A New Tax Rule May Make Drinking Alcohol In Dubai A Lot Cheaper

The world of international tourism can be one of cutthroat competition, as Dubai has clearly learned. The rapidly expanding Middle East metropolis has made targeting foreign tourists a major goal in its plan to become a world-class city. Reuters reports that in the wake of pandemic shutdowns, Dubai's leaders set a goal of attracting 25 million tourists a year by 2025, a 40 percent increase over 2021 levels. That kind of ambition can require massive overhauls in any city's culture and society, and it looks like Dubai's relationship with alcohol is set to undergo a big change.

If a city wants to become a major tourist destination, it helps to have an amazing food scene. Tokyo, New York, and Paris would be beautiful places to visit no matter what, but their reputations as great places to eat and hotbeds of culinary innovation undoubtedly boost their appeal. This hasn't gone unnoticed in Dubai, which has seen an explosion in high-end dining, now boasting Michelin-starred eateries and one of the highest restaurants in the world

Of course, the promise of great restaurants also comes with expectations for great cocktails and other alcoholic indulgences. However, up until recently Dubai's rather conservative relationship with alcohol made drinking difficult and expensive. Now some new reforms from the government are targeting the city's strict controls and making it more affordable to get a little tipsy.

Dubai is suspending its 30% alcohol tax

While Dubai is a modern city, it only recently began to lift its morality laws in its effort to become a cosmopolitan hub. According to NBC News, in 2020 the United Arab Emirates did away with some strict regulations that had been part of its Islamic personal laws, which included allowing the free purchase and consumption of alcohol in homes. 

While alcohol was becoming more available, the price remained astronomically high. In 2018, Business Insider revealed that Dubai had the most expensive drinks in the world, averaging nearly $12 for a pint of beer. Now, The New York Times reports that this number could be taking a big tumble, as the government has suspended a 30 percent tax on alcohol sales that was a huge part of raising prices. That's great news for Dubai boozy brunch fans.

The move likely comes in response to increased regional competition for tourism and a desire to show a more modern, progressive face to the world. While Dubai and the UAE are traditionally Muslim and ruled by conservative families, almost 90 percent of their residents are now foreign-born. Meanwhile, neighboring nations such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been undertaking their own social reforms and ad campaigns to overtake Dubai as a destination. 

It's unclear whether these new laws will make Dubai a mixology hotspot. Still, given the ongoing expansion of high-end food service amid such tough regional rivalries, the suspension of this tax will likely be an important step in the effort to transform Dubai into a culinary destination for travelers.