In order to avoid such raids, the Bangladesh International Hotel Association (BIHA) on September 29 wrote to the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, seeking its intervention
Following the recent crackdown on casinos in Dhaka, law enforcement agencies have begun raiding spa centres, a move which luxury hotel and resort authorities fear may damage their image.
In order to avoid such raids, the Bangladesh International Hotel Association (BIHA) on September 29 wrote to the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, seeking its intervention.
In the letter, BIHA requested that the ministry stop raids at any of the 44 hotels and resorts under the organization, confirmed BIHA Secretary Md Mohsin Hoq Himel.
The development came just five days after law enforcement agencies went to La Vinci Hotel at Farmgate in search of a spa centre, but failed.
The hotel authorities said they had never provided spa services in the facility.
Earlier, police sealed off three spa centres in Gulshan on September 22, for alleged illegal activities there.
During the drives at the spa centres - Lifestyle and Health Club, Resident Salon and Spa, and Mango Spa - 16 women and 3 men were detained.
However, hotels with star ratings under BIHA are questioning the logic behind the attempted raid at La Vinci Hotel hotel.
Referring to a government gazette, they said having massage parlours is mandatory for luxury hotels and resorts.
“In a May 30 gazette, the tourism ministry made it clear that hotels and resorts with star ratings must ensure that they have a spa, state-of-the-art gym, swimming pool, and steam bath services,” said Himel.
The rule specifically mentioned hotels with three, four and five star ratings, added Himel, also assistant manager of the Chittagong-based Hotel Agrabad.
“Around 80% of our clients are foreigners. If law enforcement agencies carry out raids at our hotels or resorts, it will leave a negative impression on our guests, badly hampering our business,” he said.
Questioning why the government would raid spas after authorizing them itself, Himel further said hotel authorities would not have panicked if a tourism ministry official accompanied the law enforcement officials during the raid at La Vinci Hotel.
Himel also said State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali has already given assurances that there would not be a repeat incident like that at the hotel in Farmgate.
“We will not approach the Home Ministry directly as the Tourism Ministry is handling the matter,” Himel added.
He further said BIHA is not concerned with spa centres outside of its member hotels and resorts.
La Vinci Hotel General Manager ATM Saidul Alam said he was confused about the reason for the raid, as massage parlours are legal at three, four and five-star hotels.
He added that the hotel, which is a three-star facility, does not house a spa.
Mentioning that the lion’s share of guests at the hotel are foreigners, the general manager said: “We would never want our guests to panic or have a negative impression of us due to such raids. We are considering writing to the Foreign Ministry for help warding off such unwarranted situations.”
Mizanur Rahman, additional secretary (Law, Hotel and Restaurant Cell) of the Tourism Ministry, said there is a point in conducting raids at three, four or five-star hotels and resorts for having spa centres, if there were reports of illegal activities there.
“The running or housing of massage parlours and salons is approved by the law, but if there are specific allegations of criminal acts then law enforcement agencies can raid the facilities,” he added.
Regarding independent spa centres, he said: “I am not even sure how such spas operate and under which law, as we have no authority over them.”
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner (Media Wing) Md Masudur Rahman said the raids at the three spa centres in Gulshan were nothing but a crackdown on illegal activities there.
“We usually conduct raids based on intelligence reports. Raids at spa centres or even luxury hotels will be conducted if criminal activities under the pretext of massage parlours are reported,” he said.
Officials of Rapid Action Battalion could not be reached for comment.