India to Set Regulations for the Spa Indusry

The health ministry in India has for the first time decided to regulate the wellness industry.

While standards for their registration are being worked out, suggestions have been invited from the industry, consumer bodies and the civil society before May 30 on the guidelines that every such spa and health centre will need to follow.

Officials say the standards are intended to prescribe basic conditions that a spa or health centre would have to fulfil for grant of licence and also set norms for the services provided by such set-ups.

Health secretary Naresh Dayal told TOI: 'According to the allocation of business rules, overseeing spas and health resorts is our responsibility. Therefore, we are in the process of developing standards for their registration and regulation.'

'We have started taking public inputs and will soon consult the tourism ministry in preparing safety and regulatory guidelines.' The move has, however, invited mixed reactions from the industry.

Kamayani Kanwar, promoter of one such spa, said: 'I am happy India is finally thinking of having its own standards for safe spas. When I set up my spa, I had no guidelines to follow. So I adapted stringent American guidelines, which set 15 prerequisites before a spa can be called one.'

She added, 'With the spa industry growing at about 70% annually, regulatory guidelines will help spas distinguish themselves from day spas, medi-spas and salons mushrooming everywhere. The guidelines should be non-invasive, that would enforce the law rather than encourage health inspectors into barging into spas and threatening to shut them down.'

F J Singh, MD of a spa consultancy firm, however, felt that the wellness industry should put in place a self-regulatory mechanism rather than put up with government interference.

Singh, who says that 1,000 more spas are coming up across the country in the next three years at an investment of over Rs 1,500 crore, fears the health ministry's control would encourage corruption and red-tapism and ultimately destroy a booming industry.

'The wellness industry is very particular about quality control and healthy practices. The regulations would end up becoming another money making racket for health regulators,' Singh said.

According to Assocham president Venugopal Dhoot, ayurvedic and medical tourism industries will be the largest beneficiaries of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, with estimated profits close to Rs 8 billion, mainly through spas.

The chamber estimates that each foreigner visiting India during the games would spend Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000 in spa treatments. It also estimates that the Indian spa industry will receive investment of $35 billion in the next 3-4 years.