Last year, I went out on a limb and made predictions about important trends that would shape 2011 for aquatics. To my surprise, the five trends I named — ADA, MAHC, VGB, air quality and credit — all did come to impact 2011.
So for 2012, I’m once again going to make some predictions. Here are four trends that will shape 2012:
1. ADA noncompliance. Well, the industry has had more than a year to get ready for the coming deadline to comply with the ADA guidelines law. In case this is news to you, that deadline is March 15.
Based on what I’m hearing out there, too many facility operators and owners haven’t taken this deadline seriously. Others, burned by the likes of VGBA, are taking a wait-and-see approach, expecting a government agency to change the rule, or reinterpret it.
That’s understandable, but do so at your own risk. The most likely teeth to this law will be lawsuits from patrons who aren’t able to have the access the law guarantees.
2. Rising training costs. For years, the aquatics industry has gotten off cheaply when it comes to training, thanks mostly to the largess of the American Red Cross. But the organization has made it abundantly clear that those days are over, implementing steep price increases to most of its core approved provider fees.
That created an uproar and a minirevolt of professionals saying they will contract with competing training providers. With new Red Cross lifeguard training programs rolling out — and the reality of those price increases coming to roost — expect the clamor to continue.
But as those jumping ship from the Red Cross are discovering, when it comes to training, the price tag is going up no matter where you turn. With budgets still drum-tight, expect some conflict between keeping facilities operating and maintaining staff training.
3. Improving economy. I know, I know. How many years have we been hearing about how the economy is expected to get better? But based on what I’ve been hearing from operators and manufacturers at trade shows this year, I believe that 2012 is finally the year in which aquatics begins to pull itself out of the economic rut it’s been stuck in for at least three years.
The one caveat: Expect public budgets that are tight now to remain so for at least another year.
4. MAHC adoption. The whole point of the Model Aquatic Health Code was to create a set of best practice guidelines that local governments could adopt. Now that all or nearly all of the modules are out for comment and being finalized, expect the first MAHC adoption in 2012.
Will it go smoothly? Not likely. That’s largely because the ambitious MAHC project has not done a very good job of seeking and getting operator feedback.
Fortunately, the MAHC also was designed to be a living document, meaning it can be amended as needed. Still, it would be a smart move to review the MAHC modules and provide input now.