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November 19, 2009

The end of a fleecing business of houseboat tourism in Kerala

     Kochi (Kerala): The notorious ferry queens fleecing tourists on the backwaters of Kerala that really costs nothing, have failed to attract their domestic and international prey this year, especially following the recent boat tragedies. At least eight school students died when the boat in which they were sailing capsized in Malappuram district on November 4. The accident occurred barely a month after the state's worst tragedy on September 30, when a double-decker boat with tourists capsized in Thekkady lake, claiming 45 lives. For houseboat owners, this time of the year was regarded as peak season to earn all their extra income. "The season has already started and by November it used to peak but this year it has not picked up yet. Mainly foreigners used to come at this period of time but now even north Indians and other domestic tourists are not willing to come here for cruising. And this is all because of the media reports on boat safety and they are scared now, which is affecting our business," TP Reji Kumar, owner of houseboats, Alleppey. Out of 650 odd houseboats just less than 10 are getting daily business from pre-booked tour packages and rest have to wait at the boat itself for some one to check in. Boat tragedies got extensive media coverage and now tourists as well as boat owners are concerned over the safety measures taken in boats across Kerala. Boat owners say that even slashing down of fares is of no help this time. "We have slashed the fare as compared to earlier years. Its one fourth of the previous fares but still no one seems to be interested in cruising. If this continues it will be difficult for all the owners to survive as they have spent lakhs in house boat tourism industry," said S Baby, another houseboat owner, Alleppey. Many of the boats and cruise vessels plying on the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom had made huge investments in this new-found business to make these luxurious-looking boats with a view to baiting the ll-informed.
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