Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

Could alcohol be allowed at Saudi’s NEOM?

Saudi city project and future tourist attraction NEOM will be its own authority

The issue of legalising the sale of alcohol in Saudi Arabia is “not off the table”, according to a senior executive from one of the kingdom’s most high profile giga projects.

“On alcohol, Saudi has a view NEOM will be its own authority, that’s not off the table,” Andrew McEvoy, managing director tourism at NEOM, told delegates during a discussion at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Monday.

NEOM is one of Saudi Arabia’s prime giga projects as part of its Vision 2030 plans to diversify the kingdom’s economy and attract over 70 million tourists annually.

Built on the Red Sea in northwest Saudi Arabia, the project will contribute 180 billion Saudi riyals ($48 billion) to Saudi GDP by 2030 and it is believed it will also have autonomy to govern its own affairs and laws, leaving the door open to the possibility of legalising the sale of alcohol.

Alcohol is currently banned in Saudi Arabia and the issue of whether it would be legalised in NEOM has been debated and speculated on since the project was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2017. “We can do 98 percent of the standards applied in similar cities, but there is two percent we can’t do, like, for example, alcohol,” the Crown Prince told Bloomberg in 2017. “A foreigner, if they desire alcohol, can either go to Egypt or Jordan.”

However, commentary coming from senior executives has eased over the years. Joseph Bradley, CEO of NEOM’s Tech and Digital Holding Company, told the AFP press agency in October 2021 that this may be a possibility.

“What we get asked a lot is this whole notion around is there going to be alcohol, what are you going to do around this?” he said in an interview at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. “To be clear, NEOM is meant to be competitive. We want the world’s best and brightest to come to NEOM.”

“I have not seen the specifics of the law in regards to [alcohol]… But I can tell you very, very clearly that everyone understands that we’re going to build a founding law that attracts the tourism market, that attracts the tech market, that attracts the manufacturing market,” he added.

NEOM is on track to start operating in 2025 and the details of its founding laws are due to be approved by the project’s board within the next two years, AFP reported.

Latest articles

Turkey foreign property sales

Foreigners turning back on Turkish real estate

Foreign buyers are increasingly shunning the Turkish property market, wary of high prices, the expensive cost of living and a less welcoming environment for overseas real estate investors. There were only 2,064 residential units sold to foreign buyers in May, 35 percent down on the same month last year, data issued by the state statistics […]

Adult, Male, Man

UAE to invest in Turkey’s economic sectors says minister

The UAE is willing to invest across numerous sectors in Turkey, said Emirati energy and infrastructure minister Suhail Al Mazrouei. The Gulf state is exploring opportunities in the energy, agriculture, transportation, tourism and other sectors, state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) news agency reported, citing the minister on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. […]

Opec Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais says peak oil 'is not on the horizon'

Upstream oil and gas ‘needs more annual investment’

Annual capital expenditure for exploration and production in the upstream sector of the oil industry needs to increase by 22 percent by 2030 because of growing demand and cost inflation, experts say. A cumulative $4.3 trillion needs to be invested between 2025 and 2030, according to a report by the International Energy Forum (IEF) and […]

Rothschild Saudi

Edmond de Rothschild to run funding vehicle for Saudi projects

The Edmond de Rothschild Group is establishing a funding vehicle for infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia along with the local firm SNB Capital, as part of a deal in which the Swiss investment bank will set up offices in the country.  Saudi Arabia’s massive economic diversification programme has run into financial obstacles as it faces […]