Maldives lifts ban on luxury resort spas

COLOMBO Wed Jan 4, 2012 4:56pm EST

Tourists huts stand on a reef at a resort island at the Male Atoll December 8, 2009.  REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Tourists huts stand on a reef at a resort island at the Male Atoll December 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Reinhard Krause

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - A ban on luxury spas at hotels and massage parlors in the Maldives was lifted on Wednesday under pressure from the country's key tourism industry a week after it was imposed as part of an effort to curb perceived vice.

"We have lifted the ban and all the services will be available for tourists," President Nasheed told Reuters by telephone from the Maldives capital Male. "We wanted to give confidence to tourists."

Nasheed said he ordered the ban in response to calls by the main opposition party which claimed the spas and parlors were fronts for prostitution and led to the spread of drugs and alcohol to locals in the mainly Sunni Muslim nation of more than 1,200 atolls home to a population of 400,000.

But former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's said the Progressive Party of the Maldives never asked for the ban. He claimed it was really aimed at leisure businesses owned by some opposition members.

The ban badly affected the tourism industry in the Indian Ocean island nation where pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters attract more than 800,000 tourists annually, including honeymooners and celebrities from around the world.

($1 = 15.4 Maldives rufiyaa)

(Editing by Shihar Aneez and Ed Lane)

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