Cambodia’s massage palours and spa centres are now required to have at least 30 per cent of their staff trained and certified or risk having their business permits revoked, according to a new directive from the Ministry of Tourism.
The directive seeks to professionalise the practice and improve the image of Cambodia’s massage industry, which currently has no formal accreditation system.
“People used to perceive negatively about the service as inappropriate and sex-related. The directive will shift the perception,” Ten Ratana, head of the Education and Training Department at the Ministry of Tourism, was quoted as saying in state-run news agency AKP.
The government declined to comment on how the 30 per cent benchmark would be policed but said it had already began rolling out its own training program, in cooperation with existing massage centres, to bring businesses up to standard.
Training will focus on improving basic massage and hospitality skills and is all paid for by the business owners.
In response to the fact that only 30 per cent of staffers now require certification rather than all masseuses and masseurs, Thith Channa, secretary of state at the Ministry, stressed that the process needed to be “step by step”.
“If 100 per cent, then we have to close all the centres,” he said.
According to Jean-Claude Dhuez, a French physiotherapist who runs his own wellness centre in Phnom Penh and was selected as a trainer by the ministry, the initiative is aimed at improving the country’s hospitality sector in line for ASEAN-wide standards set by the upcoming economic integration.
He added, however, that details of the plan seemed vague. For example, the exact amount of time spent on training massage therapists remains unclear.
“They want to do an enormous amount of things, but it’s going to take a lot of time,” he said.
A manager of a high-end spa in Siem Reap, who declined to be named, said that creating some sort of accreditation and training system in Cambodia could help the business save on training fees abroad.
Obtaining certification in Cambodia would be cheaper than sending workers to Thailand to gain professional schooling, the manager said.
He added, however, that having just 30 per cent certified was a low bar for businesses in Cambodia to be targeting.
“I believe 100 per cent of staff should be fully trained. As far as I know, there’s no one enforcing it,” he said.
In October of last year, the government began training sessions for “entertainment workers” in karaoke parlours, beer gardens, and nightclubs, teaching them about their rights as employees and covering issues such as sexual harassment, forced drinking and overtime pay.
Sar Mora, president of Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said he hoped the training for massage parlours – which are geared towards basic massage and hospitality skills – would include topics that protected workers.
“They need to focus not only on the safety of the customer but on the safety of the worker,” he said.