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Maldives tourism fights back following spa ban

Maldives tourism fights back following spa ban

Government officials in the Maldives are likely to repeal a ban on the operation of spas following a furious backlash from the £1.5bn tourism industry.

Islamist groups in the tourism hotspot called for restrictions on the activities of spas during December as they sought the stricter imposition of traditional values in the Muslim country.

Some opposition groups had claimed the locations were a front for prostitution.

However, the government appeared to call the bluff of protestors, issuing a decree closing all massage parlours and spas across the nearly 1,200 islands which make up the country.

Opposition groups had not sought such a blanket ban, argued a spokesman for Adhaalath Party, which had been among the most vocal opponents of the sector.

“We wanted the liquor and massage clinics banned in inhabited islands to prevent prostitution and spread of drugs and alcohol to locals,” the spokesperson added.

In a statement issued by the office of the president, officials suggested the broader ban was an effort to highlight the contradictions in the positions of opposition figures.

“Ironically, the same opposition leaders who railed against spas and the selling of alcohol and pork to tourists are some of the country’s biggest resort owners,” explained a statement.

Whatever for the reason for the ban, it is likely to be short lived.

The Maldives attract just fewer than one million international visitors per annum, many of whom pay thousands of dollars for a single night’s accommodation.

Tourism is vital to the local population of just 350,000.

The estimated revenue from tourism is $1.5 billion, or 30 per cent, of the gross domestic product.

In light of this, tourism minister Mariyam Zulfa confirmed the government was already reconsidering its position.

“We are considering allowing resorts to operate spas,” the minister was quoted as saying on the website Haveeruonline.