Bahrain Airport

Grand consumer and commercial ambition in Bahrain

We complement our interview with Bahrain Airport Company CEO Mohamed Al Binfalah (previous page) with an outline of the retail and dining offer in the new terminal, and further commentary on the commercial strategy.

The new terminal at Bahrain International Airport (BIA) is the centrepiece of the US$1.1 billion Airport Modernization Program (AMP), one of the largest and most important projects in the Kingdom’s history and the largest investment in Bahrain’s aviation sector for more than 20 years. The new 210,000sq m terminal is four times the size of the previous facility and increases the airport’s capacity to 14 million passengers a year. It handled around 9 million in 2019. There are just over 10,000sq m of core retail and dining space along with a further 2,000sq m for future proofing. Bahrain Duty Free Company (BDFC) anchors the retail space, having captured the concessions for core category duty free (around 3,250sq m) and for speciality retail (1,500sq m).

Arrivals offers a further showcase for brands at Bahrain Duty Free

Commenting on the retail and F&B strategy and tendering process for the new terminal, Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) CEO Mohamed Al Binfalah says: “When BAC took over the management and operation of BIA in 2008, it inherited a number of legacy agreements. These agreements were long term and were not commercially driven where their commercial terms were based on rent per square metre. With the opening of the new terminal, this was an opportunity to change these agreements to focus on revenue-sharing and partnership. “Phase One was a direct negotiation with Bahrain Duty Free for the operation of the core duty free concession. Direct negotiation had many benefits. BDFS is a wholly owned Bahraini company and it was in the interests of BAC to partner and develop that relationship. This resulted in a new company being formed of which Gulf Air Group Holdings is a shareholder. This gives BAC significant interest in its success. “Phase Two was to review our food & beverage space. We brought in well-known and respected travel Industry leaders to critique our layout and requested eight international operators to participate in a Request for Information (RFI). Part of the RFI was to propose a brand mix suitable for the demographics of BIA. In addition, we imposed one condition that at least one brand must be a local offer representing Bahraini or Arabic cuisine.

“The result of the RFI was very competitive and proposed some very strong brands, both international and regional. We then shortlisted three operators to participate in the Request for Proposals for two F&B packages with an option to bid for both packages, based on the layout and assessment from the RFI. The result of the RFP was success for SSP Bahrain which won both packages. Their portfolio of brands, location and adjacencies and bringing in ‘new to Bahrain’ concepts was a unique selling point to their success.” SSP Bahrain – a joint venture between SSP, Buhindi Group and Gulf Air Group Holding – won the bid to open 17 F&B units, as part of a ten-year agreement. The new units offer a variety of local and international brands across 3,600sq m. Brands include Illy (coffee); Camden Food Co and Upper Crust (bakery); Jamie Oliver’s Pizza and Deli (fine dining – a first from the UK celebrity chef for the region); BurgerKing and KFC (fast food); TGI Friday’s (family restaurant – and the only F&B outlet to sell alcohol); Food Garden (five outlets) Millie’s Cookies (dessert); Jaipur (India); Levito (Italian) and Ya Salam! (local Shawarma outlet). Mobile units for remote gates include Caffè Ritazza and ‘To Go’ concepts.

Lagardère Travel Retail has a presence in the terminal via its Relay brand

A revised commercial layout airside brought all F&B to the same level as retail – the original design had restaurants on a mezzanine level. Al Binfalah says: “Having retail and F&B close to one another creates dwell time. Part of the critique observed that the estate was oversized for the expected volume of passengers. Therefore, we have future-proofed a number of spaces. The overall design allows for shopping after security with F&B to the rear close and in sight of the boarding gates and the retail offer. Two main coffee and bakery offers are adjacent to the iconic control tower with a clear view of the retail area.” In addition to these brands the offer includes a roof-top Terrace Café in the west pier, and Lumee, another local restaurant brand, part of the Souq Al Qaisariya zone. In landside F&B, there are five outlets aimed at local businesses and franchises. Al Shaya operates two Starbucks, a McDonald’s and a popular fast food brand from Saudi Arabia called Al Baik. The landside area also includes a dessert concept Crepe Café, run by a local franchisee. “This gives a different but complementary offer to that airside,” says the CEO.

WHSmith: Another international retail player that lends its expertise to the environment

Phase Three involved tenders for speciality retail, CTN, pharmacy and services such as foreign exchange, telecoms, banking and ATMs. Aside from Bahrain Duty Free, speciality retail partners include WHSmith and Relay (Lagardère Travel Retail), which manage two convenience stores each, one landside and one airside respectively. There are two pharmacies, with Boots in one space airside and local player Nasser Pharmacy landside. Travelex and Global Exchange operate eight foreign exchange outlets between them, four airside and a further four landside.

The F&B mix led by SSP Bahrain blends local, regional and international flavour

The airport also appointed three telecoms services partners, Batelco, Zain and STC, and offers banking and ATM services too. Al Binfalah says: “The overall design is to improve dwell time and capture rate and passenger spends where retail is to the fore with F&B to the rear, in sight of the control tower, departure gate and most importantly in sight of the retail offer.”

Bahrain Airport terminal fact file

Total floor space: 210,000sq m Commercial space: 10,002sq m Duty free space: 3,300sq m in departures, 541sq m in arrivals Check-in: 104 counters (two halls for First and Business Class travellers) Passport control: 36 locations E-gates: 12 for departures, eight for arrivals Car parking: 5,500 spaces (including 2,700 in a multi-storey location at the airport) Capacity (annual): 14 million passengers; 130,000 air traffic movements; 4,700 bags per peak hour

Partner's message


The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 296 | 26 May 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

Share this article: