Preview of the 2010 Atlantic City Pool and Spa Show

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What: The Atlantic City Pool And Spa Show Where: Atlantic City, N.J. When: Jan. 26- 28

Hands 0110With the Christmas holiday a fading memory, late January in the Northeast is a time when people tend to hunker down for the last two months of winter, venturing out only when necessary.

But an expedition to the Atlantic City show is just such an essential trip, organizers say.

Now more than ever - despite strained budgets and slashed travel schedules - the ideas that come from a good lineup of industry seminars and discussions with colleagues are crucial to survival, says Trish McCormick, Atlantic City show manager.

"To get through this time, we need to continue with education and continue to get out there and share ideas, even if it's harder to afford," she says.

In addition to the firsthand discovery of new products and ideas the show provides, organizers point out that laws and codes are changing quickly, and staying abreast of new legislation at the federal and local level is essential to the legal operation of one's business. Seminars at the AC show provide a means of doing just that.

Enhancing The Experience

With these points in mind, show organizers have focused on maximizing value for attendees. "For the first time ever," McCormick says, "we're offering enhanced hotel packages, which include the lowest rates we've had in five years.

"The Tropicana and Trump Plaza are offering an early-bird rate of $59. We haven't had a rate that low in 20 years. And the Tropicana is throwing in buy-one-get-one-free cocktails in the lounge, as long as you have your badge, while the Trump Plaza is giving cash back - $20 in match play money.

"We're trying to keep costs down and build value for exhibitors, because we are not in a right-to-work state, which means exhibitors have to pay for union labor. So we're doing the best we can to keep exhibitor costs down. We've frozen exhibitor pricing for the third year in a row."

Silence Is Golden

Inside the show doors, there are new initiatives as well. This year visitors will be met by a dynamic exhibition of products that will be auctioned off to benefit the industry as a whole.

"We're going to dedicate a portion of the floor plan to a silent auction," McCormick says, "but unlike silent auctions that you may have seen in the past, this is going to be a much more interactive event.

"When I describe it to people I say it will be something like the Candyland game. You're actually going to walk through the exhibit and see working products that have been donated. We're going to have pools set up, and to the extent that we can, we'll have the products working like they normally do, instead of just tables and a picture. We want it to be fun."

Only exhibitors may put products in the auction - except for the hotels that are offering getaway packages as prizes - which amounts to an added perk, McCormick says.

"We thought of this auction as a way to increase value for our exhibitors in a year where we're all having tough times," she says. "Because in a year where people may not have a lot of cash on hand to donate, they can pull something out of their warehouse and get some free exposure for it. They're getting free floor space for their product and free advertising (because were putting these products on our Web site and in our catalog). It will be fun for the attendee, too."

And it's all for a good cause. The money from the auction will go to NESPA's brand new charitable foundation for industry education, and good turnout will kickstart the organization, says Lawrence S. Caniglia, executive director, NESPA.

"We need well-trained technicians," he says. "We need people in the field that know what they're doing, but at the same time we recognize that educating an industry the size of ours is a tall order. This foundation will enable fundraising activities and grant-writing to help build training and education programs."

The foundation is recognized by the IRS, which allows companies and individuals to make tax-deductable donations.

Renovation Education

Of course, exhibitors and products are only half the show. People come to Atlantic City to learn about what is happening in the industry and what practices will keep their businesses efficient and profitable.

This year's program has placed a particular emphasis on renovation, among other topics, according to Paulette Pitrak, deputy executive director for NESPA.

In developing the curriculum, show organizers, like many in the industry, realized that while new pool and spa sales are down, consumers are spending more to protect their existing assets. Consequently, the seminar program is focused on taking advantage of that trend.

"We're doing much more on renovation than building this year," Pitrak says, "with seminars meant to tackle service problems and renovation for existing pools, because that's where a lot of the business is these days."

Safety and conservation are also areas of particular emphasis. Show organizers have arranged 90-minute seminars from seven SVRS manufacturers, each detailing the installation and service of their products.

"We're doing this because we're finding that the pool is built with an SVRS, but when the service company comes in to take care of it, often they don't know how it operates," Pitrak says. "How do you winterize them? How do you test them when you open the pool in the spring and make sure they are calibrated properly? Our seminars answer those questions."

With conservation of resources drawing the attention of legislators and consumers alike, this year's show provides important information in saving water and energy. An all-day program on leak detection will run on Monday, Jan. 25, discussing all aspects of leak detection and focusing on finding and repairing pool leaks.

"It's becoming more important to address pool leaks in our industry because we need to conserve precious resources," Pitrak says. "Water is going to be a key issue in the next 10 years in this industry."

Resources, indeed, are at the heart of the show's pitch this year: You can conserve your own and still make the big gathering in the Northeast.

McCormick notes that it's tougher this year to justify the travel costs than it has been in years past, but "we're trying to make it as affordable as possible because people need to get here," she says.

"They need the information we're offering at the show. Remember, you can come to the show for free, there's no admission cost. If you can drive to the show, you can literally come to the show for gas money."

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

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