Government introduces SPA Regulations

Maldives Government has launched SPA Regulations by the name of “SPA (Registration and Operation) Regulations”. They were introduced and published in the government gazette on 21 February 2023 and its formal citation is R-74/2023.

A week later, the government brought further updates to those regulations in the form of an amendment and published this First Amendment to the SPA (Registration and Operation) Regulations on 27 February 2023. The citation is R-81/2023.

Scope of Regulations

The regulations are to cover the registration and operation of spas as a commercial activity in any part of the Maldives. They include independent spas run on inhabited islands, spas run as part of tourist guesthouses and tourist hotels, spas run on integrated tourism developments, tourist resorts, tourist vessels and airports and those spas run by tourist hotels on uninhabited islands.

Except for spas run on inhabited islands (whether as independent spas or those run as part of tourist guesthouses or tourist hotels) administered by relevant local councils, all other spa related requirements of the law (including those related to spas run on integrated tourism developments, tourist resorts, tourist vessels and airports) are to be administered directly by the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and not the Ministry of Tourism (MOT).  

Instead of dealing with the entire set of regulations, we focus here only on those provisions that relate to tourist resorts specifically or are of general application inclusive of tourist resorts. 

Whenever we refer to resorts here, please also consider that as a reference to tourist resorts, tourist vessels, tourist hotels, airports, and integrated tourism projects.  

Schedules to the Regulations

There are a few schedules attached to the Regulations. Schedule 1 relates to kind of commercial activities that can be recognized as a spa activity; Schedule 2 relates to guidelines applicable to service standards and premises where spas are run on inhabited islands; and Schedule 3 relates specifically to service standards at spas run on resorts.

What is a SPA activity

SPA is defined as a commercial activity that carries out any of the services outlined in (or similar in kind to those listed in) Schedule 1.

In short, any Schedule 1 activity is a spa activity.

MED is the regulator

All requirements of these Regulations are to be administered and enforced by MED itself unless the Regulations explicitly assign a specific function to another government agency.

Registration Requirements

Any party who runs a spa (as a business activity) can only do so if that party is registered under the Business Registration Act as one of the three business vehicles recognized by it: sole trader, partnership, or company.

A spa can only be operated after registering that activity as a business activity. Every registration of a resort spa has a maximum life of 5 years.

Renewals are allowed and may be applied for a month ahead of the expiry of existing registration.

The registration process begins by applying to register a business activity via the business portal of the MED and choosing the appropriate business classification.

Some of the requisite details for a successful application for registration would include: proposed name for the activity; business registration number of the applicant vehicle; services to be provided; address at which services are to be provided; and declaration that the premises meet the Schedule 2 criteria.

Persons Denied Registration

Even if an applicant is a registered and recognized business vehicle, the application to register a spa as a commercial activity may still be denied, if during the past 5 years, any action is taken (or an investigation is underway) against the business or any of its promoters, directors or partners for violating the Business Registration Act, Employment Act, or the Trafficking of Persons Act or any regulations made pursuant to it

Foreign National Employees

Foreign nationals may be employed at spas after obtaining approval in accordance with the Employment of Expatriates in the Maldives  Regulations made under the country’s Employment Act. 

Every foreign national employed at a spa must be in possession of a work permit issued within the quota provided to that spa.

Cessation of Business

If a registered spa ceases business, the business owning the spa must apply to MED to deregister the business activity within 14 days of its cessation. A fine of MVR 1000.00 will be levied if the deadline is breached.

Levy of Fees

For inspections carried out under these Regulations, an inspection fee of MVR 1000.00 is levied.

A registration fee of MVR 5000.00 is levied at every spa registration and also at every renewal of the license. The fee is payable to MED or MIRA.

Prohibited Activities and Services

The following treatments, services or activities are specifically prohibited within the premises of a spa:

  1. treatment of skin diseases;
  2. laboratory tests and x-ray services;
  3. treatment involving acid or machines;
  4. removal of pimples or acnes, scars and moles and/or surgical treatment of it;
  5. any medical or surgical service;
  6. unauthorized invasive procedures;
  7. use of expatriates without work permits;
  8. providing food and accommodation within or at the entrance of the spa; and
  9. any activity prohibited by law or any activity that requires authorization of other authorities.

Rules on Advertising

Activities carried out by a resort spa may be advertised subject to Schedules 3 and 4 to the Regulations.

Disciplinary Action

If any SPA activity is carried out without registration, this will attract a fine of MVR 10,000.00

Where a SPA breaches any of the standards or guidelines or criteria provided in Schedule 3, the MED may give time to rectify the fault,

If the fault is not remedied or is repeated, MED may take other actions as it may deem appropriate.

Existing Spas

All spas in all places of the country that are in operation prior to the introduction of the Regulations are to regularize themselves under these Regulations within 90 days from the date of these Regulations.

Note: This is a summary made based on a combined reading of the SPA Regulations as published on 21 February 2023 and the first amendment brought to it on 27 February 2023.

By: MN with contributions from EAS

Photo: Courtesy of American Spa