Our work to develop a Code of Practice for houseboats in Alleppey, India continues to progress well. This is an important project which promises to bring tangible benefits to the communities and environments of the backwaters. The enthusiasm shown for the initiative amongst all the stakeholders, including government departments and many of the houseboat operators has been encouraging. However, state elections in 2016 have meant that new alliances have needed to be forged with government which this has led to some delays. Thankfully though they are supportive of our work and seem willing to take on board many of our suggestions.
The crucial next step is to complete our report on the practical challenges facing houseboats wishing to comply with our Code. With Tourism Concern’s support The Environment Collaborative (TEC) – our local partners in India – have spent several months conducting surveys and interviews with houseboat owners in both Alleppey and Kumarakom – the most popular centres for backwaters tourism. Working with the Institute of Management Studies (Kerala University) 100 surveys have been completed in Alleppey and 50 in Kumarakom, the findings from which are currently being analysed. A report is due soon, which will include a list of those operators that have signed up to our Code of Conduct. Our findings will be shared with the Department of Tourism and the Department of Planning.
The surveys and interviews explore various aspects of our code including seeking practical ways to help operators of boats comply with its principles. We are planning to work with a few ‘model’ boats to help them towards full compliance which will in turn inform both ourselves and the Keralan government about the costs and other obstacles than must be faced in order to ensure backwaters tourism is a sustainable and ethical sector.