The facility, which opened today (28 January), is four-times the size of the previous terminal and raises the airport’s capacity to 14 million passengers per year.
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“I’m sure that travellers coming to Bahrain International Airport from today onwards, probably wouldn’t mind missing their flight to be honest because of the great offering in the terminal itself.
“The offer is extremely appealing, and the design of the shops is fantastic.”
He added: “People have been looking forward to this new airport for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them take a short flight just to see it!”
HIGH NUMBER OF STANDALONE BOUTIQUES
In terms of the retail mix in Bahrain Duty Free shops, the perfumes and cosmetics and fashion categories have significantly expanded. “A lot of standalone boutiques have come into the terminal. We have Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works boutiques.
“Hugo Boss also has a standalone boutique, along with Montblanc and Tumi. We then have a mixed fashion area comprising Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.”
Please click the below video to see how the transition from the old terminal to the new terminal at Bahrain International Airport transpired.
Premium watches have also grown significantly, according to Al Wardi. “We have introduced a lot of premium watch brands such as Cartier Watches, Bulgari, Chopard and Gucci, which join existing brands like Rolex, Omega, Hublot and Tag Heuer.”
In addition to introducing many new brands, Bahrain Duty Free believes it is the first duty free operator in the region — if not the world— to implement fully automated shop-and-collect lockers in arrivals.
Al Wardi explained: “All customers have to do is scan their receipt from purchases made in departures. The locker will then open and they can collect their duty free purchases and leave. This concept fits extremely well with the current climate and everything happening with Covid-19.”
A strong emphasis has been placed on digital technology in the new terminal, with digital screens implemented in shops to promote brands. “Everything is basically state-of-the-art, whether its support systems or systems customers can interact with.”
While the opening of the new terminal has created a sense of optimism and excitement, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means it will be sometime before the likes of Bahrain Duty Free and Bahrain Airport Company, reap the benefits.
When asked by TRBusiness to outline his short-term and long-term objectives for its stores in the new facility Al Wardi commented: “The priority is how we manage Covid-19 for the time being. The authorities here have managed the pandemic extremely well.
“With the current positive trend in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations here in Bahrain, we believe we will be in very good shape somewhere around the middle of the year.
“This will enable a lot of Gulf Cooperation Council traffic to travel in and out of Bahrain which will obviously have a direct impact on the business.
“Everyone is really optimistic. We are the only airport in the region which has kept operating throughout the pandemic. I have no doubt we will continue managing things well in the next four to six months.”
Bahrain Duty Free’s long-standing relationship with the airport company among others, has certainly helped the retailer prepare for the opening of the new terminal and do everything possible to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19.
Al Wardi (pictured left) remarked: “We have been working with the authorities at the airport for more than three decades. Our relationship has not changed since we started operating at Bahrain International Airport in 1991.
“It has always felt like a real partnership, whether in the existing terminal or while preparing for the opening of the new terminal. Our relationship has always been based on trust and reliability.
“We don’t consider ourselves the tenant and landlord. We have worked together to present a fantastic project to the people of Bahrain and to visitors from around the world.”
Speaking of partnerships, Aer Rianta Middle East holds a technical service agreement with Bahrain Duty Free, providing critical support functions such as store design and layout.
Commenting on the opening, Ray Hernan, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Rianta International told TRBusiness: “I’d like to congratulate Bassam and the team. It is an amazing terminal and sets a new bar in terms of terminal layout and retail offer in the region.
“I see the opening as a huge day for Bahrain, but also the Middle East and a sign of confidence that we are all invested here for the long-term.
“Building terminals cost a lot of money and must have a long-term vision. We are delighted that we have now extended our contract through the technical service agreement for another 10 years.
“That is a sign of proof that we have a lot of value to offer airports, whether it is through support or direct management of the operation.”
He concluded: “The Middle East seems to be getting on top of vaccinations and getting used to the new ‘normal’. Certainly, our sales performance in the region seems to be outdoing our other locations, which is good to see.”
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