KUWAIT CITY // Travel agents are expecting a booking bonanza once a government grant of 1,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh13,100) reaches the bank accounts of Kuwaitis next month.
Krishna Kuma, the office manager at Al Abeer Travel and Tourism, said: "It's obvious, when the money is in the bank they will start booking holidays." He said public holidays for National Day and Liberation Day make the end of February a popular time for trips, "but it's going to be bigger this year".
Mr Kuma said his company is booking rooms in popular destinations, such as Dubai, Cairo and Beirut, to make sure it can supply Kuwaitis with accommodation.
Last week, the government said the emir had ordered the gift to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence, the 20th anniversary of liberation from the Iraqi occupation and the fifth anniversary of his coming to power. In addition to the cash, some food staples will be distributed free for 13 months.
Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways were both unavailable for comment on how the announcement has affected the demand for seats, but another travel agency, Al Fanar Holidays, said it had also "noticed a difference.
"There's not much yet, but as soon as they start receiving the grants, they will start booking," said the company's manager, Hassan Azzam. Mr Azzam said that more than 70 per cent of his clients are interested in visiting Dubai. The government's gift will amount to 1.4 billion dinars, the spokesman of parliament's committee for budgets and final accounts, Adnan Abdulsamad, told reporters last week. The total includes 1,000 dinars for each of Kuwait's 1.1 million citizens and an estimated 250 million dinars for food subsidies. The National Assembly is expected to approve the bill when it meets today.
Waleed al Jassim, the general director of the Hala February Festival, an annual month-long event to promote Kuwait, said many Kuwaitis will be staying in the country for their National and Liberation Day celebrations because there are incentives such as sales in the shops and a huge fireworks display.
"Not all of them will leave. There's a lot waiting for this 1,000 dinars to pay their bills, loans and instalments," Mr al Jassim said. "Not all Kuwaitis are rich. A lot of them need this money for life, not for pleasure."
Travel agents are not the only businesses expecting to benefit from the sudden injection of cash into the economy. Abdullah al Khanji, a board member of Mini Delights bakery and catering, which has seven stores in Kuwait, said that in February there will be a "bulk attack on the shops".
"As it comes easy, it will go easily," Mr al Khanji said.
Citizens have already started to celebrate the promised largesse by buying sweets from his shops and he said his staff will prepare extra cake for the day the money is handed out.
"Most of my friends are leaving the country because they want to change their environment," he said.
Omar el Natour, the manager in Kuwait of souq.com, a web site that is used by retailers to sell their products, including electronics, cosmetics and jewellery, said: "I'm expecting a 50 to 75 per cent increase in sales.
"The sellers are sending us more items to put on the site" since the grant was announced, Mr el Natour said. The company has prepared for the sales boost with an online marketing campaign and advertisements on the radio.
Kuwaitis have been given a lot of cash and "we need to get the money from them," he said. "2011 will be a nice year for Kuwait, especially this month, they will be very happy."