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Second act

On a visit to Fuerteventura, Naturist Travel meets up with Karie Church, theatrical producer-turned-naturist B&B owner.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his notes on The Last Tycoon, wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives.”

We Brits are made of sterner stuff however, and Ipswich-born Karie Church, owner of BHH Naturist Villa in Fuerteventura, is a perfect example of somebody who has not only finally found her place in the sun, but is intent on enjoying every minute of it.

After a career which saw her working initially in the motorsport and charity sectors, Karie joined forces with her actor husband to run a theatrical company, operating both as producers and impresarios, putting on established plays and other productions at venues throughout the UK, and searching the globe for international talent to showcase to audiences in a series of new variety revues.

The work took them to Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia, and for a while it was a glamorous and romantic life. When both the glamour and the romance started to fade however, the couple separated. As part of the divorce settlement, her ex got to keep the production company; Karie kept the two properties they had purchased several years earlier in Fuerteventura. She is adamant she got the best of the deal!

“We had always liked the Canaries,” Karie explains, “and having spent holidays on most of the islands at some stage, decided we wanted to invest in Fuerteventura. It’s less commercial than Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and so we bought an apartment to generate rental income and a larger villa in Costa Calma as a holiday home.”

The latter, Beverley Hills Villa or BHH for short, soon became her main home when she decided, like a lot of people who have the option, that she much preferred the sunshine lifestyle to the daily grind back home in the UK. She sold the apartment to give her some extra capital, and began converting BHH into a B&B guest house, keeping one section for her own private living space, with the rest - including the large swimming pool, gardens and outdoor dining/chill-out area - being shared by the three independent apartments and ground floor of the villa that are available for holidaymakers.

Flexible

At first, Karie primarily targeted water sports enthusiasts, as Fuerteventura - with its combination of almost guaranteed year-round sun and breeze - is hugely popular for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding. The apartments and the outside areas took on a ‘surf-chic’ look, and a mix of singles, doubles and bunkbeds kept the sleeping configurations as flexible as possible for families, individuals or groups of surfing buddies.

“Business was okay,” Karie concedes, “but not brilliant. Most surfers simply want somewhere to put their heads down after a day on the waves or a night out partying, and consequently don’t really want to pay too much for their accommodation.”

In between the surf dudes however, Karie had begun attracting the occasional independent holidaymaker, including several naturists, as the island is renowned for its fabulous beaches, and the fact that you are not obliged to wear anything on many of them (see panel).

“Then, about this time last year,” Karie explains, “I had a ‘lightbulb moment.’ Why not become exclusively naturist? It seemed perfectly logical as a business model. I was planning to redecorate and upgrade the accommodation. All the naturist guests I had welcomed had been really nice people and had enjoyed the privacy and seclusion we offer. I certainly don’t have a problem being naked in front of guests, or vice versa. And it’s a niche market that is easier to target than simply being just another mainstream holiday option among hundreds.”

With the refurbishment done, the word ‘Naturist’ added to the villa’s name and website, and a naked photoshoot undertaken by a friend who is a professional photographer, Karie set about exploring the naturist media.

Response

Now firmly established, she is more than happy with the response, with a steady flow of bookings and now, to her delight, numerous repeat customers.

“You can’t expect naturists to find you, especially when you are new,” she maintains. “You have to go out and find them. That means spending some money on advertising and other forms of promotion and utilising social media and PR to its best advantage. My initial targets were always going to be the UK/Ireland and Germany, given how popular Fuerteventura is in those markets, so I joined British Naturism and the Irish Naturist Association. I’m also listed on websites such as Naturist Travel, Naked Wanderings, Naturist B&B and Naturist Guide for the international markets, and Miramare Reisen for German speakers. And I’ve been profiled on the Irish Naturism website and in the German FKK Reisen magazine.” As word has spread, so Karie is now also attracting naturists from Spain, France and Scandinavia, all keen to enjoy the island’s attractions.

“I might be biased, but I genuinely believe Fuerteventura has some of the best beaches in the world, and for naturists, it’s a superb destination. The beach at Costa Calma is walking distance from the villa, so if you’re happy combining a little gentle exercise with collapsing by the pool, you don’t even have to hire a car. And if you do want to go further afield, there are fabulous beaches at Sotovento, Jandia, Esquinzo and Mal Nombre, all nearby in the south of the island.”

Interview by Paul Rouse


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