As more wealthy tourists from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar begin flocking to the UAE for leisure purposes, some hotels have started catering to them by not offering alcohol in their buildings, an Emirati business official has said.
The push to become Muslim-friendly comes largely from investors, according to Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and CEO Hamad Buamim. Speaking to Arabian Business, he said:
“Everybody nowadays they talk about Saudis as the biggest market coming to Dubai … and most of us known that Saudis, especially families, they like hotels with such [halal] labels.
I know they are limited but they are expanding. There is nothing from the government saying that ‘we need this much’ but we encourage investors to consider something like this.”
Buamim added that the number of alcohol-free hotels in Dubai remains small, but the market has a lot of potential because at least one-third of all tourists coming into the UAE hail from Muslim countries.
Alcohol is largely banned in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and not widely available in Qatar, though residents are allowed to imbibe at five-star hotels. Those with liquor permits can also purchase alcohol for home use from the Qatar Distribution Company.
Alcohol used be available in restaurants at the Pearl-Qatar, until a ban was instituted on the island in December 2011. The prohibition has been blamed for tumbling sales at restaurants on the island, with Gordon Ramsay calling the regulation “a turn-off” after closing his restaurant Maze.
However, Ehab Kamel, general manager of retail leasing at the Pearl, said earlier this year that the alcohol ban has actually increased foot traffic there.
Credit: Photo by Paul Chisholm