August 18, 2022

Santai Travel Channel

The Spa Industry Seeks To Be Treated Fairly by The Authorities

7 min read

The Association of Malaysian Spas (AMSPA) and the Malaysian Association of Wellness & Spa (MAWSPA) wish to jointly express their grievances on the hardships caused by the unfair treatment of the Malaysian spa and wellness industry by the Authorities. We would like to categorically state that:-
 The two associations represent genuine spas and wellness operators who are licensed by law to operate.
 Each member had to meet a host of criteria to qualify for association membership. These criteria cover the standards of their set-up, their SOPs and its documentation, quality of their service, and level of hygiene. Last but not least, each member must be properly licensed and comply to the Government’s rules and regulations governing the industry.
 The two associations are recognized and come under the purview of MOTAC (Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture) and work closely with it to promote the Malaysian Tourism Industry.
 Our members also comply with KKM on the regulations pertaining to health and hygiene, and the qualifications required of our therapists.
 Most of our members are star rated by the Ministry of Tourism. The rating is done by no less than representatives from the Ministry of Tourism (MOTAC), Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM), Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBT) which is the Local Council, BOMBA and representatives from both AMSPA and MAWSPA.
 We are by no means disreputable nor illicit. We are genuine operators in the business of wellness. Our services contribute to the wellbeing and health of our customers. We have many areas of complaints and discontent and would our Government to objectively and fairly address these issues.
1) Negative Profiling
Our Spa industry is negatively profiled by the Authorities, namely by those drawing upregulations as well as those who enforce those regulations. We cannot understand why the word ‘spa’ has become such a bad word. No doubt there are a few bad apples who call themselves spas when they are not, but I think Local Councils who licensed them and have yet to close them down and evoke their licenses should take responsibility for their existence. Why should genuine spas who have taken great pains to run legitimate spas and have done nothing illegal or wrong be made to suffer
instead. We urge the Authorities to please close illegitimate spas and those that do not follow SOPs. But do
not penalized genuine and legitimate spas who are following the set SOPs and running a legitimate
spa business.

2) Unclear Status of the Malaysian Spa Industry
The Malaysian Spa Industry has been around for more than 30 years. In this time spas globally have evolved and are now recognized as an important contributor to wellness as well as to tourism. Today, no hotel can consider themselves to be of international standards if they do not have a spa. Most major hotel chains now have their own brand of spas that is a signature of their chain. Shangrila Hotels have Chi Spa, YTL Hotels have The Spa Village, Taj Hotels have Jiva Spa, Talise by Jumeirah, Iridium Spas by St. Regis just to name a few. Even world class medical centers like the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic have a spa in their set up. This shows it is recognized that spas contribute to health and wellness. It is most disappointing that in Malaysia we are deemed as ‘entertainment’ and we are viewed in the same light as cinemas, karaoke centers and nightclubs. Not only are we not given our due recognition but we cannot even measure up to the likes of hairdressing salons and beauty salons in the eyes of the Authorities.
We the Spa Industry would like to know why are we singled out? If the need for close contact is the reason, doesn’t facials and hairdressing require close contact as well?
For every MCO imposed, the spa industry was the first to be asked to shut down and the last to be allowed to reopen.We strongly protest this gross unfair treatment of the Spa Industry. Many of us are operating with a beauty salon license. This is not by choice but we cannot understand why there is no spa license issued by various Local Councils. This is as though spa is a bad and forbidden word.

We urge the Authorities to reinstate the issuance of Spa License with very clear guidelines. AMSPA and MAWSPA would be very happy to work with the local councils on coming out with the guidelines. Close as well as do not approve any operator that does not meet the guidelines set. This must be strictly enforced. Then only can we weed out the illicit operators who are destroying the image and reputation of the industry.

  1. Requests from the Spa Industry
     Prioritise vaccination for Spa Industry’s workers
    The industry suffered tremendously from the lockdowns imposed for each MCO. We are always the first to be closed and the last allowed to reopen. It will help tremendously if vaccination of spa workforce can be given priority. Due to our commitment to strictly follow SOPs,
    there have not been any cluster arising from spas and early vaccination will ensure that the spa industry remains safe. Given that spa has become a necessary part of travel whether for leisure or business, Malaysia has a lot to gain in ensuring their spas are safe and its workforce vaccinated, firstly for local travellers at the moment, and ready to serve tourists as soon as travel ban is lifted globally and international travel resumes. It will give us a head start in competing with the other countries in the region for the tourist dollar.
    Besides spas nowadays offer a myriad of wellness modalities that bring about health benefits to the spa users. Stress relief, improved immunity, improved blood circulation, and many more. In time of
    stress such as now, therapies offered at spas are definitely much needed for overall wellbeing. Working from home in a small apartment that have to double up to meet the daily needs of the
    family can be overwhelming. A couple of hours at a spa is a much-needed respite. Given the strict SOPs, it is a safe haven to regain one’s equilibrium.
     Financial Assistance.
    The Spa Industry lost a total of 6 months of income generation due to the MCO and is still counting. Spas are small and medium size businesses with limited capital and reserves. We do not have the
    financial power of big corporations to withstand the financial impact this pandemic has brought to our business.

Banks that we have approached have turned us down citing that the spa industry is not a bankable industry. This is not true because prior to the pandemic the spa industry is a sizeable contributor to the economy and to tourism. The global spa industry has been having double digits growth for a
number of years. Wellness is seen as the new economic wave and more so as the aftermath of the Covid 19 Virus sets in. Keeping well and destressing to acquire mind, body, spirit wellness will be the new mantra. It is imperative that the Malaysian Government see to that the Spa Industry not only survives but thrives. Once the pandemic is over and it will be over one day, all countries in the region will be competing for the tourist dollar when the pent-up desire to travel boils over. It is only prudent for us to be ready to seize this opportunity. It is widely acknowledged that spa is an important component of travel and we will be competing with the likes of Thailand and Indonesia especially Bali.
In MCO2 no moratorium was announced and it was said that banks were under strain. A loan moratorium must be put in place with more financial aid for SMEs. It can be on a ‘cost of funds’ basis. But please do not once again side line the Spa Industry. We are not asking to be favoured. Just treat us fairly. SMEs need to survive or there will be no jobs for the B40 to return to as SMEs drive 70% of the economy. Other areas to be looked at are the reduction of taxes, moratorium on the collection of sales tax and other taxes and levies for a period of 6 months for industries that are badly affected such as ourselves.

In summary:-
1) The Spa Industry seeks to be treated fairly and not to ostracized. Why is the Spa Industry the first to be asked to close and the last allowed to reopen during MCOs.
2) Please do not profile us negatively.
3) By all means impose strict guidelines and close operators who call themselves spa but do not follow guidelines and SOPs. Genuine spas do not want to get a bad name because of them.
4) Please do not deem the Spa Industry as ‘entertainment’. We are in the serious business of wellness. Give us our dues. There should be a category of license for Spa and/or Wellness which should be accorded to us. We should not be licensed and operate under Beauty Salons.
5) We request for the Government to prioritise vaccination for Spa Industry’s workers.
6) We request for financial moratorium as well as other areas such as reduction of taxes, sale tax and other taxes and levies for a period of 6 months.

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