Maldives to Ban Spa Treatments?

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If your clients are dreaming of a relaxing Maldives vacation with plenty of spa treatments, they may need to reconsider their plans: CNN is reporting that travelers to the Maldives and local business owners are "at the center of an acrimonious showdown" between the government and opposition parties.

The Tourism Ministry banned the use of spas across the country last week, sparking a debate over Islam's role in the governing of the island nation. The nation reportedly received nearly 800,000 tourists in 2010.

The move has reportedly prompted confusion, legal action and civil disobedience in the Indian Ocean nation, which has a population of about 350,000.

Mohamed Rashad, manager of Royal Island Hotel and Aaramu Spa, told the news service that the government had ordered all spas in the islands to close, but noted that the industry would not cooperate. "We are open today and never closed, and the other hotels are keeping their spas open as far as I know."

The standoff over tourists' rights to have massages and skin treatments at the high-end resorts, many of which charge thousands of dollars for a night's accommodation, came following calls from opposition groups for a stricter imposition of Islamic values in the Muslim country. The opposition's demands conflict with the more liberal stance of President Mohamed Nasheed, who has urged the country to stick what he describes as the more "tolerant" strain of Islam that it has practiced for hundreds of years.

The hotel industry reacted to the ban by seeking a temporary court injunction and by holding talks with the government to try to get the spa services at major hotels excluded from the order, Rashad said.

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