In recent years, airports have evolved into much more than a place where travelers can merely catch a plane. Terminals now feature everything from sprawling duty-free shopping complexes to relaxation areas and a guidebook’s worth of dining options that rival the greatest of landside restaurants. Business class travellers benefit from even greater perks – including sleep pods, showers and full meal service – in exclusive lounges provided by airlines.
Bahrain International Airport offers passengers all of these modern conveniences, as well as an arrival experience that is efficient by virtue of the terminal’s size. Built in 1994 for four million annual passengers and already accommodating double that, the trip from plane to immigration counters takes minutes – while a taxi into the very centre of Manama adds less than half an hour on top of that. Over the years, Bahrain has succeeded in retaining this efficiency by adding new features to its existing airport building. But now, with the rapid growth of the region and the Kingdom’s economic diversification, the next phase of the airport is underway with a $1 billion investment to future-proof this international gateway for many years to come.
Set to open in months, the new 210,000 square metre terminal will handle up to 14 million passengers per year, enabling Bahrain to continue its ambitious programme of tourism sector growth. An increasing focus on a beach lifestyle and a breadth of entertainment options has seen the arrival of more globally-recognised 4 and 5 star resorts, shopping malls and restaurants – bringing with it an influx of tourists from all corners of the world. To accommodate this growth, enhancements in the new terminal can be found everywhere from the check-in counters to border controls and retail areas – with Gulf Air’s lounge set to include a terrace where passengers can experience traditional Bahraini hospitality. Through utilising the latest technologies for safety, security and traffic movement, the airport will offer the highest levels of service, allowing it to grow substantially in size while retaining its familiar efficiency.
The expansion will bring benefits for cargo providers, too, as they seek to increase their presence in Bahrain – a logical gateway to the growing $1.5tn Gulf market. One of the many firms to have snapped up space is American multinational shipping giant FedEx Express. The company is the first major tenant of the terminal’s new cargo area, which is equipped with cutting-edge e-commerce and customs clearance systems purpose-built for the logistics industry. Driven by interest from global firms, the new terminal is set to become the centerpiece of Bahrain’s robust transport infrastructure, which already includes several shipping ports and comprehensive road links to neighbouring countries via a 25km Causeway to Saudi Arabia – a second bridge is set to open by 2023.
And, according to Bahrain Airport Company Chief Executive, Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah, the development has come to fruition in near-record time. By working closely with partners from the region and beyond, the delivery of this major infrastructure project has been catalysed through all the stages of development, firmly demonstrating the Team Bahrain approach – a co-ordinated, action-orientated team that works across the public and private sectors to deliver real results.
Mr Al Binfalah added: “BAC is agile and has worked closely with its partners to create a modern platform. For example, air-bridge stands are being increased from 7 to 12 and have been designed in partnership with the kingdom’s national carrier, Gulf Air.”
In 2018, Bahrain received nine million travelers – an increase of seven percent from the previous year – and that number is only set to increase. At this rapid rate of expansion, Bahrain’s new airport terminal is not only a necessity, but brings with it an exciting range of possibilities for the Kingdom’s expansion across the tourism and transport sectors – including potential new flight routes and increased logistical capabilities for cargo providers. Bahrain’s transport and tourism capabilities are truly set to take off.