The International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo is seeing a strong uptick in exhibitor and attendee registration.

The event will be held at New Orleans’ Morial Convention Center for the first time since 2003, and officials are pleased with the industry’s response to the new venue.

“I’ve been with Hanley Wood for about 11 years and we’ve never had this kind of excitement going into a city on any of the events I’ve worked on,” said Lindsay Roberts, show director at Hanley Wood, LLC (also parent company of Aquatics International). “I think New Orleans is a huge part of it.”

The conference runs Nov. 2-8, with exhibits beginning on Nov. 6.

Enthusiasm for the venue and a general optimism about the industry are beginning to show in the Expo’s exhibitor and registration figures, organizers reported. At press time, 484 companies had signed on as exhibitors, up from 462 for the same week of 2011. Total booth space was at 148,000 square feet, a 20 percent boost over last year’s final floor plan.

And for the first time since 2008, all of the “Big Three” manufacturers — Hayward Pool Products, Pentair Aquatic Systems and Zodiac Pool Systems — will exhibit.

As far as attendees, it’s still too early in the process to give a solid indication of things to come, Roberts said. But preregistration numbers saw a significant bump from the same time last year. The number of hotel room nights booked, an indicator of exhibitor and attendee activity, was double that from the same time last year, she added.

“That is a huge indicator of things to come,” Roberts noted. “People feel the need to get their hotel rooms locked in before they’re sold out or the rate goes up.”

This year’s conference will include 74 seminars, 46 of which are new. An educational track on social media marketing is being debuted and has shown strong preregistration numbers.

Several associations will present training sessions for certifications, including the American Shotcrete Association/American Concrete Institute’s Shotcrete Nozzleman Program; the National Plasterers Council Start-Up Program; and the National Swimming Pool Foundation’s Certified Pool Operator Course. The Foundation for Pool & Spa Industry Education and NSPF also will present the Certified Aquatic Energy Auditor introduction seminar.

In addition, programs will be presented by Genesis 3 and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals.

Hanley Wood also is set to debut new pool-industry data that will provide information about the performance of key markets this year and prospects for the near future, as well as top pool and spa contractors and profiles of the consumers most likely to purchase pools and spas. The information is compiled by independent research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence and will be presented by Jonathan Smoke, executive director. Each attendee will receive a complimentary summary report from the presentation, which also is sponsored by Pool & Spa News.

To allow more time for meeting with exhibitors, the show floor will open an hour earlier this year, at 10 a.m. Organizers also removed the first-morning power panel sessions to accommodate the change in Expo hours.

The first day of the exhibits will be highlighted by a visit from swimmer Michael Phelps, history’s most decorated Olympian, with 22 medals. He is expected to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, after which he will spend a short time at the Master Spas booth.

Attendees can relax at Tuesday night’s welcome party, which will take place at Mardi Gras World. The venue features work by the Blaine Kern Studios, which is responsible for many of the floats in New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras parade. Besides floats, the popular facility also has sculptures and props on display, which attendees can view while enjoying hors d’oeuvres, drinks and music.

“We are incredibly excited,” Roberts said. “It’s been a long time since you really felt like people are excited about the industry they’re in, and excited to move forward.”

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