The ongoing strike by house boat crew in Alappuzha and Kumarakom has virtually crippled the backwater tourism in the region.

The strike, which entered the fifth day, has affected both foreign and domestic tourists visiting these two destinations, hotspots of India’s much famed backwater tourism.

The crew owing allegiance to the trade unions of invariably all political parties are on a war path since June 18 demanding an increase in wages .

Mr Jacob Samuel, President, and Mr V.C. Zachariah, former President of the Kerala House Boat Owners Association, told Business Line that the workers are demanding a wage increase of 125 per cent even though the association had agreed for a 46 per cent hike.

They pointed out that the wage revision comes into effect every two years and the present wage revision will expire only on August 31. As such it is quite premature that the crew is demanding Rs 7,500 as monthly salary and Rs 200 as daily wage.

According to the association, they are willing to pay Rs 6,600 and Rs 160 as daily “batta” against Rs 4,500 and Rs 125 a day at present. The house boat owners alleged that workers belonging to the CITU faction had boycotted the conciliatory meeting convened by the District Labour Officer last week to resolve the issue.

It is pointed out that the suspension of operations of nearly 900 house boats in the region has affected operations of several home stays and hotel industry in the region at large. Meanwhile, a leading house boat owner pointed out Sri Lanka is an emerging market for house boat tourism after the end of the civil war . The very fact that the island nation which is a cheaper destination has now forayed into this segment, might turn out to be a major challenge for Indian players in this sector in the coming days.

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