Bahrain hotel alcohol ban 'threatens jobs'
Manama, May 7, 2009
Bahrain's hospitality industry would be decimated if a proposed blanket ban on public sales of alcohol at hotels, restaurants, clubs and off-licences goes ahead, say business leaders.
Nearly a quarter of the country's working population is employed in the industry, many of them Bahrainis, said Bahrain Institute of Hospitality Management managing director Qutub Dadabhai.
He also warned of a potentially massive knock-on effect on the economy, with other sectors being hit.
'A lot of jobs will definitely be lost,' said Dadabhai.
'Alcohol is not the main aspect of tourism in Bahrain - the key is that it has a knock-on affect on food and retailing in the country.
'Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and there has been a huge increase in the number of jobs available to Bahrainis in the industry in recent years.
'These jobs are located in the retail and food sectors of the industry but the sale of alcohol always plays a part, especially since Bahrain does not really have any other serious attractions, apart from shopping.
'About 22 or 23 per cent of Bahrain's workforce is now employed in the hospitality sector.
'The main thing about the hospitality business is that it is one of the few industries in which job-seekers, who might not have the necessary qualifications from school, can still rise to management positions over time.'
His warning was echoed by Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism committee chairman Nabeel Kanoo, who said the ban could be devastating.
'It's a double-edged sword. It's a difficult game to play when Bahrain is trying to position itself as the business friendly capital of the Gulf and increase its tourism industry,' said Kanoo.
'I think it would be far better to tighten the existing regulations and create proper restrictions for drinking.
'If this (the ban) was to happen it would have a devastating affect on the message Bahrain is trying to send to the rest of the world.'
Kanoo said Bahrain was an Islamic country, but should be tolerant of other cultures and beliefs.
'It is also a part of the global village and has to take care of everyone who comes here,' he said.
'A lot of non-Muslims come here, whether to visit family or just to have a good time and if those people wish to drink alcohol then that should be their personal choice.
'Their choice should be respected, as long as they obey the rules and regulations in place.
'I am a practising Muslim, but I would not impose my views on anybody else, because everybody has their own.
'It's all about mutual respect. If we go to Europe, to a country like England for example, we are still allowed to wear our national dress.'
Kanoo said there was little the BCCI could do to counteract the proposal at the moment, as they it would have to wait and see what happen next.
MPs voted unanimously in favour of the ban during parliament's weekly session on Tuesday.
But they agreed that alcohol consumption should still be allowed in private homes, with suppliers providing home delivery and that hotel guests could be served alcohol in their rooms.
They earlier voted to ban alcohol sales at Bahrain International Airport and on Gulf Air flights.
The proposal must now go to the Cabinet, which has the power to reject it, but MPs have vowed to keep pushing until it is approved.
Officials at Bahrain's top hotels were largely unwilling to comment yesterday.
But Gulf Hotel executive assistant general manager Abdulla Siddiq agreed that the ban would badly hit tourism.
'This ban will cause a big loss to tourism. It is not just the selling of alcohol, but the knock-on effect that it would have.'-TradeArabia News Service