But as the spa and wellness industry in Nepal has grown, it's no longer necessary to visit a five-star hotel; many independent spas have opened their doors around the city, and at affordable rates. Spa owners admit that their clientele is now an equal mix of Nepalis and foreigners. "The demand for spas grew as people started travelling and experienced spa treatments abroad," says Sadhana Tuladhar of Prana Spa. "Changes in lifestyle have also encouraged people to opt for spa services."
From ayurvedic to Thai and Swedish, spas here offer a whole range of treatments, including traditional Nepali treatments. They're not just about massages either, and offer hydrotherapy, reflexology, facials, and body treatments. Spas have also expanded their services to cater to the beauty needs of their clients by providing manicures, pedicures, and even hairdressing services. "With local clients, our saloon is more popular," says Megha Chaudhary Shakya of Midas Day Spa and Saloon.
According to the Spa and Wellness Association Nepal (SWAN), there are about 20 spas in operation right now. Most independent spas are day spas and also offer medical consultations.
With Nepal Tourism Year 2011 just round the corner, SWAN is working with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) to explore the possibility of developing Nepal as a spa destination. "The industry is growing and Nepal has great potential," says Hem Nath Regmi, Secretary of SWAN. "But there is a need for us to develop the infrastructure and regulations to facilitate it."
At present, spas are concentrated in Kathmandu but there is room for them to expand into tourist destinations like Pokhara, Sauraha and the trekking areas. There is also a need to develop specialised manpower for the industry and guarantee the sourcing of the supplies needed to run a spa.
The term 'massage' still has negative connotations here and the spa industry has been trying to overcome that image. Spas often have to turn away male clients because they specifically ask for a lady therapist. "But the perceptions are slowing changing," says Rabi Shah of Zen Experience. "It has helped that security is now tighter, with police often raiding 'massage parlours' that provide illegal services." Spa owners have been lobbying with NTB to launch a rating system for spa and massage facilities so customers can differentiate between the services provided.The medium is the massage, SHRADHA BASNYAT
Country air and singing bowls
Is your spa for real?
"A spa has to appeal to all the five senses," says Ritu Joshi Shrestha of Chaitanya Spa. "When you enter a spa, you should feel the relaxed ambience, and the staff should be hospitable." At a minimum, a spa should offer a relaxing hygienic environment, and high-quality spa treatments. An authentic spa will provide clients with robes and slippers and will not require them to come in with their own oils or treatment supplies. Cross-servicing is usually not allowed, i.e. a female attendant will be provided for a female client.
Choose your oil
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Spikenard: joint aches
Palma Rosa: anti-wrinkle
Artemisia: brain and respiratory problems
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