'First to close, last to reopen' spas in Malaysia struggling amid another MCO

Local spa associations have called for spa workers to be given vaccination priority. -— CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

Malaysia has a lot to gain in ensuring spas here are safe and its workforce are given vaccination priority, said local spa associations.

The Association Of Malaysia Spas (AMSPA) and Malaysian Association Of Wellness & Spa (MAWSPA), in a joint statement, said it is crucial to sustain the spa sector so that it can remain competitive once travel resumes.

“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, ” the associations said.

Last week, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the whole of Malaysia will come under the movement control order until June 7 in view of a “more critical and vicious third wave” of Covid-19 infections. Under the current MCO conditions, spa centres are not allowed to operate.

“For every MCO imposed, the spa industry was the first to be asked to shut down and the last to be allowed to reopen, ” the associations said.

Both AMSPA and MAWSPA stressed that spas offer a myriad of wellness options that bring about health benefits.

“In (stressful) times such as now, therapies offered at spas are definitely much needed for overall well-being, ” the associations said.

According to AMSPA and MAWSPA, the wellness industry has been thriving 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-digit-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, ” they said.

The associations added that the government needs to ensure that the spa industry thrives in the country.

“Once the pandemic is over... 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, ” they said.

Too short a notice

Hotels in the country too have also been hit hard by the recent reimplementation of the MCO, which came in the middle of Ramadan when most hotels are busy preparing for the coming Hari Raya.

The blanket ban on dining in left hotels in a predicament with only days to reorganise what was planned for the entire month, said the Malaysian Association Of Hotels (MAH).

“Hotels are not only left with excess supplies of perishables but also committed manpower for the period.

“The government did not offer any support or assistance leaving hotels high and dry with cancellations pouring in for room bookings planned for Hari Raya holidays, ” MAH said in a statement.

MAH said the industry understands the need for restrictions to be in place but believes that there is room for improvements in balancing lives and livelihood.

“With the current situation that cuts off all revenue streams, industry is willing to impose stricter SOP such as lower capacity limit, served-buffet service or limit of two per table, limited dining time, increased screening and even mandatory testing for hotel guest from different states checking-in.

“Government needs to consider these options before imposing blanket bans, to allow the industry to at least survive on its own, ” MAH said.

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