Beyond licensing and training, Malaysia is also seeking to differentiate its spa treatments and products, and give it an edge over its more established competitors in South-east Asia. Sector players have started with a focus on massage, which is the most popular treatment at local spas.
Practitioners note that while the Thai and Balinese massages are marketed as though they have been around for centuries, they are, in fact quite new products. The Thai massage was conceived 45 years ago, while the Balinese massage is only 19 years old.
Over the past year, Malaysian spa experts have been developing what they call a signature Malaysian massage. Designed to be relaxing and therapeutic, the massage is derived from elements of Malay massage, traditional Chinese medicine, Indian techniques and the indigenous treatments of Borneo, using specially created, locally made oils.
The signature massage has also been designed as an experience with a special welcome tea, and batik covers and cloths for the spa table. The industry association, in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia, is now looking to film an instructional video, so that all practitioners can learn the key techniques. The idea is to market the massage overseas, in the same way that Balinese and Thai massage are now widely practised.