File photo: The Hibiscus Coast municipality said it encouraged naturists to wait for amendments to the by-laws.

Durban - South Coast residents will find out on Tuesday if they are to have a nudist beach on their doorstep.

Those fretting over the possibility will see their nightmares come true. Those in favour, on the other hand, are holding thumbs that the application will be approved by the Hibiscus Coast municipality council so the area can benefit from a piece of the almost R5-billion global naturist tourism industry – and so they can frequent it sans clothing, of course.

The municipality has been looking into the application by the KZN Naturist Association (KZNNA) for a 500m stretch of Mpenjati Beach, near Trafalgar, to be declared clothing-optional, and after months of public comment and debates, will decide on the issue on Tuesday.

Public debates have shown the issue to be contentious, with many residents saying that having such a beach would increase incidents of crime and go against their moral and cultural beliefs.

South African naturists in support of the nudist-friendly beach say the South Coast area would benefit from the tens of thousands of naturists in European countries such as Germany, France and Spain.

Statistics South Africa said the biggest numbers of international tourists to South Africa each year were from the UK (49 168 visitors), Germany (35 190 visitors), and the US (24 111). France and Netherlands were in fifth and sixth spots, with 14 425 and 12 652 annual visitors to the country respectively.

Kurt Fisher, the president of the German Federation of Nudist Clubs, which has 40 000 members, said they would be attracted to South Africa if the nudist beach was approved.

He said there was always demand for such establishments for naturist tourism.

Earlier this year, a survey by travel industry marketing firm MMGY Global found that 18 percent of respondents said proximity to a clothing-optional beach was a desirable attribute for a holiday destination.

This was a two-percent increase from 2012.

Details on the impact of Sandy Bay beach on the economy in Cape Town could not be found, as both the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism said they did not track such information.

But globally, the American Association for Nude Recreation estimates that nude travel is a $440-million (R4.94bn) industry, up from $300m in 2001.

In support of the KZNNA’s application, Athol Lutge, the chairman of the South African National Naturist Association – which is a member of the International Naturist Federation – said the Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver, Canada, had more than 500 000 annual naturist visitors with an annual economic impact of more than $60m.

In another example, he said, Haulover Beach Park in Miami, Florida, had more than 1 million annual naturist visitors. “Haulover Beach’s naturist visitors’ growth was 9.1 percent the first year, 43.9 percent the second year, and 82.1 percent the third year, and has grown every year since then.

“The parking fees received in the Haulover naturist beach area increased 126 percent, whereas Crandon, a nearby non-naturist area, has growth of only six percent over a three-year period.”

Lutge said that there had been only positive comments from the Florida state officials.

However, arguments citing crime concerns deserve consideration – in 2005, a 27-year-old German tourist was raped by a naked man while she was hiking on a trail above Sandy Bay.

In 2003, an American tourist was assaulted in a “gay bashing” incident at the beach.

The Mercury