The United Arab Emirates, where the worst western tourists are likely to encounter is a mall cop telling a shopper to wear shorts longer than Daisy Dukes, learned long ago that those who reject extremism get to have nice things.
Tourism revenue in the Emirates, where lush hotels and first-class amenities greet travelers, is projected to hit $7.5 billion by 2016. Dubai, known for going big in every way it can from the world’s largest shopping center to record-breaking New Year’s Eve fireworks, announced a goal to be the world’s most visited city by 2020 with 20 million tourists a year.
The UAE’s neighbor, the sultanate of Oman, wants a share of that tourism revenue, setting a goal of 12 million visitors per year by 2020 even though it got 1.6 million visitors in 2010.
Advantage UAE, as banning alcohol is a funny way for Oman to say it wants tourists. From UAE government-owned newspaper The National:
An Omani council’s recommendation for a blanket ban on alcohol in the country is expected to hit the tourism sector and investment in new hotels.
The call from the Majlis Al Shura is awaiting a cabinet nod after which it would proceed to Oman’s Sultan Qaboos for a final approval.
Earlier this month, the council voted to make it a criminal offence to consume and trade in alcohol.
Currently, permits are given only to non-Muslims to consume or trade in alcohol. Violations can lead to a jail term between six months and up to three years, or a minimum fine of 300 Omani rials (Dh2,862), or both.
Along with seeking a ban, the council has recommended a jail term between 10 days and one year, or a minimum fine of 200 OR, or both for violators.
Indeed, the Times of Oman crunched the numbers and found that, with the amount of alcohol currently imported by four- and five-star hotels, the government stands to lose more than 100 million rials if the country goes dry.
Meanwhile, a hotelier, who owns five hotels in Muscat where liquor is served, said that they are all worried over the decision and are looking for greener pastures in other countries.
“We are worried and will be compelled to shut down our hotels. The sale of beverages play a vital role in our income,” said the hotelier while adding that he is revealing the general sentiment of his peers.
“We are also looking to move our base to other Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We will not be able to run our business if we suffer losses over a long period. Many of us have already started looking for other pastures,” added the hotelier.
While talking to Times of Oman, experts said that the impact on the hotel industry should be carefully examined before the ban is imposed.
“The option before the authorities is to decide whether they want Muscat to be known as a global city or a local one. Alcohol is not everything. But it is also part of the offering. We have to wait and watch to know whether the ban will have an impact on the hotel and tourism industry,” Filippo Sona, director of Head of Hotels (Mena Region) at Colliers International, said.
Eighty-four percent of Oman’s Majlis Al Shura voted for the ban on both trade and consumption of alcohol. The tourism ministry, though, stresses that nothing’s been decided yet.