Well, well, well.
The debate rages on about whether Oman should ban the bottle or not. It takes my breath away at how staggeringly small minded some of the comments that I've read both as quotes in news articles from Majlis a Shura members, and from the general public. It seems that some people have convinced themselves that Oman's tourism industry is better off without alcohol.
Because I like numbers, here's some facts:
There are, on average, approximately 160 shipping containers brought into the Sultanate each month with alcohol in them. Rough estimates of these 160 containers are that half are beer and half are spirits or wine. The approximate tax revenues on these containers are about RO 6,000 per container of beer and RO 3,000 per container of spirits or wine. This comes up to RO 720,000 per month in direct alcohol import taxes, or RO 7,920,000 per year (assuming 11 months). Thats before corporate taxes paid by hotels for profits made on alcohol related sales or revenue generated by tourists opting to visit Oman for a holiday. Or state dole payments for Omani's not out of work because of a tourism based job.
The single largest purchaser of alcohol in Oman is the 4 and 5 star hotel segment. How someone can say that tourism would not be impacted if alcohol were to be banned I honestly have no idea. If alcohol wasn't so popular with tourists, why are the hotels buying the most booze?
Like any business, hotel's have budgets and business plans. All of them would factor in food and beverage sales into their business plan, and with the removal of alcohol, you'd probably see a direct impact on the room rates here in Oman as hotels try to generate revenue to bridge it's losses in F&B.
This would mean that room rates could increase even further here in Oman, which has one of the highest room rates in the world as it is, and would make it even harder for Oman's tourism industry to compete on the world stage.
The Times of Oman quoted a number of people in an article it published earlier, but this one takes the cake:
"It would actually enhance our tourism, if you come to think of it. Tourists who drink alcohol would love to visit a country that is free of it in order to have a 'break' and truly enjoy their time here. I am sure there aren't many countries that offer this. I think the advantages of this ban outweigh the disadvantages".
You what? You think someone who is having a holiday away from their daily grind where they might normally have a drink actually wants to not drink?! Tourism in Brunei, Kuwait, Saudi and Iran is booming!! Not..... And the black market for booze in Saudi and Kuwait is significant, so banning it won't have the effect desired by the Majlis a Shura anyway.
But could Oman ban alcohol? Of course it could. Oman would survive, but life as it is here would be significantly different for a lot of us immediately, and all of us eventually. Just like Saudi and Kuwait, Oman would probably become a hardship posting location once more, and this would drive up labour costs, and scare off a lot of current expats working here. It's not that people need alcohol, it's that people like it, and it's peoples free choice to consume it or not. I suspect foreign investment would reduce, and certainly I'd be interested in what the existing hotel operators would do, and those who are currently preparing to open hotels in the Sultanate would do. If there's no profit to be made, why would the business continue?
Like it or not, jobs would be lost as a result of drying out Oman, foreign investment may indeed decline and then we'd see an awful lot more unemployment here than what's already being seen. I wonder what the property values at ITD's like Muscat Hills and The Wave would do? As the economy slows down, the number of expatriates living here will reduce, and all of the little businesses in town will feel the pinch too - because there will be less people buying food, less people renting accommodation, less people dining out at restaurants, less people going to the barbers. And so on.
Humaid Al Nasri, the Majlis al Shura member who launched the proposal to ban alcohol consumption in all forms in Oman stated this, "The ban aims to reduce traffic accidents, divorce, murder and adultery, and reduce avenues leading to drug abuse,". ROP stats suggest that 167 accidents (with 15 dead) are due to alcohol (source) so far this year. To put that into perspective, in 2013 there were 7,829 accidents leaving 913 people dead (source).
Rightyho then. So the terrible state of affairs that is driving on Oman's roads' primary problem is booze, except, its not. The biggest problem is poor drivers education, WhatsApp, speeding, and quite frankly, Lexus drivers. But lets go after the booze anyway!
Good governance comes from logical thought, emotions should not come into it. Yet what we have here is an emotional reaction with nearly no solid research into what would happen to the countries economy and future diversification plans. To the 16% of Majlis a Shura members that did not vote in favour of this ban, at least they've got the eyes on the future, and the knowledge that Oman can't carry on with it's hydrocarbon-based expenditures much longer.
|Farewell little blue book?|
I wonder if we'll see booze in the hotels stay, refusal to serve those in national dress, and perhaps the end to the bottle shops for us expats living here? I really can't see any logic to banning alcohol outright here, it'd hurt Oman so much more than it'd help it. And banning alcohol won't get rid of it, it'll just fuel the black market and Oman will still have it's medical bill, but no sin-taxes to offset some of it against, and reduced tourists receipts to boot.
I'm not sure how a ban would be levied against Muslims, but if anything, that's something that might be followed up on and ultimately considered to be passed into law.
Anyway, it's a nice distracton from the fact our electricity and water bills are about to go up....