Spa and wellness centres hoping for more relief

Khem says the industry is facing a shortage of manpower as most foreign workers left because of the MCO.

COZZI Chong arrives at work an hour early every day to ensure her massage and foot therapy centre is fully prepared to receive customers.

The managing director of Relax Oasis at Nu Sentral Mall, Kuala Lumpur wants to ensure the standard operating procedures are adhered to strictly.

She is grateful that the government has allowed wellness centres to reopen under the conditional movement control order and wants to ensure it remains that way.

“Business has been down to 50% since last year, but we are surviving thanks to our regulars who are mostly locals, ” she said.

The spa and wellness industry in the capital city relies heavily on international tourists, who are not allowed into the country because of the closure of borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sector has been so badly affected that industry experts estimate that at least half of all operators have closed shop since last year.

“We are lucky to be located in a mall, so there is a big pool of potential customers from the office crowd.

“But we cannot take things for granted and have to work harder to ensure the SOP is followed to ensure we remain open, ” said Chong.

Part of her new routine is to ensure that the outlet is given a thorough wipe-down every morning.

Therapists are clad in personal protective equipment while customers are sprayed with a non-alcohol disinfectant before entering the premises.

“Before the next customer comes in, everything is sanitised and all chair covers, bed covers and spa tools are replaced with fresh ones and disinfected, ’’ she said.

As an extra precaution, Chong no longer accepts walk-ins, preferring customers to pre- book their sessions.

“We can serve them better that way and ensure the rules are adhered to, ’’ she said.

Upholding high standardsKhem Dhami, who is the director of Tranquility Spa & Wellness at Marriott Putrajaya, said they also did not accept walk-ins or cash payments now.

“It is actually a very safe environment as we maintain very high standards.

“I am a trainer myself and everyone who works here has been briefed on adherence to the SOP.

“This is our way of assuring customers that their safety is a priority, ” he said.

Malaysian Association of Wellness and Spa (Mawspa) vice-president I Gavin Foo said

as an experiential industry, such establishments could not operate any way they want.

“We have to ensure that regulations are followed strictly.

“Our members must uphold high standards to receive ratings such as the one given by Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, ” he said.

As a mark of quality, the association encourages members to display outside the premises their rating, business and other licences as well as price list for the services.

“The public will trust reputable players more if this is done.

“We do not want to be associated with the black sheep who mar the reputation of the industry, ’’ Foo said, referring to some massage centres that had been turned into vice dens.

Manpower shortageAnother hurdle Mawspa members face is the lack of trained manpower.

The spa and wellness industry relies heavily on foreign workers, most of whom left the country when the first MCO was imposed last year.

Tranquility Spa could only open for four months last year due to the acute shortage of skilled labour.

“Because we were short of therapists and masseuses, we had to turn away customers, ” said Khem.

Most of the spa’s therapists who went home have not been able to return as international borders are still closed.

“From 15 therapists, we are down to five, ” he said, adding that they tried to recruit Malaysians but response was poor.

Similarly, Chong said their workforce was down to seven from 14.

“We have to turn customers away, ’’ she said while expressing hope that foreign workers would be allowed to return soon.

Looking to the future, Foo hopes the local authorities can work with the association when issuing licences.

“We want to ensure only legitimate centres that comply with industry guidelines get approval.

“We hope to come up with a rating system so that customers can be assured of the quality offered by spa and wellness centres, ” he said.

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