A preview to the 2010 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo

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photo of Mandalay Bay Convention CenterIt will be years before the pool and spa industry regains the heights it enjoyed before the downturn, and nobody talks about a V-shaped recession anymore, but there's reason to think that this year will mark the start of the slow climb back to prosperity.

That's what IPSPE conference manager Tracy Beaulieu believes, and not without foundation. While the economic data on housing is certainly far from exhilarating, the market is closer to finding its feet than it was a year ago. Consumers and businesses have been stockpiling cash - which must eventually go looking for something to buy - and here and there one hears stories of local pool and spa markets showing renewed vigor.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of economic traction here in the backyard pool and spa industry is the fact that many of the companies that shunned last year's IPSPE show are back on the exhibitor list.

"The industry, as we all know, has been through a recession the last two years," Beaulieu says, "and I think we have hit bottom and we're looking to come out of it. It's going to be a slow road to get back to where we were in '07 and '06, but I think we're on it. So the focus is going to be how to come out of this recession and rebuild your business."

Welcome To The Haze

There is much to be excited about at this year's IPSPE, even beyond the walls of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Completely new to conference attendees this year will be the enormous hotel/casino complex CityCenter, which opened since last year's show.

Just up the Strip from Mandalay Bay, IPSPE's perennial home, CityCenter is located between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts.

The 67-acre development features ARIA, a 61-story, 4,004-room gaming resort; non-gaming hotels Mandarin Oriental and Vdara Hotel & Spa; Veer Towers, the development's only strictly residential buildings; and Crystals, a 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district.

It's a colossus, which includes, in addition to the massive hotels and casinos already mentioned, approximately 2,400 residences. CityCenter also will feature a resident Cirque du Soleil production celebrating the musical legacy of Elvis Presley.

Amidst this city-within-a-city, IPSPE will throw its annual welcome bash at ARIA hotel. Haze Nightclub will be the venue, a 25,500-square-foot shiny new dance-and-mingle bar with a interactive projection screen overlooking the dance floor, a 20-foot-high wall of lights, a "Crayola box" of colored lasers and a self-described revolutionary sound system.

Haze boasts two levels, the upper reserved mostly for larger parties, and the lower with the VIP tables and DJ booth surrounding the dance floor and performance stage. The party starts at 5:30 on Wednesday. I'd get there early.

But We're Not Here For The Party

Not really. Certainly not exclusively. Many of us will make the trip to Vegas primarily for the educational program centered on opportunities in a slowly rebounding industry. And in this area, the IPSPE promises to reward attendees with valuable insights on how to move forward and rebuild business.

"The education last year was more like how to survive, how to keep going," says Beaulieu. "This year, the focus is, 'OK, we've been through the worst, so now we've got to look to 2011, which is going to be a building year.

"The speakers and educators are experts in this area, so they are really going to give people the tools and techniques to rebuild their businesses in the most profitable sensible manner possible. And everything is going to be positive," she says. "We're not going to talk about the recession anymore, we're talking about moving forward. That's the focus this year."

The Power Of Panels

Of particular interest to attendees this year will be the Power Panel forums that kickoff the three-day exhibition schedule on Wednesday morning at 9:45. These forums have been very popular in the past, Beaulieu says, and for that reason they've been expanded this year to include service and hot tubs.

"The Power Panels are free, and they run concurrently, so when attendees sign up, they simply need to pick the power panel that they want to attend," she says. "And when they select it online, they'll have the opportunity to submit questions. This is a great way to get good questions, and it helps us prepare answers.

The Power Panels will be made up of experts from all over the country, each addressing the different challenges unique to the climate in their region. And in these panels, Beaulieu says, people will be asking, 'How can I get back on track, what's the best course to take, and how do I become more profitable again in 2011?'"

The goal of IPSPE 2010 is to answer those exact questions.

"In the conference education, we try to give people exactly what they need to be successful no matter what is going on in their industry," Beaulieu adds, "and what they need right now are strategies to help them emerge from the recession and move forward. So it's going to be a positive, building conference."

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

The International Pool Spa Patio Expo

Conference: Oct. 31 - Nov. 5

Exhibits: Nov. 3 - 5

Mandalay Bay Convention Center | Bayside Halls | Las Vegas

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