— As the sun sets on Tulsa’s downtown skyline, a couple of dozen men and women gather for an afternoon of sunbathing in a small sunflower patch.
The sun is streaming down from the sky and the air is cool, but the air conditioning is still running.
A few hours earlier, in a slightly different spot on the same block, there were a handful of tanning booths.
But here in the sun, the area is crowded with people lounging in the shade, chatting, smoking and taking photos.
Tulsa’s downtown area is a popular hot spot for tanning, especially in the summer.
A recent survey by the National Alliance of Tanning Centers found that about 1,400 of the nearly 3,500 tanning facilities in the United States are in Tulsa.
The area’s reputation as a hot spot also has helped make it a destination for tourists from around the country.
“Tulsanians are known for being a really good city for tanners,” said Robert Stadler, owner of the Tulsa International Tanning Center.
“I think they’ve really been able to embrace this new tourism trend.”
Stadler says the trend is becoming more prevalent as the city’s population continues to grow.
The center, which opened in the early 2000s, specializes in getting customers to visit the area for a short visit.
Stadlers own business has seen a boom in the past year.
“I think we’re kind of seeing an increase in demand for our services because of our location and because of the number of people that come to Tulsa,” he said.
“Our number of clients have gone up significantly in the last year and a half,” he added.
But the Tulsa area is not the only place in the country that has become a hot destination for tanneries.
According to the American Society of Tannery Professionals, the number one tourist attraction in the world is New York City, where visitors spend $15 billion on tanning services.
In the U.S., more than 30 million people visit the sun and tanning parlors, according to the tanning center.
In 2016, more than 3,700 tanning clinics were opened across the country, according the American Association of Tannerists.
Stadlers business is growing as well.
The Tulsa International tanning facility opened a new facility just outside Tulsa this year, and he plans to expand that to a second location next year.
He says the new facility will be a better location to make customers feel welcome.