BY FATIHAH MANAF
A fascinating concept in Islamic tourism has emerged that captures the interest of Muslim and non-Muslim tourists: Muslim-friendly spas. Driven by the vision to provide inclusive experiences for Muslim travellers, the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) has proactively shaped this concept of Muslim-friendly spas.
Collaborating with industry experts and stakeholders, ITC has crafted specific guidelines and requirements to ensure these spas cater to Muslim travellers’ unique needs and preferences while offering a sanctuary for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Naziah Pir Khan, Vice President of the Association of Malaysian Spas (AMSpa), expressed great excitement and enthusiasm regarding developing Muslim-friendly spas in the country. She wholeheartedly embraced the concept and acknowledged its significance for the spa industry.
“We are thrilled by this news, which everyone has eagerly anticipated. The decision made by ITC to establish the Muslim-friendly spa concept is commendable. It brings about a more positive and impactful transformation to the spa industry.
“I cannot deny that in the past when we talked about spas, there was a negative perception due to the misuse of spas by certain irresponsible parties. So, introducing a programme like this creates awareness and closes people’s negative perception of spas.
Naziah shared that in the past, discussions about the negative perception surrounding spas had discouraged many people, especially youth, from pursuing a career in the industry. Parents were also hesitant to support their children’s aspirations in this field. However, she mentioned that introducing the Muslim-friendly spa programme was crucial in changing perceptions. It helps the public recognise the spa industry as a significant occupation and a primary source of income, mainly benefiting the local community and young individuals.
CATERING TO BOTH MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS
“We at AMSpa are among those collaborating with ITC in developing requirements for Muslim-friendly spas. Therefore, I perceive these requirements not only as exclusive to Muslims but as an inclusive concept that caters to the needs of everyone, regardless of their faith.
“When we consider the specifications and requirements established by ITC and industry experts, we find that they are designed to ensure comfort and convenience for Muslims and non-Muslims. They are universally suitable and aim to create a sense of ease for all individuals. Most importantly, these standards instil confidence in our clients and consumers regarding the quality of services provided. Hence, Muslims and non-Muslims can equally indulge in the facilities and amenities offered,” Naziah elaborated.
Despite the ever-changing trends in the industry, Naziah emphasised that the aim was not to limit the scope of Muslim-friendly spas to only Muslims. Instead, the goal is to ensure that all travellers and consumers, regardless of their faith, feel a sense of trust and safety when utilising these facilities at the spas.
CREATING AWARENESS OF SPAS AND WELLNESS
Naziah’s spa – NK Spa – is located in Tapah, Perak. While the concept of Muslim-friendly spas is relatively new, she has been implementing it earlier. Interestingly, her non-Muslim clients felt at ease when she incorporated Arabic calligraphy into her spa. They described the ambience as reminiscent of an Arab spa. Their comfort stems from the understanding that the Muslim-friendly concept emphasises cleanliness.
Naziah acknowledged that challenges were expected in the business, but they would come and go. She emphasised the need to focus on educating people who might not fully grasp the significance of spas and wellness. She stated that spa owners were selling a service and offering value.
“Therefore, when facing economic challenges, we educate customers about the value we provide rather than abruptly lowering prices. By educating customers about the importance of wellness and emphasising the value spas offer, customers are willing to pay for that value beyond monetary considerations,” she said.
SUPPORTING THE GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS
Naziah said the government had formulated an excellent policy and plan for developing Muslim-friendly spas. However, she emphasised that the programme’s success would rely on practical implementation, which requires cooperation from all stakeholders.
“All parties need to play their roles. If the government alone makes an effort, but we as Malaysians do not cooperate, this programme cannot be realised. It all comes back to education and awareness. We need to have one voice. When our voice is strong and loud, we will be heard. As a spa operator, I need to support the government’s efforts for my spa and convey information about this Muslim-friendly spa initiative to other spa owners.”
Naziah commented on Malaysia’s recognition as a Muslim-women-friendly destination: “The mere mention of it is already remarkable. Women play a vital role in driving this initiative. What’s particularly noteworthy is that it’s not only women who will visit, but their entire families will also accompany them. Although it is considered a Muslim-women-friendly destination, the inclusivity extends to everyone. This innovative concept allows families to indulge in Muslim-friendly offerings, including Muslim-friendly spas.”