Bahrain leisure complex to boost tourism


Flying in and out of Bahrain could become quite a grand experience once the proposed leisure complex comes up at the airport.

Tenders for the business and leisure complex at Bahrain International Airport are expected to be out by June.

The $115 million (BD43.47 million) complex, which will take three years to build, is being developed by Paris-based Optimum Developments.

The firm has signed a letter of intent with Transportation Minister Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.

The five-storey structure will be located in the current airport parking area between Gulf Air headquarters and the passenger terminal.

The facility will include covered parking for 4,000 vehicles, a cinema, bowling and other recreational areas, children's day care and entertainment area, office space, retail outlets, utilities, banks, rent-a-car and a shopping arcade.

Optimum has signed agreements with several consultants to conduct detailed studies on the project, sources said.

These include agreements with French company Chabot and Associates for retail space study, multinational firm Walker and Company for office space study, and Swiss firm Via International for traffic study.

Optimum will work with French firm Bouygues on the execution and implementation plan.

Optimum chairman Dr Abdul Latif Al Khaja said it was working with a committee composed of Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) officials on the project. A delegation flies from Paris to Bahrain once every 10 days to meet the committee and make presentations on the progress of the project.

Dr Al Khaja has set up Optimum's regional office at the Sheraton Commercial Centre in Manama.

The space for retail in the building might be increased, pending the approval of both the CAA and Optimum.

Optimum says it has been approached by two international hypermarket operators that want to be involved in the project.

The concept design for the project has been developed by Europtima, which is the consulting arm of Optimum.

Dr Al Khaja proposes that the project be called Bahrain International Gateway.

He said the project will be the first of its kind in the world. Though there is a similar project at Hong Kong International Airport, the design is different and not of this magnitude, he said.

Dr Al Khaja described the complex as a "circular all-glass glazed and environmentally-compatible" structure.

"Its centrepiece will be a crystal ball-shaped executive lounge/club, with multi-purpose facilities," he added.

Dr Al Khaja said the parking facility would also offer a service and maintenance operation, the first of its kind at any airport in the Arab world.

Once it is operational, the facility will create as many as 1,000 new jobs, most of which will be filled by Bahrainis.