Kerala Houseboats (Riceboats) or kettuvallam are country boats that were used in the early days for the transport of goods from the isolated interior villages of Kerala Backwater area to the towns like Alleppey, Kollam, Cochin and Kottayam. With the advent of roads, bridges and ferry services, gradually the kettuvalloms went off the scene. Now these kettuvalloms are back again as a major tourist attraction as a modern moving boat house that is kerala houseboats .
There are many arguments about the name “kettuvallam“.One of the popular argument is that they are called ‘kettu vallams‘ because they are made by tying wooden planks with ropes. However all the country boats of Kerala are made by tying shaped planks together with rope , but they are known by different names like ‘kothumbu vallom‘, ‘chundan vallam‘ Snake Boat etc. More acceptable argument is that ‘kettu’ is another word for edifice and ‘kettu vallom’ means ‘vallom’ with ‘kettu’ , which means ‘boat with a living space’.The logic that ‘Nalukettu’ , the traditional houses in Kerala architecture literally means four edifices.
Kerala houseboats size vary from, about to 95 feet in length and a width of around 13 feet to in the middle for one bedroom houseboat and , big houseboats with up 107 feet long and up to 19 feet wide. The materials that go into the making are all local and Eco friendly bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats, coir carpets etc. The main wood used is “Anjili“.
In the nineties, the new trend of modernising these boats and using them for backwater cruise began. Today most of the boats have air conditioned bedrooms, modern kitchen and dining rooms. Some of boats offer conference facility.
There are nearly 1000 houseboats operating across the state which are equipped with generators for power supply. On an average , there are at least two bed rooms in a house boat and altogether these boats offer 2000 rooms. Being a major attraction for tourists visiting Kerala, these boats employing nearly 10,000 people directly or indirectly plays a key role in the tourism economy of Kerala.