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Tue 30 Jul 2019 08:44 AM

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Riyadh doesn't need alcohol to rival Dubai, says Marriot F&B VP

Christian Abell believes unique nature of Saudi city's F&B scene sets it apart

Riyadh doesn't need alcohol to rival Dubai, says Marriot F&B VP
Marriott’s vice president of F&B, Christian Abell

Riyadh does not need alcohol in order to rival Dubai’s food and beverage (F&B) sector, according to an executive at the Marriott hotel chain.

In an interview with Hotelier Middle East, Christian Abell, Marriott’s vice president of F&B, said the Saudi capital city had plenty to offer without the need to rely on alcohol.

He said: “There is no alcohol in Saudi, but their tea bars are doing good business. They’re making teas and drinks with different syrups, sugars and essences, but it has got the same vibe as a bar. I don’t think we can pull that off anywhere else.”

Sébastien Bazin, CEO of AccorHotels, told Arabian Business in an interview earlier this year that he believed tourists visiting the kingdom want to be able ‘to drink and enjoy music’. He said Saudi will need to make certain exceptions for tourists in order to attract visitors to the country and that lessons could be learned from tourist hubs like Dubai.


But Abell disagreed and said part of the charm of Riyadh was how it is so unique.

“What I like about Riyadh is that they have no preconceived notion about what a restaurant should be, so innovation comes forwar,” he said. “Here we actually rely on alcohol to do the job and that’s the difference. Riyadh doesn’t need alcohol to rival Dubai.

“Many Saudis travel around the world and they see different things and want them back home. But they know that comes with restrains so they re-invent them and it works well,” he added.

A report by the Wall Street Journal last week, which reviewed a 2,300 page confidential document used to brainstorm ideas for Saudi's plans for $500bn futuristic Neom city project, included a section on alcohol.

"Alcohol is banned in the rest of Saudi Arabia. But it likely won’t be here, say people familiar with the plan," the WSJ report said.

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