Thursday, July 14, 2016

Malaysia - Analysis: Malaysia’s wellness industry is cleaning up

The Malaysian government is focusing its attention on its wellness business. It says that the sector can contribute M$400 million (US$99.5 million) to the country’s gross national income by 2020, and create 3,500 jobs, according to a new report looking at Malaysia’s healthcare and wellness industry in PwC’s Asia-Pacific Health Industries newsletter.

The development potential is certainly there. Top of the list is the 210-acre Medini Integrated Wellness Capital with a fully integrated community, 18 acres of commercial development, and a 12.5-acre wellness sanctuary all bordered by a mangrove forest. Helping it is a 4.6-acre urban wellness centre located between the Mall of Medini and  Gleneagles Medini Hospital.

But there are challenges. The report highlights two in particular. A proportion of the population still associates the industry with the sex trade. On top of that, because wellness centres in Malaysia are not regulated, there is a perception that they are not professionally managed.

Steps have been taken to overcome these problems. The latter has been addressed. The National Spa Council was established to address matters concerning perceptions about the local spa industry and the council has created an official criteria rating for spas, which is now used by the ministry of tourism and culture.

But the former problem remains harder to turn around. “Due to negative perceptions about the industry it is difficult to recruit people - related to family disapproval,” the report says.

Steps are baby ones, but they are heading in the right direction. A target has been set to reduce dependency on foreign workers and the ministry has also established centres of excellence around the country to recruit and train locals to become spa therapists.

“Investment in health and wellness continues to increase, along with a rise in middle class and consumer spending,” says report author Christopher Norton. As well as the Medini project, other significant ones include the LOHAS Development - Wellness Retreat in Boga Valley and the DSM - Integrated Wellness Community. Both Thailand and Indonesia are the current spa capitals of Asia, but they would be wrong to rest on their laurels.

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