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Pack light: nudists bare all in Mexico and look for new places to disrobe.

Getting the perfect tan, for most people, usually requires hours of fiddling with bathing suit straps and tucking in material to make dreaded tan lines as discrete as possible. Nudists, on the other hand, have got that part down pat. Their only problem is finding places to get that perfect tan. "We are always looking for new destinations to break up the monotony," says Donna Daniels, a nudist for more than 30 years and president and co-owner of clothing-optional travel agency Castaways Travel in Houston, Texas.

Jamaica has traditionally been the Americas' No. 1 hotspot for clothing-optional and nude recreation; the Caribbean island has 14 such hotel and resort options, more than anywhere else in the Caribbean and Latin America. Now, U.S. hotel group Karisma has opened The Hidden Beach Resort in Mexico, the first nude resort in Latin America, looking to tap into North America's estimated US$400 million nude recreation and travel industry.

While clothing-optional hotels have designated nude areas, Hidden Beach allows guests to be naked everywhere, including the lobby and gym--public areas where most hotels require clothes. The resort launched in May with the first nudist airline flight in the United States, a Miami-to-Cancun charter called NakedAir, for a "Nude Week" special. According to Daniels, Hidden Beach has "hit the ground running:'

Located an hour south of Cancun in Riviera Maya, an unofficial nudist beach in Mexico, the resort has attracted both longtime naturists and curious minds alike, primarily from North America. During its first three months of operation, 95% of Hidden Beach's visitors were from Canada and the United States, says Lubo Krstajic, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Karisma. The remaining 5% was a diverse mixture from Australia to Argentina to locals.

While nudism has been the social norm for decades in Europe, U.S. nudists are starting to reveal themselves now more than ever before. Membership at the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) increased 76% during the 1990s to nearly 50,000 individual members and 300 affiliated clubs and organizations, the group reports.

Demand for new destinations from a growing U.S. market, especially among Californians, made backyard Mexico not only a close destination but a familiar one, too. With ordinary tourist hotels in the Dominican Republic and Aruba, Karisma chose Mexico to launch its first nudist hotel because of its central position to the United States, says Krstajic. It is also cheaper to run a hotel of this genre in Mexico than in Jamaica, he says, due to lower taxes and costs of operation. Naked city. Despite its groundbreaking move into the naturist market, Mexico makes little effort to publicize its nude beaches. "We know they exist in Cancun and in Acapulco, but we don't have any information on them;' says Alma del Angel, a spokesperson at Mexico's Secretary of Tourism.

The international naturist community, however, is not lacking clandestine membership in South America. Brazil's 7,500 kilometer coastline offers long stretches of secluded sandy beaches where nudists can undress practically unnoticed, but the government only recognizes seven official nude beaches in the country, including pioneer Praia do Pinho in Santa Catarina. Brazil also has eight official naturist clubs where members--mostly limited to couple and family memberships--pay for access to nude facilities, such as swimming pools and tennis courts.

So far, however, Brazil does not have any clothing-optional or fully nudist hotels despite being the only country in South America that has a formal naturist movement, the Federacao Brasileira de Naturismo, and having approximately 60,000 nudists, according to a federation survey. "We would love to see a Hidden Beach in Brazil;' says Karisma's Krstajic, who says the resort is getting dozens of calls for information from South America's largest country.

Hotels interested in the nude trade should offer good quality facilities and services as well as daytime and nighttime activities, says travel agent Daniels. Most importantly, she says, hotel staff must be prepared to deal with an uninhibited group of guests. Karisma's Mexican foray has already fueled interest from some hoteliers in Central America now willing to embrace naked guests, Daniels says, if only for a preliminary, "nude week" event.

MICHELLE GUEVARA * MIAMI
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Title Annotation:NakedAir; Karisma; Executive Travel
Comment:Pack light: nudists bare all in Mexico and look for new places to disrobe.(Executive Travel)(Karisma)(NakedAir)
Author:Guevara, Michelle
Publication:Latin Trade
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:696
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