Monday, January 28, 2013

Future Resort Summary

Since the Future Resort series is a good start for a business plan, I'll summarize all the best ideas from the Original series (O) and the Redux (R).  As I mentioned at the start of the Redux, I'm interested in a business partnership.  Contact me here if you'd like to play any part in opening a venue which satisfies this criteria.

Obviously, I've published all of these ideas already.  Anyone can open a venue.  I'm not looking for profit from a business partnership.  I'm focused on the long-term benefit of having the venues in place.  I'm hoping that profits from the venues get wisely reinvested into nudist causes, instead of pocketed for lavish lifestyles.  And I'm hoping that anyone who may copy my ideas also copies my philosophy.

The word "should" indicates a goal to strive for as a best effort.  The word "must" indicates the venue needs to have it to earn my support.

Summary of ideas:
  • The venue must be one of the following:
    • Castle-style, with building(s) surrounding an open lawn. (O2)
    • Commercial building. (R2)
  • The venue must be located in a city, and should be located in one of the largest cities in the states listed in (R4).
  • The venue must provide privacy/seclusion and access control. (R2)
  • The venue should be spacious and able to support a crowd. (R2)
  • The venue must provide access to sunshine for sunbathing. (R2, R3)
  • The venue must be easily accessible, and within range of a taxi.  It should be along a main road. (R2)
  • The venue must be comfortable. (R2)
  • The venue must provide food through an internal restaurant, snack shop, groceries, or selection of delivered food. (R3)
  • The venue must provide both hostel-style lodging and hotel-style lodging. (R6, R3)
  • The venue must allow more granular "grounds fees", such as charging by the hour. (R7)
  • The venue should evaluate the green technologies listed in (O3, O3.1, O3.2, O3.3) and implement any which would be profitable as soon as they can be afforded.
  • The venue should diversify using my crowdsourced evolutionary model. (O4, O5)  Note: Initial projects will likely be a pool, hot tub, games, fitness equipment, and other things nudists like to do.
  • The venue should do iterative development. (O4)
  • The venue should specialize in one or more specific events. (O4)
  • The venue should consider all ideas from guests, and track the decision making process for transparency. (O4)
  • The venue should offer chores in exchange for credit, so people can have a cheaper stay if they help out, using the framework in (O5) and the suggestion in (O-Recap3).
  • The venue should encourage fundraisers, both to fund internal projects (O5) and to fund community projects (O7).
  • The venue should implement ideal resource-sharing methods as described in (O6).  Avoid the main example, however.
  • The venue should make use of regulars with specific skills who are willing to support side-businesses, fundraisers, and community involvement. (R3)
  • The venue must be open and involved with the community, such as attending meetings, fundraising for community efforts, offering textile "open house" days, and doing good whenever possible. (O7, R7)

Of course, there are other good ideas outside of the Future Resort series.  For example, I cover effective use of markerboards here, might inspire a venue name and marketing ideas here, and might offer a few event ideas here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p7) - End Effect

The venues described in the series aren't entirely revolutionary.  There are numerous venues which already fit in to the urban nudist oasis category.  N magazine 31.4 talks about Fawlty Towers in Cocoa Beach, which is a hotel that recently turned nudist.  Another recent addition is Clover Spa in Britain, which is more like a bed and breakfast.  A commenter pointed out his "Clothing Optional Home Network" of bed and breakfast venues.  (There are many more, including some traditional nudist venues which happen to be at the city's edge.)

The existing venues basically market themselves as hotels.  You go there, pay a substantial sum of money, and enjoy a room for the night.  Some go a step beyond and allow guests to enjoy the facilities for a day fee.  This is often a substantial sum of money and they feel like they need to stay all day to make it worthwhile.  With these policies, the venue attracts vacationers and people who have the day off from work.  It becomes a tourist destination and a hotel.  Although this can be profitable, my venue would focus on a different market.

My policy for an urban nudist venue would be to also take the next logical step: charge by the hour.  With this policy, the venue would provide dual roles.  It can still be a tourist destination and hotel, but it will also become an entertainment establishment.  It would compete with things like bowling alleys, skating rinks, gyms (both workout facilities and classes such as yoga), theaters, arcades, restaurants, and bars -- all of which you pay a small amount of money and have some small duration of entertainment or use.

Think about how much time you spend at vacation destinations.  Perhaps a week or two each year?  Now think about how much time you spend at the entertainment establishments I listed above.  Likely a few evenings each week and most weekends the rest of the year.  When people want to get out of the house for a while, or have time to kill in town, they can stop in.

If anyone is curious, a small fee and an hour of time is all it takes to give nudism a try.  (An hour is usually all it takes to become hooked, too.)  As people drive by the venue, many will be curious.  They'll think about it and talk about it even if they never go.  And this would be good for nudism.

How many nudists do you know on TV?  Probably none.  Is nudism a talking point in each political election?  The obvious answer is "no".  However, gay rights are a talking point and I'm sure you know several gay characters on TV.  Here are the stats: 8.2% of Americans have engaged in some form of same-sex sexual activity, yet most Americans think 25% of the population is gay.  Per the NEF poll, 25% of Americans have gone skinny-dipping or nude sunbathing in mixed company, yet many Americans think we're a fringe group.  Why are these statistics inversed?

I believe that the difference in attitudes is related to the difference in primary social frameworks over the last 50 years.  Nudist resorts are hidden away in rural areas, keep to themselves, and in general become forgotten.  Gay bars, on the other hand, are in the middle of town.  They are seen on a daily basis.  They are talked about among the community.  They are frequented by a lot of casual visitors, both regulars and the curious.  They are a social hub for tight-knit local communities who are actively pushing for change.

I'm not advocating that we open a bunch of "nudist bars" to mimic the success of the gay culture.  (Legally speaking, establishments serving alcohol and offering nudity are heavily regulated, so a "nudist bar" would be very difficult to open and operate anyway.)  But if similar facilities -- minus the alcohol and plus the numerous features I've mentioned in this series -- popped up around the country, I believe it would have a huge positive impact on nudism long-term.

In conclusion, my revised prediction for the future of nudism is within an urban setting.  Existing urban venues can be repurposed with casual nudists in mind, in cities which are already ripe with demand.  A healthy mix of people will give it a try.  Naturally, a strong sense of community will develop.  With the increased visual presence, nudism will become a topic of political debate and mainstream media.  Change is coming in the next couple decades, and I'm already looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p6) - Targeting Youth

Follow the Trend

Many nudists acknowledge a declining trend in youth at traditional nudist campgrounds.  Although there is a lot of speculation for why that might be, there is one hypothesis which pertains to this series.

The National Wildlife Federation, citing several studies, presents this conclusion:
"In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen."

Youth don't go outside as much anymore.  (And when they do, I'd bet most of that play time is in urban playgrounds.)  As they grow up, they'll gravitate to the city and prefer to be inside buildings.  I don't think many have a desire to "escape to nature," especially since many find nature uncomfortable and maybe even a little scary.  Why would they want to travel hours away from the city to spend the weekend at a nudist campground?  This goes for kids, teenagers, college students, and young adults.  The younger generation just isn't interested in nature anymore.

By having an urban nudist venue, you'll implicitly target the youth.  When given the choice, I'm confident that many young adults would prefer a smaller local urban venue over a distant large rustic venue.  As time goes on, more and more will choose the urban one.

Additionally, according to the CIA World Factbook, about 82% of the total population in the US live in an urban environment and it's increasing by 1.2% annually.  Everyone goes to the city -- either by moving there or traveling there regularly.  It only makes sense that most businesses would prefer being in the city.  That's where the customers are.

Leverage Nudist Culture

In the USA, it's rare to find a hostel.  In Europe and Australia, they're quite common.  Backpackers are often young Europeans or anyone else who wants to take a year off from school or work and travel.  As the name implies, they travel with little more than a backpack full of necessities.

Hostels cater to this group by offering up a bed.  From my own experience, backpackers pay between $10 and $20 at a hostel.  In return, they get a bunk bed and sometimes a pillow and blanket.  The rooms are shared among many different people (mixed gender).  They typically aren't even locked.  They're dirty and often things are broke, but they're cheap.  And many backpackers love meeting new friends through the random room assignments.

The reason hostels aren't popular in the US, I believe, is due to trust.  We're a culture of locking doors and protecting our space with guns.  We Americans don't trust anyone.  Sharing a room with a bunch of strangers seems absurd.

Nudist culture is different.  At hotel parties, we don't always close/lock doors.  We trust leaving our stuff on a table while we make a trip to the room.  Everyone becomes a friend.  It's difficult to be a thief when everyone is naked, trusting, and friendly.  In addition, I'm willing to bet a nudist hostel area would remain cleaner than the textile hostels I've been to.  Offering chores to reduce cost is always a good idea.

I suggest including some hostel-style rooms in any urban nudist venue.  I believe cash-strapped nudists (especially the youth) would jump at the chance for a $10-$20 bed for the night, sharing a room with a new group of friends.  Most nudists don't care if they have a big comfy bed, a door that locks, or the seclusion they get with their own room.  Give them the option of their own fancy hotel-style room (at a price), or a cheap hostel-style bed.  Nudist culture makes a choice like this possible in the US, and I suggest we make use of it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p5) - Casual Culture

In part 2, I said that "nudism would be casual experience instead of a planned vacation or second residence."  This statement can be broken down into three markets.

The "nakation" (planned vacation) industry is a $400 million and growing global industry according to AANR.  There are a lot of opportunities for nude cruises and vacations at big resorts all around the world.  These take time from work and cost money, especially since travel is becoming increasingly expensive.  It's fair to assume that the majority of people taking "nakations" are retired, or middle-aged with the money and the time off from work to be able to do it.

Many stay at resorts and campgrounds either full-time or as a second residence.  Full-timers are almost always retired, or are lucky to work close enough to keep the commute reasonable.  The second residence crowd typically have a camper and stay at the resort on weekends.  It's fair to assume that these people have the money to buy a camper and pay for the site, which likely means they are middle-aged and have a career.  (Purchasing and developing their primary residence takes money and time first.)

The above two markets are currently the most profitable, and both are geared toward the middle-aged or older since they happen to be the primary customer.

Young naturists, and cash-strapped naturists, take a more casual approach to nude recreation.  They are the ones visiting the local free beaches whenever they have the time.  They are the ones bravely freehiking and skinny dipping on public lands.  They are the ones going to local hotel takeover parties.  They are the ones attending bowling parties, house parties, WNBR, and any other event that happens to be going on.  Perhaps "casual" isn't the right word since it takes a lot of work to organize these events, and sometimes a lot of work to participate in them.  But compared to buying a camper, membership, or vacation, and dedicating weeks or more at a time to being nude, these cheaper day-long or weekend-long activities are casual.

Both the Florida Young Naturists and the Young Naturists and Nudists America have seen a boom in numbers since forming.  FYN's Spring Bash went from 75 in 2009 to 200 in 2011 per N 31.2.  YNA claims to be "the fastest growing nudist organization and online naturist community based out of the NY / NJ / PA area".  The Chicago Fun Club has seen growing numbers of participants -- they've grown to more than 200 members in the 3 or so years they've been active.  These groups have popped into existence with a primary goal of having fun at whatever venues they can set up.  It seems that people of all ages are eager to participate in local events.

I haven't gone to an unsuccessful nudist event yet.  The hotel parties are always packed.  House parties always attract a crowd.  Public events like the WNBR have been growing.  Even the bowling group, almost in the middle of nowhere, has a good turnout each Winter month.  It seems that naturists are always looking for something local to do.

Just how much demand is in the market?  There were numerous people at the bowling party that didn't bowl.  I'm sure the WNBR gets it's share of people who don't normally ride bikes.  I haven't been to a nude skate party yet, but I'm sure some people attending can't skate.  (N 29.1 shows a group photo from a skating event, and a few people aren't wearing skates.)  Many people who visit nude beaches never go in the water, and some even avoid the sun.  It seems that people just want to be naked in social settings, even if they aren't interested in what's going on.  Markets are about supply and demand, and I believe there is more demand than supply for naturist events.

The Chicago Fun Club tested the limits of demand this year.  The club is one of only a few in the Chicago area, and the nearest resorts are across state lines several hours away.  One of the club's events worked out to be an ideal experiment.  When Naked Girls Reading was still new, I said: "Naturists would find this event to be one of the most boring things we could possibly sit through."  Then, later on, the Chicago Fun Club organized a nude viewing of this event.

How did it go?  Corresponding with one of the members, it was "well attended and much enjoyed".  I'd never go watch naked girls read.  But, with the opportunity to be in a social naturist setting with friends, I'd be tempted.

Even with nothing going on, people are still drawn to places.  Many like to stop in at the bars, just to see who's there and what's going on.  Many like to stroll through the mall even though they aren't shopping for anything specific.  People will be drawn to the urban nudist venue just to see what's new, who's around, and to kill some time while being social.  They might even bring their curious friends along.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p4) - Location

Population map, from Wikipedia:

Modified map showing the number of nudist resorts in each state, based on the AANR club listings:

Analyzing the data in the above graphics, it's reasonable to conclude that the following states have a large population and a shortage of nudist resorts (compared to similar states):

New York
North Carolina
New Jersey

However, since this series is about urban resorts, one must also consider the population density maps.

Population density map from Wikipedia:

Many of the states which contain no nudist resorts have a low population.  But, the majority of the population is within cities.  States which have no resorts and have a high urban population density include:

South Dakota
New Mexico
Rhode Island
New Hampshire

If I were to create an urban nudist oasis, I'd put it in one of the states above.

Many of the states happen to be in northern latitudes as well.  Nudist resorts, for the most part, close down during the winter months.  Most only have outdoor facilities.  Bigger ones have a few indoor facilities, but it's often not worth venturing down slippery backroads just to swim in the nude.  An advantage of an indoor urban resort is that it can remain open year-round and provide the same facilities.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p3) - Layout

The venue layout is partly determined by the existing layout, partly determined by how much money and work can be invested, and partly determined by what people in the area want.  All I can offer on this topic is advice.

First of all, make sure the venue will meet my original list of basic requirements.  Seclusion, Accessibility, and Space should all be considered prior to purchasing the venue.  Seclusion can be improved with things like window coverings after the purchase, but ideally the building shouldn't be all windows.

The inclusion of Sunshine needs to be considered.  Make sure there is a nice flat roof or an area outside that can be made private.  A lot of people get hooked on naturism when they feel the sunshine and breeze on their naked bodies for the first time.  Many city-dwellers have a difficult time finding a place where they can try this or participate regularly.  Although an outdoor space may be difficult to provide, it is a basic feature of all traditional venues.  Avoid developing a venue in any building which has no possibility of Sunshine.

A similar indoor space should be provided as well.  When the weather turns cold, sunshine through the windows provides a nice alternative.  Consider an area of skylights or replacing part of a southern wall with windows.  As an example, here is a place in Wisconsin which tries to simulate a day at the beach even in the middle of winter. They even have signs posted about sunburning while indoors.

Successful nudist venues, other types of resorts, casinos, and just about any other place that wants people to stick around, consistently provide customers two basic features: A room to stay in, and food.  If these can both be provided in your venue, it'll support a wide range of stays.  If these are high in luxury and price, you'll only attract vacationers who are probably older.  You'll be competing in a world-wide market too.  (I wouldn't go this route.)  If the rates are low, it'll support weekend getaways for all ages and support anyone who is traveling on a budget.  Others may want it to be a temporary residence while they work in town.  Adjust the room rates to be competitive for each market.  For food, a variety is always best and make sure it's available whenever people may want a meal.  If the hotel rooms have kitchens, or a shared kitchen is available, a mini grocery store would be helpful.  If meals cannot be provided, collect menus from local restaurants who would be willing to deliver.

Give people things to do during their stay.  Collect recreation equipment, fitness equipment, and anything else that people might enjoy spending time on.  If you know anyone who has lots of free time, give them the task of finding good deals on Craigslist for all this stuff.  Make sure to keep people busy with games and events as well.  Get people involved and they'll develop a strong relationship with the business.

It's also helpful to find a Niche.  As an example, there used to be a eBay Store in town which would sell your stuff on the global auction site, but it closed.  Perhaps a nudist venue could offer this service as a side-project.  Test the waters in different areas and see if anything becomes profitable.  What are you, or your core members, good at?  A stand-alone business might not stay afloat (like the eBay store), but coupling a few businesses together might.  Nudists have skills beyond socializing and sunbathing.  Put those skills to good use.

There is quite a lot of variability in how a venue can be laid out and what services it can offer.  Don't be afraid to remove things that aren't profitable, and play up things that are.  Success depends on how quickly you can find the best balance for the venue.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p2) - Space

Commercial buildings can meet the five requirements in a different balance than rural land.

Seclusion is satisfied by walls, controlled use of windows, and access control through doors.  Many commercial buildings have some level of security designed into them.  Whether or not the building is publicly accessible, access is generally limited to specific entry points and a lobby controls access beyond that.  Fire exits are locked from the outside.  There are no other easy ways into a building.  For rural land, a hike through the woods can probably get you in.  It isn't practical to put a fence all the way around a large campground or resort.  Therefore, a commercial building in a city is better secluded than rural land.

Sunshine and Space are the most limiting factors with a commercial building.  The building has a fixed size, and it has a roof which blocks all or nearly all of the sunlight.  However, both can be increased by a fenced in area outside or by fencing in the roof (if it's flat).  Consider a green roof for a naturalistic roof development.

Accessibility is a strong feature of a commercial building.  The location can be inside or on the outskirts of a city.  Not only is it a short drive for everyone in the city, but there is likely cab service to the local airport too.  Everyone in the county (or beyond) visits the city to do shopping, go to appointments, visit friends, and whatever else.  They could stop by the venue for a couple of hours if they have time to kill.  Nudism would be casual experience instead of a planned vacation or second residence.  I'll talk more about this in part 5.

There is no doubt that buildings are more Comfortable than the outdoors.  We go through a lot of effort to build them, maintain them, keep them the perfect temperature, control humidity, keep the air fresh, keep the weather and bugs out, provide lighting, maintain security and privacy, provide clean running water, retain food for long periods of time, provide ways to prepare that food, and have a safe and comfortable place to get a good night's sleep.  Traditional nudist venues have some level of difficulty providing all these things and are often at the mercy of the outdoors.

Recently, I've been imagining what I'd do to convert various commercial buildings into nudist venues.  Depending on the building, it might be easier than you think.

A friend of mine used to live in an old schoolhouse.  It was a big square three story building within the city that was developed into apartments.  Each classroom became an apartment.  They kept the small gym as a recreation area, and added a pool within it.  Access to the building was controlled through a single door.  It's not hard to imagine this as a nudist venue with the pool and rec. area, and with roomy rentable hotel-style rooms.

Buying an old hotel can provide the same setup but with less work.  Rooms are available to rent and there is often a nice pool and recreation area.  Access control is already in place.

There are a lot of closed factories, stores, churches, and office buildings around.  Many have ceilings high enough to not disturb a volleyball game, and many have offices that can be rental suites.  Some will be more work than others to convert.  Every building is different.  Each has it's own layout, it's own maintenance costs, and it's own price tag.

In the next parts I'll discuss layouts and locations for an urban nudist venue.  After that, I'll explain why this alternative approach to nudism might just catch on.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Future Resort Redux (p1) - Intro

"If I had a clean slate and some seed money, here's how I would build my future venue."  That's how I started my popular "Future Resort" series four years ago.  After some more experience since then, I'd like to offer an alternative approach.

Going over my list of requirements from before:
1. Seclusion -- So nobody can peek in, and to avoid trouble with the laws.
2. Sunshine -- Just because it makes us happy.
3. Space -- We need room to run around.
4. Accessibility -- It should be easy to get to.
5. Comfortable -- Few bugs, clean air, good weather, etc.

Last time, I never really contemplated how each of those should be weighted.  Is Accessibility more important than Space?  Is Sunshine more important than Comfortable?  If they are, then how much so?  The market will eventually fine-tune the ratios based on the demand.  If a venue has a bug problem, they may start spraying them regularly.  If a venue isn't easily accessible, people will prefer going to one that is.

I previously made some assumptions about how, in general, things should be weighted.  My starting point was lots of acres of cheap rural land.  This made Seclusion, Sunshine, and Space more abundant than Accessible and Comfortable.  Although I very much enjoy venues like this, there is a flip-side that may also be appealing.

Perhaps I didn't elaborate on the importance of Accessibility last time.  I was thinking of it more as a measure after the venue is built instead of a driver for where it should be.  It was a lower priority item.

Perhaps I didn't elaborate on Comfortable quite enough last time either.  In order to stay at a venue, my basic requirements are a place to sleep, available food and water, and internet.  Why is internet on this list?  It's not required in order to survive, but many younger Americans depend on it to check in with work or school, socialize, and rely on it as an information resource.  Although smartphones can do a lot, many people don't have them yet and internet typically isn't free from the cellular network.  Perhaps that will change in the next 10 years, and my requirement for internet will be obsolete.

In part 2 of the series, I accidentally limited my scope with the first word: "land".  While I was oogling rural land with lots of undeveloped acres, and dreaming of a nudist tour boat, I was too quick to dismiss another viable option.  I'll start part 2 of this redux in this direction.

Buying up land and developing a resort isn't a bad thing.  There are a lot of resorts that have taken this path.  The successful ones will keep growing, and the less successful ones will keep dying out.  Getting into the market will be increasingly difficult.  The big resorts are a little like big-box stores, which make it difficult to open a competing successful small business.  Let them dominate their market -- it's time for us to start something new.

I'll be putting my money where my mouth is this time around.  If you're thinking of opening a venue which satisfies much of the criteria in this series, I'm willing to help out.  I'm interested in a business partnership.  (Don't leave comments about opportunities here -- instead please post to the General Feedback page.)