After a strong vaccination drive against COVID in Kerala, the houseboat industry is hopeful of business resuming early. Many businessmen are offering 50 per cent discounts to fully vaccinated tourists, while partially vaccinated guests would be provided with a 40 per cent off. The precautionary measures of sanitising the boats, temperature checks, complete details on the COVID-19 Jagratha Portal would be invoked again, reported The Hindu.
The resurgence of the virus plummeted the industry in Kerala. The sector was facing increased losses as tourists stopped visiting the state. Lockdowns and other restrictions contributed to the everyday struggles of houseboat owners.
Struggling To Make A Living
The Kumaragaon District Tourism Promotion Council has about registered 833 houseboats, most of which have incurred huge losses. Kunjju Kuttan, the owner of Vaddakan Appan Houseboat in Kumaragaon, said that he had exhausted all his savings, and his business is now running on 90 per cent losses. He added that he had to spend over ₹ 2 lakh on maintaining his boat that remained unused during the lockdown.
"I have diligently spent ₹ 2,00,000 to renovate my boat and get it running again. After the second wave of COVID, it continues to lie in a corner with no use. If the boat remains unoperated for long hours, it ruins the bamboo placed on the roof of the boat, paint inside the boat immediately starts wearing out, and eventually even damages the hull of the boat," he said.
Many have expressed apprhensions aout whether safety measures are being followed or not. "I am not sure if the boat owners are sanitizing the houseboats properly. Even If I want to go for a holiday, I must get a negative certificates for each family member, and it becomes taxing. I would rather wait for the situation to return to normal," said Rishika Dutta.
The Kerala government had offered ₹ 80,000 to ₹ 1,20,000 for the registered owners of houseboats due to the lack of business. However, not all of them are beneficiaries of the grant. Shane Kumar, president of the Kerala Houseboat Association, said, "Without the government's help, we cannot survive. The condition for the government released grant is that only the registered owners before the current date can be eligible." He further added that not even 10 per cent of houseboat owners had received a grant due to licence validity issues.
Nonetheless, the association has written to the tourism mnistry regarding the same. The Kerala Houseboat Association had said that the only time the industry can revive itself is after the COVID caseload goes down and the majority gets vaccinated.