Leisure

Sizing Up the Naked Recreation Business on #NationalNudeDay


Today is #NationalNudeDay, an occasion important mainly to Internet oversharers, social-media managers, and people who make a living in the nude recreation business. Nicky Hoffman, a co-owner of the Naturist Society in Oshkosh, Wis., counts herself in that last group. Her for-profit organization aims to “promote body acceptance through clothing-optional recreation.”

Reached on Monday, Hoffman was putting the finishing touches on the latest edition of N magazine, a quarterly publication formerly known as Clothed With the Sun, and thinking about nude social media. “We spend a lot more time on Facebook (FB),” she says. “We tweet everyday. We want to let people know that there are lots of opportunities to go places and get naked.”

The problem for the owners of hundreds of other U.S. businesses who operate nudist resorts, organize cruises, or otherwise make their living by naked recreation is that the clothing-optional set appears to be smaller than it used to be. The Naturist Society, which derives most of its revenue from memberships costing $50 to $60 per household, has about 22,000 paid memberships, Hoffman says. That’s down from a peak of 35,000 in the early 1990s. Even worse, 60 percent of the Naturist Society’s members are 65 or older, raising concerns that would-be naturists of younger generations are being scared away by the gray hair.

American nudism’s demographic problem isn’t new. For the past few years, Sunsport Gardens, a nudist resort in Loxahatchee, Fla., has been holding “bashes,” events that cater to the under-30 set. More recently the American Association of Nude Resorts, a nonprofit with 38,000 members, has launched a campaign called Thanks for the Freedom to court military veterans by offering discounts and suggesting that nudism can be good for post-traumatic stress disorder.

AANR spokeswoman Sue Nerud cites research showing that nudism is poised to enjoy another moment in the sun. In a survey published earlier this year by travel industry marketing firm MMGY Global, 18 percent of respondents said that proximity to a clothing-optional beach was a desirable attribute for a vacation destination, up from 12 percent in 2012. She also points to the nude beach in Miami’s Haulover Park, which attracted 1 million tourists last year, generating $1.4 billion in economic impact, according to the Beaches Foundation Institute, a nudist organization.

For her part, Hoffman adopts the laid-back attitude you’d expect of someone who edits a magazine for people who like to go around without clothes. “When people feel like their freedoms are being squashed,” she says, “that’s when we see more people getting interested. When everything is copacetic, people don’t care as much.”

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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