Last week in Part I of Governments and Spas – A Regulatory Tango, we discussed the role of the governments in the spa industry. This week, we’ll take a look at what part the Spa Associations need to play.

Spa Associations and Government

Speak with any government official responsible for the regulatory oversight of the spa industry and they will probably tell you their biggest frustration in the Spa Association.  Governments can’t get involved in regulations and oversight without relevant input from the industry. Without this, governments have no way to understand all the technical issues specific to each industry. Without that knowledge, they can not possibly hope to implement meaningful rules and regulations. To do this, governments turn to an industry’s representation body. In our case, that is the Spa Associations.

Unfortunately, most country’s Spa Associations lack resources. They simply can’t provide the government with the sort of data and information they require. In many cases, the data simply does not exist. In other cases, the voluntary nature of the Association means a lack of time and sometimes ability to respond to government inquiries.

So, with Spa Associations unable to assist, the government is left with four basic options…

  • Option 1 – seek out the information they need directly from industry players – ie: spa companies themselves.
  • Option 2 – look to countries outside their own where other governments have enacted laws relating to the spa industry and just follow them.
  • Option 3 – pick another industry which may have similar characteristics to the spa industry and use their regulations as a baseline for spa industry regulations.
  • Option 4 – Shhhhh! Just do nothing. Stay quiet. Hope it eventually works itself out.

A few obvious issues with each of these options…

Option 1 – Industry Outreach

Reaching out to multiple industry players is time-consuming. Remember, government departments don’t have a lot of excess resources to do this extent of groundwork. Especially not for a relatively small industry like Spa. There will also invariably be a bias towards those companies that have been approached directly. The likelihood of getting a good consensus opinion that represents the perspective of the industry as a whole, using this option, is slight at best.

Option 2 – Country Copies

What works in one country will not necessarily work in another. Simply looking at another country’s rules and regulations will not provide answers why those rules were created that way. For example, one country might require a spa to have separate male and female treatment rooms in order to be granted a spa business license from the local authorities. This would likely be due to cultural norms within that country. If another country were to simply copy this regulation, with no further exploration, they may end up placing unnecessary restrictions on spas in their country, if the same cultural issues do not apply. And such restrictions may well negatively affect the guests in those spas and so ultimately the industry as a whole.

Option 3 – Like-minded Industries

Each industry is, of course, unique. Simply copying regulations from another industry will result in critical aspects being ignored and some irrelevant aspects being over-regulated. Using hotels as an example again, the regulations in that industry may only require restaurant staff to have minimal hours of generic training before they are allowed to serve guests. In spas, however, it would be necessary for therapists to have more specialised training. Areas like anatomy and physiology of the human body are crucial before therapists start performing treatments.

Option 4 – Shhhhh!

Of course, doing nothing is really not a solution at all. As identified in Part I of this article, when an industry starts to have an impact on more and more members of a community, rules and regulations are essential. Without them, chaos can quickly ensue.

Without a regulatory framework, it is all but impossible to establish a set of licenses or permits required for a spa to operate. There is often confusion when it comes to licensing and permits. Most other industries have a clear set of licenses which must be obtained before opening the doors and serving customers. Spas often do not.

Making a Start

But even without specific spa regulations in place, we can always make a start with some more generic ones. In most, if not all countries, spas will need to adhere to existing building codes and standards, especially as they relate to Fire and Safety. Some countries may require additional licenses if the spa includes wet areas like pools, jacuzzis, steams and saunas. If the spa also serves food, even basic items like fruit and cookies, they may need to have a food license. If the spa is selling retail products, it may need to be licensed as a retail shop.

Here’s an interesting one – music. Most spas have background music playing in reception and the treatment rooms. Many offer soothing music selections for clients to listen to while they have their treatment. Jazz, Blues, Classical, you name it. Even if the spa has paid for the music – and we all know many probably haven’t – has it bought a public license or a private license? Chances are, spas in many countries are breaching copyright laws and regulations every day.

Round and Round We Go

In short, there will probably be multiple licenses required to be obtained from multiple authorities and agencies. But without clear guidelines, it is difficult to know exactly which ones they are and how and where to get them. Worse still, is when the authority responsible for approving and issuing a particular license, is not able to assess if the spa meets the requirements or even if the spa is required to have it.

I have personally seen situations where a spa company approached a government department for one particular permit, only to be told they first needed a different permit from another department. When they approached the other department, they were told there is no guideline or framework by which their department can even assess a spa. If there is no framework, that means there is no requirement for that permit to be issued. But the original department did have a framework and it required the other department’s permit first. Stalemate.

This pretty much sums up the state of rules and regulations for the spa industry in many countries to this day. Everyone agrees there is a need. Nobody quite knows where to turn for information. Ill-considered hybrid rules are often created as a short-term solution. Everyone agrees these short-term regulations are not working. But nobody quite knows how to make it better. Perhaps this is another instance where the spa industry should turn to other industries for inspiration.

Anyone have any suggestions?