Extreme rain lands another body blow to backwater tourism in Kerala

Houseboats lying idle along the banks of the Kavanar, Kumarakom.

Houseboats lying idle along the banks of the Kavanar, Kumarakom. | Photo Credit: VISHNU PRATHAP

The images of 2018 still appear to cast a shadow over the tourism prospects of Kumarakom, a global destination, even four years after it came back to life.

The village, sitting right on the Vembanad lake's edge, suffered some destruction during the recent floods. The phenomenon, however, appears to have inflicted more damage to its image than the destination itself and the businesses are fighting the perception that Kumarakom has shut down.

According to the stakeholders, the segment of backwater tourism suffered a massive setback here owing to the extreme rainfall that lashed the region over the last couple of weeks. The unexpected changes in the schedule of boat races also slowed down the pace of its recovery from the pandemic-induced disruptions.

“Of the 110 houseboats and the several shikara boats operating out of Kumarakom, almost all have been dependent on the receipt of a one-time grant from the State government to stage a comeback after the COVID-19 period. Just as the sector began to receive good business, the floods served a shocker, leading to widespread cancellations for the houseboats,” said Robin Koshy, secretary, District Tourism Promotion Council, Kottayam.

A weekend destination

With the movement of foreign guests yet to pick up, the region has turned into a more of a weekend destination. “The weekends are reporting heartening numbers with most hotels and houseboats packed to capacity while in the weekdays, they are lying idle. Foreign guests have begun trickling in but the segment is mostly limited to the premium properties. The movement, however, is expected to gather momentum as the boat race progresses,” he added.

The houseboat operators, at the same time, remain skeptical of a complete recovery as they are still reeling under the losses incurred over the pandemic years. “The boats were forced to remain out of action for a long time due to the high number of cancellations. There was a definite surge in numbers till the floods but we have still not been able to operate at competitive rates,” said a houseboat operator.

Ray of hope

Industry sources, however, are desperate to change such narratives and point out that the hotels, especially the luxury properties, have managed to buck the trend to a great extent. “The backwater activities might have come to a standstill and the hotels too reported cancellations. But the market is recovering and Arab passengers, especially as groups from Oman, have started coming in and it augurs well for the upcoming festival season here,’‘ said K. Arun Kumar, secretary, the Chamber of Vembanad Hotels and Resorts (CVHR).

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Printable version | Sep 9, 2022 12:14:22 am |