Kochi: The resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the tourism Industry of houseboats in Kerala to plummet. Houseboats are incurring huge losses due to the lack of tourists, lockdowns, and other restrictions. The Kumaragaon District Tourism Promotion Council has registered 833 houseboats, most of which now face losses. Kunjju Kuttan, the owner of Vaddakan Appan Houseboat, said that his business is running on 90 per cent losses. He has resorted to using his savings.
He added, “We have spent over Rs 2,00,000/- to get it running just a few months back. Now, again due to the lockdown it is lying in a corner unused. If the boat remains unused for long the bamboo on top of it gets ruined, paint inside the boat starts peeling off and even the hull of the boat gets spoiled.” Domestic customers who were regular visitors of these houseboats fear exposure to the virus and are not currently travelling.
According to Eesani Dey, a customer, “I am not sure if the Boat owners are sanitizing the houseboats properly. Even If I want to go on holiday, I must go get negative certificates for each member of my family and it is a lot of work. I would rather wait for things to go back to normal.”
The Kerala Government had offered grants of Rs 80,000 to Rs 1,20,000 for the registered owners of houseboats owing to the lack of business. However, not all houseboats are beneficiaries of the grant. According to Shanej Kumar, the president of the Kerala Houseboat Association, “Without the government’s help, we cannot survive. The condition for the government released grant is that only the owners who have been registered before the current date can be eligible.” He added, “Not even 10 per cent of owners received the grant due to license validity issues.”
However, the association has written to the Tourism Ministry regarding the same. The Kerala Houseboat Association said the industry can recover only when the Covid-19 caseload decreases.