(Originally published 21 March, 2016)
As I write these words, Paya Bay Resort, my family’s small business, is in the midst of what can be accurately described as an existential crisis. Development has started on the east end of Roatan Island, and we are having to wisely confront new threats and opportunities that have appeared as a result of the changing business and demographic landscape that surrounds us. The objective of this pronouncement is to clarify to the general public, and particularly our loyal clients, our position going forward.
One of the biggest issues we are facing at this moment is how to successfully adapt to the fact that a major resort, Diamond Hill, is being constructed right next door to us. When the developer initially approached us, we decided to have a very open-minded and welcoming attitude toward the project. It is still our desire to be “good neighbors” and cooperate harmoniously with the foreign investors that are bringing much needed jobs to this economically-depressed area of our beautiful island. However, as the consequences of having a major project next door to us have begun to affect us and sink in, we have found ourselves scrambling to adapt to the new realities of having a large number of new residents -- and an even larger number of visitors -- in what until now was a quiet, desolate part of the island.
When we initially expressed to the developer that his clients were welcomed to visit our property, dine at our restaurant, and use our facilities, we were engaging in traditional island hospitality, and innocently had no idea of the scale of his project and the sheer number of people this would represent. We also did not properly understand the impact this new influx of people would have on the atmosphere of privacy and exclusivity we had established for our business (one of its most attractive features). We thought the new traffic would be something we could manage and that we would be able to perceive the economic benefits of this increased flow of people on our property while minimizing any downsides. We have now come to the full realization that these initial attitudes and approaches were not only flawed and naive, they have also created a situation that threatens the very existence of Paya Bay Resort as it has become to be known.
Faced with accumulating concerns and complaints from many loyal clients regarding the (micro) demographic changes they were seeing take place at Paya Bay the past eighteen months, we took action. On Friday, 18 March, 2016 we had a meeting with Diamond Hill’s developer to inform him of the situation we were facing with extreme client dissatisfaction because of the the loss of privacy that had resulted from our desire to be open and accommodating to his clients. We explained that our business model is built around primarily serving clients who enjoy naturism and that serving the naturist community requires a high level of privacy in our facilities. Fortunately, the developer was very understanding of our predicament, and in a commendable act of solidarity agreed to respect the status of Bliss Beach as a primarily naturist beach. He agreed, going forward, to inform his clients of the special nature of Bliss Beach and encourage only his clients who are naturists themselves to visit the beach.
He also agreed to make changes to text and graphics on his project’s website that imply that both beaches at Paya are open to the public. He informed us that next season he will be placing beach furniture on the much larger Big Beach that will be for the use of his clients. He suggested that once this option is available for his clients, they will be content and the problem we are currently facing with non-naturists visiting Bliss Beach should be lessened significantly if not eliminated. (Since, by law, all beaches in Honduras are public, only a cooperative agreement like this one would allow us to keep Bliss Beach’s special status as a primarily naturist beach.) We also agreed on an arrangement that would allow us to register visitors to Bliss Beach so that we are able to properly inform them of the protocols and rules that are necessary for a naturist beach to have the high level of privacy that Paya Bay’s clients expect (no photography, for example.)
One takeaway from this very stressful situation has been our realization that given the changes occurring around us, we can no longer ride the fence between the naturist and non-naturist communities as we have been doing up until now with our business. Non-naturists are the majority and we now realize that if we don’t clearly establish our status as a resort that caters primarily to naturists, we will be overrun. The naturist community has stuck by us and supported us for over eight years now. We greatly appreciate your support and having arrived at this juncture where we have to make a choice, we want you to know that WE ARE CHOOSING NATURISM and that WE ARE CHOOSING THE NATURIST COMMUNITY. We humbly ask for your continued support as we get through this crisis, and as we work to achieve our goal to be the best place to enjoy a naturist vacation in the Caribbean.