Nudist expo bares all in naked tourist industry

For many nudists, stripping to bare the essentials for what makes a great vacation is part of fighting misconceptions of their community.

"We're just the same people you sit next to on a subway, or at the library, or at the school board meeting," said Susan Weaver, president of the American Association of Nude Recreation.

"Naturists" -- the industry's preferred term --is more than just folks running around in the buff and sunbathing at nudist-only resorts, say insiders. According to the American Association of Nude Recreation, clothing-optional tourism is a $440 million-per-annum industry that includes everything from cruises, organized tours and more 250 resorts and clubs nationwide.

In its first annual nudist trade show in Las Vegas this past weekend, 22 vendors from resorts, travel agents and companies that cater to naturists showed their wares and tried to reach new customers who may think naked holidaymakers are only aging hippies or swingers.

"Nudists like to do all sorts of things," said Brian Spence, founder of, the organizers of the Nudist Clubhouse Nudist Expo 2012. "We're more than just sitting on the beach and getting a tan."

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Bare Necessities Tour and Travel was one of the vendors at the expo and specializes in nude cruises that take customers as far as the Panama Canal and Russia. In the past couple of years, they've served over 5,000 passengers, many of them repeat customers.

"The people that travel with us, travel with us again," said Kat Whitmire, VP of sales for the company. "We have a 70 percent passenger return ratio."

Another vendor, April Genter, is a Florida real estate agent who tracks the sales of nudist real estate properties in Pascoe County, Fla. Just last year, the county sold $8 million worth of nudist real estate.

"That included RV lots, little vacation condos, condominiums, town homes, villas, and single-family homes," said Genter.

The Naked Bee, also in attendance, is a Nashville-based company that sells organic lotions and sun care. The company usually sells its products at gift shops and boutiques, but they feel the nudist industry could be a potential untapped market for their company.

"You're always looking for niche markets," said Rob Bates, director of marketing for The Naked Bee, "we think this potentially is one."

As resorts and tourist sites struggle to innovate during tough economic times, some traditional companies have eyed the potentially lucrative nudist market. The Fawlty Towers Motel in Cocoa Beach, Fla., for example, recently turned its 32-room property into a clothing-optional after years of declining business, and hopes to attract visitors from home and abroad.

Spence says whatever the holiday, he has this simple reminder: "Have fun and stay naked."