Lesson No. 1 in marketing to European nudists: Florida's warm weather is the selling point.
"You go to Europe and what do you have? You have seasonal weather," said Paul Brenot, who recently stepped down as president of the Pasco Area Naturist Development Association. "Come wintertime, you get a cold snap. We're just like anybody else, we're going to throw something on. Here, you have the opportunity to be natural all the time."
This summer, Brenot and other group members are rolling out their inaugural "Eurobird" marketing campaign aimed at naturists across the pond. They met with county tourism officials and representatives of several local nudist resorts to discuss the campaign, which won a $3,800 grant in December from the County Commission.
Pasco tourism officials say they are looking forward to a wave of au naturel Europeans. Even if nudists don't tend to have pockets, they do have cash that could prop up the local economy.
"They stay longer, spend more money," said county tourism director Eric Keaton, adding that international tourism is up across Florida. "Pasco County has to find a way of capturing some of that business."
The campaign includes ads in magazines like Naturally that are read by the large European nudist community. The goal is to persuade naturists from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Germany to come in July and August. That's the peak travel season in Europe and a slow time for Florida tourism.
Stan McGahey, a Saint Leo University professor of hospitality and tourism, helped the group develop the marketing plan.
"Pasco County is basically the naturist capital of the U.S.," he said. "There should be a huge market to attract Europeans to Pasco."
McGahey said visitors could use Pasco as a "base camp" while taking day trips to Orlando theme parks or Pinellas beaches. "There's a lot of things to do within an easy day's drive," he said. Visitors can also spend the day at nudist resorts and sleep at "textile" hotels. You know, places where people wear pants.
Brenot said nudism in Pasco has a unique history. The scene began in 1941 with Lake Como and now includes a dozen resorts and communities in central and west Pasco.
"One night they might have dinner at a fine dining establishment," he said. "Then they turn around the next day and they kind of want to get a little more rustic."
And there's everything in between. Want to play a game of tennis in your birthday suit? Check. Topless sailing or boating? Check. Move to a Pasco naturist community and you can check your mail and walk the dog — all in the buff.
Now the group is working out the mechanics of the marketing effort. One problem: How will organizers know if the campaign is successful?
"We don't have a way of tracking it," said Vernon Allen, PANDA's new president. "We won't know until they either get here, or they contact us and say, 'We're coming.'"
Keaton had one idea. Give visitors an "entertainment card" that offers discounts at nearby restaurants and attractions. That could help provide detailed figures on the campaign's economic impact.
The group must submit itemized receipts for its marketing efforts to collect the county tourism grant, which comes from hotel taxes — including overnight stays at nudist resorts — and is set aside to promote tourism.
Even if the inaugural Eurobird season is just a trickle and not a flood, Allen said it will be a successful first step because it forces the resorts to work on a common goal.
"It is the first time that I know of that we were able to get the resorts together," he said.
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.