Keeping things local is of the utmost importance to Fadzil, who credits YTL’s Spa Villages as one of the pioneers of this trend. “Before, everyone opened Balinese spas. For us it’s a matter of national pride – we are proud of our heritage. And while YTL’s spas are always upmarket, for Tanamera we wanted to keep to the working professionals. We were one of the first few day spas that actually started with Malaysian treatments.”
As if Fadzil doesn’t have enough on her plate, she was instrumental in setting up MAWSPA in 2010 to help defragment the industry, and between a five-year tourism boom and the efforts of MAWSPA, government interest and funding in the spa industry increased significantly.
Several issues required addressing: top of the list the chronic therapist shortage. On one hand, spas were forbidden to employ foreign therapists, while on the other, locals saw working as a therapist as an undesirable career. Fadzil and her MAWSPA team assisted the government in setting up the criterias for the spa rating scheme, which has increased the reputation of the spa industry. At the same time, the government certified two, and now five Centres of Excellence, where students are funded by government and future employers, making training to be a therapist almost free. And most recently, foreign therapists have been allowed to work in officially rated spas.
What is really exciting is a project to identify a quintessentially Malaysian spa treatment, one that can represent the country as its signature therapy. Fadzil says that healing traditions are inherited through mothers and grandmothers, and while generally the techniques are the same, the styles can vary depending on the individual ancestors. “We need to actually infuse the tradition inside the treatment and must be careful it doesn’t become something that is perceived as made up. It is quite a tall order but what’s life without challenges?” she asks with her customary smile. Watch this space…