Bare facts reveal success story for naturism park

The uninitiated may crack jokes about barbecuing au natural but for the thousands of visitors to Katikati Naturist Park each year it's all about chilling out.
Spending your holiday in the nude is very relaxing, said Kevin Sampson, who owns and operates the Bay holiday park with wife Joan.
"Guests also get rid of a lot of hang ups about their body, especially women. They see that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and it doesn't really matter," Kevin said.
For those new to naturism, it's often one partner working to convince the other to try it. "Basically, most find that once they've taken the step and made the breakthrough they think 'why didn't we try it years ago'," said Kevin.
"We had a woman come through the other weekend. It was her first time at a naturist place and she was very diffident. But within an hour she had her clothes off and a couple of hours later was totally relaxed about it. She came back for a day visit later."
Katikati Naturist Park was a finalist in the 2010 Tourism Industry Awards, and its revenue has continued to increase even during the global economic downturn.
Running the naturist park is about as far away as you can get from Kevin's previous career as a financial analyst with The Treasury.
After 16 years in Wellington and looking for a lifestyle change, the couple bought a motel in Marton in the late 1980s. Keen naturists themselves for many years, they saw the potential in establishing a naturist holiday park, something they had experienced and enjoyed in Europe.


"Six years later, after some searching, a rather messy block of land sitting alongside a river in Katikati caught our eye and we decided to go for it," Kevin said.
"Our original objective was simply to develop a naturist business that created a living for us, but we have now moved well beyond that to a market-leading position. The business has kept on growing and so have our ambitions."
Kevin and Joan have continually re-invested in their business. Accommodation facilities have expanded and now range from 71 camping sites and on-site caravans to kitchen cabins, self-contained units and a park motel.
They believe this reinforces the strength of the holiday park model - accommodation options to suit all customers.
Guests like to spend a lot of time on-site so Kevin and Joan have created a "horticulture type" atmosphere with a wide variety of recreational activities. In the past two years they have added wireless internet, table tennis, outdoor chess, badminton, quoits, and improved the sauna.
There's a strong environmental element to naturism said Kevin, and the couple have tapped into this by investing in environmental care policies including an on-site sewage treatment system, solid waste recycling, minimisation of energy use, and little chemical use.
About 20 per cent of the park's visitors are international, with key markets the UK and The Netherlands. The balance are Kiwis. Seventy-six per cent of guests are return visitors and the average length of stay almost twice as high as the New Zealand holiday park average.
"Our approach is not to maximise short-term turnover by extracting maximum revenue from each customer visit but to regard customers as long-term assets who return regularly and contribute financially for many years. Some people have been coming back every year since we opened and are more like family or close friends now," said Kevin.
"We also charge average holiday park prices for what our guests confirm are well above average facilities for the range and quality of what we offer.
"We want customers to consider they have received very good value for money, and not to have to pay more every time they want to do something from having a shower to playing mini-putt. And we don't charge peak prices.
"Better profitability comes from using our assets more effectively in off-peak times than by cramming people in at Christmas and New Year - most of our guests at Christmas and New Year also return for several visits at other times of the year," said Kevin.
Guests don't pay a deposit on booking and don't pay until they leave, which Kevin said encouraged them to stay longer and cuts down on administration costs.
The success of the park reverberates throughout the whole community, said Kevin. "Guests go out into the 'textile' world to buy supplies, and go to restaurants for dinner. The average local spend would be the same as any other holiday - they just do it quicker so they can get back here and dispense with needless clothes."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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