Kerala houseboats ready to greet tourists again
After a long wait of seven months, the houseboat industry in Kerala is ready to greet tourists again.
The Kerala government has given its nod to all tourist activities to resume from Monday, while the beaches will open from November 1.
Alappuzha often referred to as the Venice of the East, offers an exquisite facility to tourism, houseboats-the once-forgotten traditional rice boats, which used to carry paddy from the fields to the markets or to the barns.
After the Covid pandemic struck in March, the businesses of over 800 houseboats plying the famed Vembanad lake came to a grinding halt. After almost seven months, the authorities have given the permission to resume activities from Monday and the houseboat owners and the workers are now busy getting the houseboats ready for tourists.
Speaking to IANS, Tomy Pulikattil, who owns a fleet of houseboats ranging from a single bedroom to six-bedroom, said they are all ready and are waiting for the guests.
"We have started to contact the guests who got in touch with us in the recent past to check if the houseboats were operating. We have decided to offer 25 per cent discount to all our guests who travel with us. The last seven months were like a nightmare for all of us, as we were having a hand-to-mouth existence. We also had to pay our permanent employees," said Pulikattil.
On Monday, the houseboat owners were engaged in last-minute cleaning and making the boats ready for welcoming the tourists. The boats are being sanitised and for that a new pump has been bought. Employees have also been trained to follow Covid protocols.
The biggest houseboat plying here is a 10-bedroom houseboat, while a huge majority are one and two-bedroom ones, and the minimum tariff is Rs 6,000 for a 24-hour trip.
"We have been drained completely because of no business. We did raise our concerns with the Kerala government and the report is that all will be given a maintenance grant of Rs one lakh. Depending on the size of the houseboat, the total expenses will go up to Rs 4 lakh," added Pulikattil.
According to the present Covid guidelines, tourists arriving from outside the state but not for more than seven days need not undergo any quarantine. However, they have to carry a Covid negative certificate.
Those who wish to remain in the state beyond a week will have to undergo quarantine for seven days.