Posted by Alex on Monday, September 1st, 2008
Imagine boarding a domestic flight from the city that you happen to live in, walking into the airport’s duty free store and walking out of the airport at your destination without any questions asked.
Now imagine visiting a local liquor store to buy a bottle of your favorite scotch and hearing the store owner ask if you prefer your scotch from the official government distribution agency…. or from the airport!
The decision is made easier of course when you find out that the airport scotch is priced some $7 below that of the government’s.
Welcome to Syria’s duty free shops – RAMAK
The website may not strike you as fancy. I can assure you that this is not the case when you visit the company’s stores. Those branches are strategically located near the Jordanian (massive building), Lebanese and Turkish borders. This is in addition to those at both Aleppo and Damascus airports. I have particular advice for those who intend to travel to Syria and who would like to find out what can be imported into the country: Ignore the following advisory and forget brining anything with you.
Cigarettes, perfumes, spirits, lotion, watches and the latest cordless phones are readily available for Syrians and none-Syrians alike.
Local restaurants themselves stock their supplies of spirits directly from their local friendly duty free store.
How do they do that? They all magically know someone who knows someone that works at the duty free.
How does that someone actually manage to routinely take a case of scotch out of the airport's duty free and directly deliver it to the city’s restaurants? This writer cannot answer this question.
Back in 2006, the company’s Managing Director sounded very optimistic about his company’s future.
The growth potential of Syria and the international buyers passing through Syria were thought to bring the company many buyers. The above article quotes Mr. Mualla as saying that “we can specify our own nationals, Syrians, as great buyers in all categories, especially perfumes and cosmetics”.
Syrians did indeed prove to be great buyers. One would have thought that Mr. Mualla was referring to “travelling Syrians”. Some three years after this interview, Ramak’s business is indeed thriving. Syrians do not need to travel to buy the company’s products. A pack of cigarettes from the Airport is priced just under $1.00.
The poor loser in this enterprise is inevitably the Syrian government’s coffers. The official government agency (GOTA) is priced out of this game. As a result, the government ends up forgoing all the tax revenues that usually come from tobacco and spirits sales.
Ramak is effectively competing with the Syrian government itself and wining hands down.