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Officials: Luxury Maldives spas are prostitution fronts


By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY


Tourism officials in the Maldives have issued a strongly worded statement denying that spas at luxury resorts and elsewhere in the upscale archipelago are actually fronts for prostitution.

The country's president on Saturday ordered facilities from massage parlors to five-star spas closed after citing charges from "opposition parties" who said they were also offended by sales of pork and alcohol, Reuters reports.

The mostly Sunni Muslim nation earns 30% of its GDP – about $1.5 billion – from tourism. It's regarded for its white beaches and turquoise waters that attract well-heeled vacationers willing and able to pay $1,000 a night and more for luxe accommodations. 

But Sim Ibrahim, head of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry told AFP this week, "Sex tourism definitely does not happen in the resorts."

The denial may be a moot point if London's Telegraph is correct. The newspaper reports that despite the ban, hot-rock massages, body scrubs and other feel-good therapies continue at five-star resorts such as the Huvafen Fushi (where rooms go for up to $10,000 a night). Same goes for the Four Seasons, Shangri-La and the Banyan Tree, among other posh enclaves, the newspaper reports. Meanwhile, the tourism association says it has appealed to the courts to revoke the ban.

The Telegraph also reports that Islamic fundamentalism has risen in recent years in the country of 1,200 atolls. Last year a Swiss couple renewing their wedding vows at a resort there was labeled "infidel swine" by the hotel employee conducting the ceremony.

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