Houseboats will start operating adhering to COVID-19 protocols and guidelines from Sunday.
Tourists should register on COVID-19 Jagratha portal before checking into a houseboat. They will be allowed into the vessel after checking the body temperature and disinfecting their luggage.
As part of restrictions, check-in will be allowed only at Punnamada Finishing Point and Pallathuruthy houseboat terminals. A maximum of 10 passengers will be permitted in a boat, while only two persons will be allowed in a room. Village walks will not be allowed. Both the check-in and check-out should be done between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Houseboat owners have been directed to disinfect the vessels after each trip. They should ensure that the boat crew and tourists should not come in close contact and install a partition separating the driver’s cabin. All houseboats should display COVID-19 Jagratha portal QR code.
Authorities said that a squad was formed to check violations. Stringent action would be taken against violators, said an official.
Kevin Rozario, general secretary, All Kerala Houseboat Owners and Operators Samithi, said that a large number of vessels would not be operation ready on Sunday and the following days as they were yet to complete the maintenance. “Houseboats have remained idle for the past seven months. To make it run again, we need to spend a good amount. Several owners are struggling to carry out the maintenance due to financial constraints. The State government should immediately provide the already announced maintenance grant for houseboats,” he said.
Mr. Kevin also urged the authorities concerned to initiate action against illegal houseboats, a few of them already started plying the backwaters after the government opened the tourism sector in the State on October 12.
Although houseboats are ready to sail, both the houseboat operators and Tourism Department are not expecting an influx of tourists any time soon. “There are only minimal inquiries and bookings. It will take time before the sector achieves some normality,” said a Tourism Department official.
Earlier, after the pandemic severely hit the business, several houseboat owners and employees have turned to other jobs to make a living.