Pasco County is the nudist capital of Florida.
The state of Florida is the nudist capital of North America.
But, the clothing-optional lifestyle is an often overlooked tourism market that contributes $7.4 billion to the state’s economy annually, according to a report from the American Association of Nudist Recreation.
The association wants to put the spotlight on missed economic opportunities across the state, and in Pasco.
How about nudist days at Pasco’s beach parks? Should there be nudist beaches at Sand Island and Anclote Island, or at an undeveloped lake at SunWest Park?
Starkey Wilderness might yield opportunities for nude recreation activities, too.
Those were some of the ideas included in the AANR report, which was compiled by John Heather, a consultant for the organization and an instructor of international tourism & hospitality management at Saint Leo University.
Heather was guest speaker at the Feb. 14 general meeting of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
Pasco could be a role model on how to build on the existing economic base of nudist recreation, Heather said.
“We don’t have the beaches of Clearwater or the vibrant culture of downtown St. Petersburg,” Heather said. “But, we are so fortunate to be on major (highway) arteries. A lot of these resorts are in rural areas. They are something to make your place unique.”
Pasco’s history with the nudist lifestyle began decades ago, with resorts, social clubs and residential communities. Lake Como Resort, for instance, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016.
Other locations for vacations and permanent residency are Caliente Resort & Spa and Lake Paradise Resort. The Oasis is a gated, upscale subdivision described as a hybrid nudist community.
Nudist communities and resorts are spread across the state.
According to the AANR report there are:
- 34 nudist resorts, including eight in Pasco County
- 30 naturist social clubs
- 5,100 nudist resort rooms available
- 2 million nudist room nights sold in 2016
- 22 million visitor nights
- Visitors on average stay 10 nights, with a high percentage staying a month or more
- $4.3 billion a year in direct spending by nudist visitors.
While the nudist population in Pasco is sometimes pegged at about 10,000, Heather said it’s difficult to pin down exact numbers.
Some visitors are “snowbirds” who stay during the winter; others are international visitors who might stay 10 days; some are day-trippers from nearby counties; and others are permanent residents, he said.
Pasco clearly is a star in the nudist firmament.
In 2014, a German documentary, “World of Nudism,” was filmed at Lake Como. A TLC reality television show, “Buy Naked,” features local real estate agent, Jackie Youngblood, as she finds and sells homes in Pasco for her nudist clients.
A Bare Dare 5K is an annual event at Caliente and is probably the largest naked runners’ race in North America.
Pasco County’s website has an online link, “Naked People Vacation Here,” at VisitPasco.net.
“They recognize that it is very important to our tourism tax here,” said Heather.
But, much more could be done to promote nudist tourism, he added.
Six new hotels are under construction or newly opened in Pasco, but Heather said they often focus on the business traveler. More resorts and tourist hotels are needed, he said.
Statewide, cruise lines are adding more clothing-optional vacations.
Currently, the only officially sanctioned nudist beach is in Miami, on the northern end of Haulover Beach.
But, nudists are quietly accepted at a few other locations including Playlinda, at the federally owned Cape Canaveral National Seashore.
The AANR report highlighted Haulover’s economic benefits to Miami.
About $988,000 in parking fees from nude beach visitors were collected at the north parking lot in 2015-2016.
The annual expenditures from nudist tourism is pegged at about $1 billion.
“The nude beach is packed with people,” Heather said.
Still, there is acknowledgement that nude beaches would be a challenge. “It could be a political back and forth,” Heather said.
But, the payoff could be significant, he said.
Pasco County set a record last year by earning nearly $1 million from tourist tax revenues.
Overall, tourism has grown in Florida from about $87 billion in 2011 to about $109 billion in 2016.
“Your return on investment is just too great,” he said.
Published February 22, 2017