Maldives spas face closure following government ban
Spas across the Maldives are facing closure following pressure from religious groups who said they led to prostitution and alcoholism among locals. The country's president Mohamed Nasheed issued a statement on Saturday that said: 'The government has decided to close massage parlours and spas in the Maldives, following an opposition-led religious protest last week calling for their closure.' The region's spa resorts are one of its leading sources of tourism, netting the nation an estimated $1.5bn a year, some 30% of its GDP. The president said the closures came as a result of pressure from opposition parties who found massage, as well as sale of pork and alcohol in the mainly Muslim nation, to be offensive. However, opposition party the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said the government was using the protests to punish resort owners, many of whom are PPM members. A spokesman for PPM 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.' Some of the biggest names in spa are set to be affected by the ban if it is enforced this year. Luxury resort group One & Only operates one of its biggest spas, One & Only Reethi Rah, in the Maldives and The Six Senses group runs Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili there. Last year, the Per Aquum group, which runs the famous Huvafen Fushi underwater spa resort (pictured) there, opened a second Maldivian resort called Niyama.
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