Preview of 2009 Orlando Pool and Spa Show

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OrlandomapIf you've been looking for information on the 2009 Florida Pool & Spa Show, try the word "Orlando" for your Internet search term.

The Florida Swimming Pool Association has changed the name of its annual trade show from the Florida Pool & Spa Show to the Orlando Pool & Spa Show. The name was changed to broaden the appeal of the show and to encourage attendance from a wider geographic area, according to Wendy Parker, executive director, Florida Swimming Pool Association, Sarasota, Fla.

At first glance, the idea seems counterintuitive. Defining the show more narrowly, from Florida to Orlando, would seem to narrow the scope of the show itself.

But the big international shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City define themselves, either directly or indirectly, by their specific location, leveraging the appeal of the host city. That strategy made sense to the show organizers.

"We got a lot of feedback from people, and we took the suggestion of exhibitors," Parker says, "and we thought, 'The Atlantic City show uses that name because that's where it is. It's a destination in itself, and it draws people from everywhere.'

"So we said, 'We'll make it the Orlando show - because Orlando is a destination, just as Las Vegas is a destination and Atlantic City is a destination.'"

There hasn't been much confusion in the transition to the new name, she adds. "Among many people it's always been called the Orlando Show. That's always been the other name people used."

Although the name is new, the show retains the features that have made it a popular business trip for years. It still has a strong exhibitor list, a fine lineup of continuing education classes and product demonstrations, and it still slots in nicely, calendar-wise, between the Atlantic City show and the Western show.

There is no question of the seasonal desirability of the venue. Central Florida is one of the few places in the country that offers a pleasant ambient temperature and ocean swimming in February.

The allure of body-surfing and Disney are a fine complement to the convention hall business, as Orlando offers nearly 100 attractions, more than 5,300 restaurants, 176 golf courses and the second largest convention center in the nation, according to show organizers.

"And the average temperature in Florida in February is 75 degrees, so why wouldn't you want to come to the show where it's warm?" Parker says. "Take your winter vacation in Orlando, and spend a couple extra days with your family. There's a lot to do right there, and also in Daytona and the Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa Beach. It's a great place to bring your family that time of year."

Green And Meaning It

Another interesting change in the format of the show is the advent of special recognition for companies offering environmentally friendly products and services.

Of course, since "green" has become one of the top marketing buzzwords, and almost every business identifies itself as eco-friendly, some controversy has arisen over which companies are actually helping the environment and which ones simply have creative marketing teams.

So to lend legitimacy to the award, exhibitors at this year's show are submitting information forms describing in detail the green aspects of their products and services, Parker says. That information will be reviewed by a committee, and if their product is deemed truly eco-friendly, it will receive official certification from the show.

"You know, everybody says they're green," she says. "So we decided to have a peer review. Within our state organization, we have an energy and sustainability task force; three volunteers from that group will review the applications. That way there's a fair system in place, not just everybody jumping on the green bandwagon."

Still, she adds, "It's up to the manufacturer to take the initiative to complete the form, and then get reviewed. We'll give them something to hang in their booth in a prominent place, either on the curtain or in some place that indicates that they've gone through the process and been designated eco-friendly."

Expanded Classes

Another change intended to broaden the appeal of the Orlando show is the expansion of classes and seminars to include retailing and sales.

Traditionally, the old Florida Pool & Spa Show featured classes for credit toward a Florida state license. But because only classes related to contracting were approved by the state of Florida for credit, these were the only ones offered, leaving the curriculum notably short of instruction for retailers.

In an effort to make the show more attractive to professionals beyond the state border, the class schedule has grown to include sales and retailing.

"What we've recognized is that, obviously, people outside the state of Florida don't have the same requirements, so we have added more retail classes, more spa classes, because we expect that people outside of Florida will be coming and those are the kinds of classes that they look for," Parker says.

"The majority of classes will still be for credit, but we've expanded our offering to classes that are not for credit in order to expand the breadth of topics we cover. We'll continue with the hands-on training - the product-specific classes inside the exhibit hall put on by the manufacturers, which always sell out, because there's a limit of 40 people on those.

"That's a great opportunity to have a chance to see how a product works if they haven't seen it in the field."

Always a popular convention at an ideal time of year, the new/old show looks to attract a solid attendance despite the state of the economy. Parker notes that some major exhibitors that were absent in Las Vegas have signed up for the show.

The show's timing couldn't be better, she says. "The holidays are over, and you've gotten back to work. After a few weeks, by late February, people feel like getting away. That's the perfect time to come to Orlando."

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