As alcohol sales in the UAE drop, the government has modified liquor laws to make it easier for tourists to buy alcohol and push alcohol sales back up.
The new regulations allow tourists to get a free alcohol permit by visiting one of the two major liquor store chains, Maritime and Mercantile International or African & Eastern, which are both government-owned.
All a tourist has to do now is show their passport and “sign a pledge” that they aren’t Muslim and that they will follow the local law.
According to the World Health Organization, the UAE dominates other middle eastern countries with per-capita alcohol consumption of 3.8 litres (1 gallon) per person per year.
Alcohol is big business for the UAE, with a 50% income tax on alcohol imports. However, overall sales of alcohol dropped to 161.5 million litres (42.6 million gallons) in 2018, down from 163.7 million litres (43.2 million gallons) in 2017, according to Euromonitor.
The new regulations solve a long recurring problem of tourists getting in trouble with the law for “drinking without a permit”. Previously, the process for obtaining a permit was very difficult for tourists and was considered a huge hassle, especially when visiting for a short time.
This will also help accommodate the surge of tourism visiting for Dubai Expo 2020 and facilitate alcohol sales. It is also part of an initiative to boost tourism and investment by overall enhancing the image of the UAE as a country open to diverse cultures.