ALAPPUZHA: The ambitious tourist guide project of the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), introduced earlier in this year to end extortion, has become an example of fence eating the crop. Police says many of the guides were criminals abetting it. DySP (administration) M.E. Shajahan said they had received many complaints against such guides and so it had decided to put in place a new online registration system for the new season. District police chief A. Akbar had held a meeting in this regard on Saturday.
The department had issued identity cards to 118 guides who got a six-month training by Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS) in February. Warning tourists against seeking the help of such ‘fake’ guides, he said those who are interested in houseboat cruising must register either directly with the DTPC or recognised houseboat operators. “The guides act like go-betweens. They pay only half the money to the boat owners. The guests come to know of the cheating only when they check in,” he told DC.
Fleecing is an age-old issue in the industry here, and DC had reported two such specific cases. In July 2014, a group of visitors from Malaysia was charged Rs 60,000 for a ride by a middleman, but the owner of the houseboat got only Rs 20,000. And on Mahanavami day of the same year, a North Indian couple was cheated of Rs 22,000 by another agent for a single-bed houseboat that plies for just Rs 7,500. When they asked about the facilities offered, its crew were helpless to provide as they were paid for a regular ride.
Interestingly, the DTPC which is meant to be a monitoring body remains headless for over six months now. The district collector, also chairman of DTPC, was unavailable for a comment. All Kerala Houseboat Owners’ Association (AKHOA) alleged that DTPC was authorising criminals by creating such posts. “We have raised the matter at a recent meeting with district police chief. The guides are misusing their ID cards,” its general secretary K. Jayavijayan said....