ThermoSpas President Andy Tournas On The New International Hot Tub Association (part two of two)

photo of Andy Tournas
Andy Tournas, President, ThermoSpas

In the July issue, we asked ThermoSpas President Andy Tournas about his bold launch of the International Hot Tub Association. In that, the first of two installments, Tournas said he felt that while the APSP's Hot Tub Council was doing valuable work, more needed to be done, and the industry needed a group focused solely on hot tubs.

"The swimming pool industry has been strapped with so many problems β€” from when the NSPI had the major lawsuit to safety regulations related to drowning and thing of that nature β€” that created an encumbrance on the hot tub industry," he said. "Now, they were doing a good job, and their hearts were in the right place and they had the passion to resolve the problems in the industry, but there wasn't time or money available to allot to the hot tub industry that it needed for its growth."

The industry's reaction has been enthusiastic, but Tournas sees many players sitting on the sidelines. In the second part of our interview, he praises the participants and urges everyone else to get involved.

Aside from the advocating for hot tubs to government officials, utility boards, etc., how is the IHTA planning to help the industry?

We recognize that we've kept secret the real benefits that hot tubs provide to the consumer. I think that's what's going to grow our industry. We're going to be supportive of the industry by reaching out and telling people that this is not a luxury product that's designed to create entertainment for a few wealthy individuals. Our product is supported and purchased more by Middle America than any other group. The reason Middle America embraces our product is because it fulfills a need β€” the need is associated with all the benefits provided by warm-water therapy β€” and you heard myself and Tom Lachocki talking about that in Atlantic City.

We've been doing more and more research and finding more and more data and medical reports that show this to be true. It's amazing how much is out there. When this information is passed onto consumers, the thing you always hear is, "I didn't know that!" And when a potential customer says, "I didn't know that," what they're really saying is, "I should think about that," and then that turns into a sale.

One of the things that I think is going to be important is working as a team to advocate and spread the word about what the benefits are of the product that we provide. And participating in the IHTA is a good way to do that.

How has the enthusiasm for the new association been?

I'm proud of the people that we have on our board. They take time out of their busy days β€” and you also have to recognize the people that we have on our board are not similar to what you'd find in most organizations. Even when I was with the NSPI and the APSP, there were very few presidents and CEOs and people who actually ran companies involved. A lot of it was assigned to certain representatives; people that had to go back to their companies for decisions to be made. When I started asking new organizations that might want to be a part of the International Hot Tub Association, I indicated that I would prefer to see the decision makers be a part of the board. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for the individuals that are on the board. These are busy people, and these have not been easy times, as we all know, over the last couple of years. So for them to take the time out of their schedules to actually take part in those monthly meetings, and to do all the work in between the meetings, we all take a lot of pride in that.

Where the disappointment comes into play is the vast number of hot tub manufacturers, as well as other suppliers to the industry, who appreciate or benefit to a certain degree from the hard work that goes into what we do, yet have opted not to join any industry organization. They pay dues to no one, yet some of them recognize that their survival depends upon the survival of these organizations. Their very existence depends on our success. That has been a real disappointment.

One of the things I thought was really disappointing back when I worked with the APSP was the percentage of people in the hot tub industry that were actually members of the APSP. It was close to single digits. When you think about that, it's sad. And I can see why the APSP has had difficulty in attracting new members. As I mentioned before, they have a built-in excuse. "Why should I donate my time? Why should I pay dues? Why should I do any of that? There's nothing in it for me."

You know, there certainly is something in it for all of them, and I think that we've demonstrated over the last couple of years that if the International Hot Tub Association wasn't in existence, this industry could have been crippled. So all these companies that use those excuses about not getting anything out of it? I don't think that holds water.

Anything else?

I think another thing to address is the fact that this is an industry that needs support. And I don't mean just from manufacturers and suppliers, but I think the dealers need to address industry issues, too.

Now, I recognize when you're talking about the people who are selling hot tubs, many of them look at it as a primary part of their businesses and many others look at hot tub sales as a secondary or even tertiary part of their businesses. Whether it's a small part of your business or a main part, if you want that part of your business to grow, you really need to participate in an industry organization, whether it be the International Hot Tub Association or the APSP. It will really benefit you in the long run. So the other parts of the industry really need to participate.

Also the trade magazines. There's been a disappointment, I think, in the responsiveness of both the big trade magazines with their coverage. Everybody needs to support industry organizations and help those organizations grow, because that's what helps grow the industry. And as the industry grows, everybody grows along with it.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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