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A Brief History of the Naturist Tourism Industry. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?


In light of tourism being dead. Naturists resorts in France and Croatia are properly going to feel the pinch for a long time while international travel is limited the few places in New Zealand it's properly the case as well so good thing I never bought lotto tickets to win the money to build that dream resort I'd be under a lot more stress.

--- Quote ---A Brief History of the Naturist Tourism Industry. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

by Dan Carlson Posted on May 3, 2020

Fifty-two days ago today I landed at Newark International Airport on a flight returning from Asia, just hours before the US borders began locking down in the mounting defense against COVID-19. As it happens, I was returning from a small naturist hamlet in Thailand – Harmony Naturist Resort – Rawai. I simply can’t remember when I’ve gone this long without stepping on an airplane or walking through an airport, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do that again. But I do wonder if that little naturist resort in Phuket will still be there when I get back.

Who could have imagined, even twenty years ago, that naturist travel would become the trending niche it is today? While the sprawling naturist centers in France and Croatia have been anchors of the industry for nearly half a century, now we have naturist cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers, an entire network of Naturist BnBs, and beautiful boutique clothing-optional resorts popping up in the most unlikely of places like Uruguay (Refugio Nudista), Honduras (Paya Bay), and all over Thailand. (There are too many to mention here!)

If you go digging for the origins of clothes-free recreation, sources point back to France and Germany in the early twentieth century. I think most Americans forget that for many people, these were incredibly oppressive times in Europe (e.g. people were so frustrated, they were migrating en masse through Ellis Island to the United States to find a better life.) Even up through the end of the communist regime in East Germany in the 1980s, social nudity represented a source of freedom – silent defiance if you will. A tacit statement that says, “At least I have ownership over my body and being.”

Meanwhile, Stateside, parallel movements took root in the US, most notably with two nudist places that still exist today, Rock Lodge Club and Skyfarm, both in New Jersey. Given the puritanical attitudes on this side of the Atlantic, these were largely secret societies that hid in rural areas behind high fences while Europe found an entire industry in naturist travel.

I have referenced the author Stephen Harp several times in my blogging over the years, in particular, his book about the history of French naturism. As he tells it, adventurous sun-seeking Germans discovered newfound freedom on the rocky shores of northern Croatia, along with a quiet little island just off the coast of Toulon, France – Île du Levant. Those early accounts of naked camping on Levant are bewildering, given the primitive conditions on an isolated landmass with no electricity or running water, and all for the privilege of having to wear a small piece of cloth to cover the genitalia – a tradition that remains problematic on Île du Levant to this day. (See: Yet another round of CRAZY on Île du Levant)

Within just a few years, this little island (For the record, it’s quite a large island, but the French government would only relinquish the southwestern tip – approximately 10% of the island’s total landmass – to the naturists) became the mecca for European naturists with a tacit nod from the government that saw naked tourism most beneficial in the generation of tax revenue. The original naked greed!

To this day, if you visit Île du Levant, they will tell you “this is a municipality,” not a naturist resort. That factor was key, as the lack of a code of conduct allowed an island of (mostly) naked holiday makers to push the envelope of social nudity into the realm of sexual freedom. Such was not the design of the naturist pioneers who simply wanted to doff their cloths and soak up the sun on a remote French island. The calculated, if not inevitable, response was the appearance of places like CHM Montalivet in France (1953) and Koversada in Croatia (1961) –  each HUGE naturist centers, mainly just campgrounds at first, but with evolving infrastructures intended to compete with the ever-growing Baby Boomer tourism industry.

Strangely enough, while the appearance of naturist centers in France and Croatia increased exponentially over the ensuing decades, the US counterpart couldn’t seem to get past the secret society part of the equation. Sure enough, smallish “nudist colonies” could be found all over the country, most of which trace their origins back to the 1930s under the banner of the American Sunbathing Association (now AANR), but while Americans were building elaborate theme parks (thank you Walt Disney!) for wholesome family vacations, Europeans were seeking out destinations with the amenities and the freedom to get naked with the whole family. In 1973, a windblown stretch along the French Mediterranean called Cap d’Agde was granted a sanctioned nude beach, and the swinging sixties crowd of Île du Levant moved back to the mainland to become part of the world’s most renown naked city, attracting tens of thousands each year to experience a “freedom” that the naturist forefathers could have never imagined. (See: SEX ON THE BEACH: Why a Newbie Naturist Should NOT Visit Cap d’Agde!) All well and good in a land where naturist establishments are well-sign posted while the prevailing public attitudes allowed people to own up to their desires for social nudity without judgment or embarrassment.

Such was not the case in the United States, however, despite valiant efforts in the development of large nudist parks in Florida, notably Paradise Lakes and Cypress Cove, and quite a bit later, entrepreneurial endeavors in Southern California, the most prominent of which (in this author’s humble opinion) was Desert Shadows Inn (now Desert Sun Resort.) We were among the earliest guests of Steve and Linda Payne at their little nine-room nudist hotel on the north end of Palm Springs, sometime around 1993. The Paynes had just come from St. Martin where they were running the restaurant Papagayo at Club Orient. They would return to manage the entire Club Orient resort for several years until it literally got blown off the island by a hurricane a few years ago.

While Cypress Cove in Florida attempted to create a family friendly environs (as they still do with some success), the Paynes sought to create an upscale resort that would attract a clientele who would otherwise stay at a Marriott or Hyatt resort, but preferred their family vacation without clothing. (The Paynes were in fierce competition for many years with a smaller establishment called Terra Cotta Inn, a “child-free environment” that embraced non-sexual nude recreation. That story has a couple twists in the end that have been less than helpful in the crusade of separating nudity from sex. Maybe for another blog post.) In the end, Desert Shadows became a Utopian dream gone awry, shrouded in litigation, nearing bankruptcy, and finally becoming an adults-only community as well. As I understand it, the “no kids” policy wasn’t an endorsement of permissive adult activity, but instead, a response to the feverish pitch of American paranoia and a general disdain of even considering nudity around children.

Much has been written about whether naturism in Europe is on the rise or decline, as numbers at the major naturist centers have fallen since their heyday at the end of the last millennia. This, however, doesn’t account for the ever-expanding spa culture in Northern Europe where casual nudity has become an integral part of mainstream social life throughout Germany and Holland. (See: So Many Naked Germans! A Rookie’s Guide to the German Sauna Experience.) Or the appearance of little naturist inns all over Spain and Italy providing even more destinations for the adventurous tourist who wants to walk the cobblestone streets in the morning, then take a naked nap by the pool in the afternoon. And thanks to new portals like Naturist BnB, you can find clothing-optional accommodations all over the world, even in the most unlikely of places.

full article with pictures

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Thank for sharing this interesting article. Naturist tourism has become for a few decades an industry of money by unscrupulous promoters of the naturist lifestyle of yesteryear, it's too bad!!  :sad:

I get the impression that Europe is now slowing opening it's borders between coutnries now.

I think will see more interest once everything calms down and gets back to some sort of normal. If I had to take a guess I would say a fair number of people have discovered nudism because of the isolations and quarantines. 


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