Lifting of Covid lockdown, Kerala houseboats get set for cruise across the backwaters

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on August 11, 2021

Houseboat operators slash rates and offer discounts

With the easing of Covid lockdown, Kerala's houseboat industry has geared up to woo travellers in the ensuing festival season for a cruise across the Vembanad backwaters.

VC Zacharia, former president of Kerala Houseboat Owners Federation, said that enquiries have come into individual operators from mainly local tourists. The houseboat sector is pinning hopes on the North Indian visitors ahead of the Onam festival season since Covid cases across the country have shown a declining trend and many sectors have opened up.

Many of the houseboat operators have already slashed rates and offer discounts to attract customers. The houseboat industry is expecting customers mainly from North India, while the travel plans of overseas guests will depend on the resumption of international flight operations, he said.

“We are ready to operate houseboats by observing all Covid protocols ranging from temperature checks at the entrance and wearing masks to sanitising both guests and the boat. Houseboats are considered as the safest holidaying space during pandemic times for customers in view of the limited seating facility that doesn't allow for crowding,” a boat owner said.

Industry sources pointed out that there are more than 1,000 houseboats in Alappuzha region alone and the pandemic has forced them to drop anchors for nearly six months in 2020. When the sector was reopened in October 2020, the business was dull with lower footfalls. Later, the second Covid wave dampened the prospects following a State-wide lockdown.

Post-Covid scenario

Jose Dominic, Founder, CGH Earth, told BusinessLine that a new normal is going to emerge in the post-Covid times and the State should take advantage of it through responsible tourism initiatives. Kerala, he said, has relied on the brand “Gods Own Country” for too long now. It should look to introduce a version II of the brand by resetting and re-energising tourism destinations offering a clean, green and healthy environment. “It is clear that Covid is going to stay here and we should learn to live with it,” he said.

There is going to be a lot of pent-up demand or revenge demand from people who were confined to their homes in the pandemic period. According to him, Covid has opened up a new disruptive innovation in the manner in which we travel to several destinations. This encompasses neighbourhood travel because of the fear to travel long distances, a new sightseeing concept and homestead farm travel, among others. Stakeholders in the sector must realise the new opportunity offered in the pandemic times and it is up to the government to extend all support for the survival and revival of the tourism industry, he added.

Published on August 11, 2021

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