Resort Spas in the Maldives Will Remain Open

Alan H. and several others alerted me to the declaration of the Maldives government that all spas in the country had to shut down, in a bow to the country’s opposition calling for greater adherence to Islam and concerns over prostitution.

Except something didn’t seem quite right about the stories and the reporting, and I couldn’t actually verify that any of the hotels actually had shut down their spas.

So I very much appreciate this piece, sent along by Win which does a nice job I think laying out the situation.

The Republic of Maldives is an Islamic nation, nearly its entire population is Muslim, and religious freedom is very much restricted. It is a dry country. Except at the resorts. Tourism, after all, is the driver of its economy.

So ‘shutting down all spas’ and including at the resorts garnered lots of attention, as though the country was going through a dramatic transformation. Certainly the opposition parties claim the government isn’t Islamic enough, that’s the sort of rhetoric you would expect of an opposition in a country where the vast majority of people at least publicly claim their allegiance to such ideals. But it was especially interesting that the government declared that their decision to close spas at the resorts was in response to calls being made by the opposition.

And now, it seems, that the opposition is backtracking and saying they didn’t actually call for resorts to be affected after all!

Oh, and some of those resorts are owned by… leaders of the opposition. Who complain about government policies being too permissive.

“The government has decided to close massage parlors and spas in the Maldives, following an opposition-led religious protest last week calling for their closure,” President Mohamed Nasheed’s office said in a statement.

“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.”

However, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition coalition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said the government move was aimed at leisure business owned by some opposition members.

“We never asked for the ban,” PPM spokesman Ahamed Mahloof told Reuters.

“We wanted the liquor and massage clinics banned in inhabited islands to prevent prostitution and spread of drugs and alcohol to locals. Nasheed is misusing the demands to take revenge by imposing the ban on resorts owned by the opposition members.”

I have an upcoming trip to the Maldives planned, and I’m not worried in the least.

The country’s tourism minister said the move has already prompted calls from resorts affected.

“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,” Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa was quoted as saying on the local Haveeru News Service.

Emphasis mine, and in other words “wink wink, nudge nudge.”

Even in the middle of the Indian Ocean, politics isn’t really about policy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If they are true to their ideals and the rest of the republic must comply, then I would think alcohol and spas would be banned at resorts as well, no matter who owns them. Why the exception?$$

    In the long run, it doesn’t really matter, as the place is sinking anyway.

  2. My wife put the kabosh on my son and his soon to be brides honeymoon trip to Thailand. She was ‘concerned’. Better not bring this to her attention. Shhh.

  3. I didn’t know sex tourism was prevalent or even a concern in the Maldives, given the relatively higher costs associated with the islands. I’d imagine a rub ‘n tug joint in Thailand over the Maldives gives you a far greater bang for the buck.

  4. It feels as if though I’ve missed the boat on the Klondike days of the Maldives. You’d think the place would be more open to tourism given their reliance on it but with last years scandals (especially revolving around religion) I think that I’m giving the islands a definitive pass for the future.

    I here the Seychelles and Reunion can provide a similar experience in a setting not as exploited.

  5. Previously I felt well protected in the Maldives.
    Somalia is not that far away, the government is not valuing the tourist industry it has built concentrating on non Islamic tourists. I respect their rigths for an Islamic country but will i contine to look at the Msldives for my April holiday- no. It seems they are telling the worlds pirates that tourists on their Islands are fair game. There is no where to run to on a Maldevean island.

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