prohibitions on the beverage. A little but noteworthy 6.6% of the population, on the other hand, choose to ignore the prohibition, frequently flying to neighboring Bahrain or Dubai to find acceptable ways to get alcohol.
There is a range of opinions among the Saudi public on the decision to lift the alcohol ban. According to a recent survey, over 76% of participants disapprove of this action. 11.4% of respondents express concern about the possible effects of alcohol on the younger generation. Positively, 6.8% think it will help the nation's tourism industry, which aligns with the Vision 2030 plan's objective of drawing tourists from around the world.
Although Saudi Arabia has made progress in lifting its prohibitions on alcohol, views on alcohol consumption vary throughout the world. Europe continues to be the region with the greatest rates of consumption of alcohol in 2024. Regarding per capita alcohol consumption, Latvia, Moldova, Germany, Lithuania, and Ireland are at the top of the list. In the meantime, some of the lowest rates of alcohol use are still seen throughout the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Bhutan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Iraq.
Moreover, the economy of Saudi Arabia, which has historically depended on the petroleum industry, is considering the advantages of relaxing the alcohol prohibition. Economic diversification is essential because oil accounts for 75% of fiscal revenue and about 40% of Saudi Arabia's GDP. The initiative to draw in foreign tourists is in line with Vision 2030, which aims to change how the world views the nation and lessen reliance on oil income. In fact, Saudi Arabia's per capita alcohol expenditure is expected to reach US$37.75 in 2024, providing a new potential source of economic expansion.
The government of Saudi Arabia hopes to see 100 million annual tourist visits by 2030, and the country's tourism industry is expanding quickly. One million more tourism employment are to be created by this industry, which also hopes to directly contribute 10% of GDP. The prospective ease of the alcohol ban is a calculated effort to accommodate foreign visitors' preferences and improve the traveler experience in general.
The government has demonstrated its commitment to manage the shift properly by introducing new restrictions in parallel with the lifting of the alcohol ban. Strict rules, such as alcohol quotas for diplomatic missions headed by non-Muslims, a certain procedure for distributing and buying alcoholic products, and limitations on the amount that can be bought at once, will apply to the first-ever liquor store. The business will continue to be closed to Muslims, and patrons must seek permission using a smartphone app. It will also be forbidden for consumers to take pictures inside the store.
The decision to remove the alcohol ban is a historic one for Saudi Arabia and is consistent with Vision 2030 objectives. The decision, despite conflicting views from the public, shows the country's dedication to economic diversification and drawing in foreign visitors.