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04 Jan 2012

Maldives spas face government ban
BY Pete Hayman

Resort operators across the Maldives are facing the prospect of having to close their spas as a result of a government order, following protests led by opposition political parties.

According to media reports, president Mohamed Nasheed has issued a decree calling for the closure of spas and massage parlours throughout the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The move has prompted concerns from resort owners and from the tourism industry, which is worth around US$1.5bn (£962m, EUR1.2bn) to the Maldives a year - 30 per cent of GDP.

However, Haveeru News Service said tourism minister Mariyam Zulfa was looking at the possibility of introducing measures that would allow resorts to continue operating spas.

Zulfa told the service: "Several have raised concerns over our decision. We are considering allowing resorts to operate spas. They are also aware of the reasons that led us to take the decision."

A circular has been issued by the tourism ministry, following allegations that some Maldivians have accused spas of being run as brothels.

Haveeru has also reported that the Supreme Court has been asked to issue a ruling on the matter in order to make the Maldivian judiciary's position "clear".

Attorney general Abdulla Muiz was quoted as saying: "We believe that the people have expressed genuine concerns over the circular issued by the tourism ministry ordering resorts to close down their spas."


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