Spa owners of Phuentsholing are feeling the steam of the recent news coverage of a 16-year-old girl who was, later, detained for suspected prostitution charges.
According to them the term used by the media outlet is biased and it brought a damaging reputational blow instantly.
A trade official said there are about 45 registered beauty parlours and salons and 16 spas, massage and wellness centres.
One of the professional SPA license holder, Kinley Om said the recent news had brought huge implication to their business. “Before customers including men use to visit spa for facial massage services and there was no any filthy activities other than required services. But after the news, people started to tease and down look to workers of whole spa industry,” she said.
Upon the hard hit by the pandemic and longest lockdown, the damaged of image by the recent and news even before, she said that their business is in even more posh than before. Kinley Om said that now they are facing difficulties in recruiting the employees and the working employees are quitting the job while they are not allowed to recruit Indian workers.
She said that the title “massage parlours or brothels” had sent wrong connotation of whole industry to the society where in fact there is no privacy for such activity as spas are set up with transparent glass partitions and it is being inspected by the police. The news became viral, there are many comments, and it will be hard to mend the image are the concerns of the spas owners.
“I want to surrender my spa business license but before that I want to let everyone know that my massage and all the parlours does not solicit sexual business,” Kinley Om added.
Seeking anonymity, one of the professional spa operators said that spas and parlour created employment opportunities to many and the workers lead decent living. Despite it is the role of media to report the incidents with essence of time, the spa owner said that it is important for the media professionals to analyze the fact, which may affect other remaining business runners.
The recent story had created disturbances in the society and several families according to the spa owners. She said, “It brought shame and our professions are tainted.”
Another spa operators Sangay Chozom said that she could not operate the business for so long due to the pandemic and when it has just started to reopen after long gap, “it invoke guilt in us to step back into the profession just because of such possible incident.”
Tashi Dema said that pertaining to current scenario that such incident may not take place as all the workers are Bhutanese and Indo-Bhutan gate is closed. She said that before the pandemic there were many Indian employees. “It seems that people involving in such activities are not getting proper place and using the name of parlour. Thus, it is damaging the image of whole industry,” she added.
Tshering Dema said public lacks to understand parlour and spas. She said that term used in the recent story was unanalyzed and it had sent wrong connotation. “It was important for the writer to differentiate the category, whether it was a spa or beauty parlour,” she said.
Beauty parlour is just an ordinary hairdressing and beautification parlour where massage services will be not available according to Tashi Dema. She said that generally, men are not allowed to visit parlour unless it is a unisex parlour and there is no unisex parlour in Phuentsholing.
“We are not against the media but not happy for reported as massage parlour. There is no such term massage parlour where it should be spa or parlour- parlours are not define to give massage services by the mandate of profession,” Tashi Dema said.
Tashi Tshomo said that news was disheartening. She said that generally, spas and parlour have no good image and with the coming up of such story had further damaged the image.
Tashi Tshomo clarifies that massage comes under spa and in parlour men are prohibited. “But how comes men got into the parlour? It should be ascertained properly,” she said.
Jigme Lhaden who had been running spa in Phuentsholing since 2015 shared that something inappropriate in media had exposed apparent unethical behavior of spas. She said that when it comes to the potential risks that can affect a business is severe and the reputational damage is irreparable.
In the spa and parlour industry, she said that there are both professional and unprofessional workers but a wrong done by one, especially by unprofessional workers destroy image of whole.
The regional trade officer Sonam Dendup said that the office of the regional office inspects all types of business operation regularly. He said, “All the spas and parlour business individuals to create conducive environment.”
Meanwhile, the 16-year-old girl minor girl is still under pre-trail detention centre and coworkers are also in pre-detention centre while 22-year-old driver arrested for alleged physical relationship with the minor is currently under police custody. The case emerged on September 20 evening when the girl was found in the town by a police official.