Spas, massage parlors: Dispelling misconceptions and celebrating wellness

By Jane Babirye
On 12 August 2023 at 08:14

When it comes to places of relaxation, such as hotels, restaurants, gyms, clubs, and cinemas, spas and massage parlors often find themselves subject to a different public reception. Unfortunately, due to occasional associations with sexual acts and prostitution, spas don’t always receive the same level of respect as other establishments.

The mere mention of working in a massage parlor or being a frequent visitor tends to evoke certain societal perceptions. The reactions can range from raised eyebrows to dropped jaws, and often these individuals are unfairly pigeonholed. Regrettably, much of the labeling is done from a standpoint of ignorance. Many people base their opinions on hearsay, often distorted, about spa activities—typically negative—and some have mistakenly entered places posing as spas that were not genuine.

To shed light on this topic, we interviewed professionals working in spas in Kigali who shared their insights. Before delving into their perspectives, let’s clarify what a spa truly is.

Understanding spas

As mentioned earlier, a spa serves as a sanctuary for relaxation, catering to the well-being of the body, mind, and soul. It’s a haven where individuals can find relief from stress, depression, insomnia, pain, anxiety, and fatigue within a relatively short span, typically an hour or more, as the duration of services varies among spas.

Diverse services offered

Spa services encompass a wide range of offerings, varying from one establishment to another based on factors such as location, specialization, and type. Some of the most popular services include massage therapy, facials, body scrubs, waxing, manicures, and pedicures.

Types of spas

Spas come in various forms, each catering to different preferences and needs. Here are some common types:

Day Spa: These establishments provide a serene environment for massages, facials, and other relaxation treatments. Packages at day spas may even include access to saunas or steam baths.

Destination Spa: Located within resorts or luxury hotels, these spas offer exclusive spa services to their guests. The experience often involves holistic treatments, healthy cuisine, physical activities like yoga and hiking, and scenic surroundings.

Medical Spa: These spas operate under the supervision of medical professionals and offer aesthetic treatments like Botox, chemical peels, and laser therapies.

Mineral Springs Spa: Natural hot springs spas utilize mineral-rich hydrotherapy treatments using various types of water, including sea water, thermal water, and natural mineral water.

Overcoming negative perceptions

Misconceptions surrounding spas primarily stem from a lack of understanding and exposure to the true nature of these establishments. Justine Nazziwa, Managing Director of Healing Spa in Kibagabaga, emphasized that the negative perception often arises from the rise of unprofessional establishments operating under the guise of "spas."

Solange Umuhoza, a therapist at Ylang Ylang Spa, refuted the notion that spas are places of immorality, emphasizing that genuine spas offer legitimate relaxation services. She highlighted the importance of choosing established and reputable spas to ensure a professional experience.

Emily Nakkungu, a massage therapist at Sunset Spa, shared that while external judgments can be hurtful, maintaining a clear conscience and professionalism is key. She also pointed out that clients’ behaviors can influence perceptions, mentioning instances where inappropriate client requests affected the reputation of the profession.

The power of mindset

Clients also play a role in shaping their spa experience. A regular spa-goer noted that enjoying a massage hinges on one’s mindset. Approaching the experience with a wellness-oriented perspective, rather than harboring misguided expectations, can lead to a more fulfilling experience.

Choosing quality and professionalism

Ultimately, the reputation of the spa industry rests on the distinction between genuine, professional establishments and unscrupulous ones. It’s crucial for individuals seeking wellness and relaxation to choose reputable spas with a track record of professionalism.

As the number of spas in Kigali continues to grow, concerns arise regarding the impact of unregulated practices on the industry. With "professional" spa owners worrying about unfair associations, it becomes imperative to educate the public and uphold the standards of legitimate spas. By doing so, the industry can thrive, offering individuals a legitimate means of relaxation, rejuvenation, and overall well-being.