Kumarakom: Houseboats and shikaras are getting decked up along the backwaters of Vembanad lake to attract tourists.
The tourism season in Kerala, in fact, has already begun. But the peak period for the arrival of both foreign and domestic tourists is November-December, and these vessels that have become a symbol of the God’s Own Country are getting ready to host those travelers.
Some boat owners have already carried out the maintenance work as they didn't want to miss the business from the beginning of the season. For most, though, the work – changing of canopies and other routine maintenance – is still ongoing.
The canopies of shikaras need to be replaced every year, but the roofs of houseboats last for two to three years.
Palm leaf, bamboo and coir are the key material used for making the roofs. Expert hands are required to carry out the job. Lack of trained personnel is a problem. Those who are building new houseboats often take workers on contract for months. That causes a further shortage of workers for maintenance job.
Usually, workers are hired from the Cherthala-Chenganda areas in Alapuzha district to work on the canopies. When they are not available, expert workers need to be brought from Kochi. They usually work on daily wages or on contract.
Those who are making new houseboats often take the vessels to Chenganda to fix the roof and side screens. With the number of houseboats increasing, demand has gone up for workers who are experts in making the canopies.