Houseboat tourism is a wonderful way to experience the beauty and tranquility of the backwaters. It could and should be a model of ethical tourism, and a valuable and sustainable source of local employment and income. Unfortunately though, it is expanding in an unregulated and unsustainable way.
Project planning began in 2012 when a survey of 1000 families living on the backwaters revealed that they were being adversely affected by houseboat tourism – issues which also threatened the sustainability of the backwaters and of the industry itself.
We have been talking with as many stakeholders as possible in order to understand the issues better and to investigate possible practical ways of addressing them. This has enabled us to draft best practice guidelines – and to outline a process for encouraging and monitoring compliance. These have been agreed with the Kerala Department of Tourism.
- A survey of nearly 1000 households on the backwaters in the Alleppey region, revealing a range negative impacts deriving from houseboat tourism (2012)
- Feedback from Tourism Concern members and other tourists regarding their own experiences of houseboat tourism in Kerala.
- Establishing support for the initiative from UK tour operators who take guests to the backwaters, including through AITO, ABTA and the Travel Foundation.
- A comprehensive consultation with those involved in houseboat tourism including: local communities; houseboat owners; houseboat owners associations; government departments; the Department of Tourism; academics, etc
- A meeting, chaired by the Director of Tourism, of over 40 representatives of these stakeholders. An outline of our key findings were presented and there was agreement on the need both to seek a Code of Practice for houseboats and to establish a committee, with representatives of the key stakeholders, to oversee the development, adoption and monitoring of the Code.
- Development of detailed best practice guidelines, including suggestions for practical ways in which their adoption might be facilitated.
- Setting up and meeting of the Implementation and Monitoring Committee under the auspices of the Department of Tourism Adoption of our draft Code of Conduct by the Department of Tourism Agreement to develop ‘model’ boats – up to 50 boats who will be helped in complying with the Code. At the same time this will help in identifying practical challenges that need to be addressed in order for it to be easier for all boats to operate more sustainably.
Read the Report: Code of Conduct for Houseboat Owners Alleppey Campaign Update