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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
NEW HOT TUB TRADE ASSOCIATION FORMED
By Dan Schechner
November 28, 2008
The hot tub industry has a new trade organization.
The International Hot Tub Association was established in early
November by Andrew Tournas, president of ThermoSpas in Wallingford,
Several other manufacturers are backing the effort.
IHTA was created in response to new government regulations affecting
spas, and association officials hope it will “protect and promote”
“Now more than ever, if we don’t have a group that’s 100 percent
focused on hot tubs, we’ll never have the kind of voice we need in
terms of shaping legislation and protecting the industry,” said
Tournas, who also serves as IHTA president.
“When you have a singular focus, you’re always going to be able to
do it a little better,” he added.
Leading the organization’s charge are representatives from Watkins
Manufacturing, SunStar, Pleatco, Spa Manufacturers Inc. and
The group is open to manufacturers, suppliers and retailers
nationwide, and officials are aiming for aggressive growth,
stateside and internationally, in the coming months.
“Ultimately, my concern is not how well the [IHTA] does; it’s how
the industry as a whole is doing,” Tournas said. “Nobody who joined
this organization did it on their own behalf — they are all
legitimately concerned about the industry.”
However, some industry members questioned the decision to launch a
new trade organization.
In particular, the move comes at a critical time for the Association
of Pool & Spa Professionals, which has been working to garner
support for a broad-based promotional campaign designed to help the
flagging spa industry.
“We really don’t know the motivation behind what [Tournas] is
doing,” said Lauren Stack, APSP’s director of public relations and
industry promotion. “APSP has had great success in dealing with
various agen-cies on hot tub regulations. If [IHTA] is focusing on
protection and advocacy, it’s going to overlap with what we’re
“There’s nothing this new organization can bring to the table that
we don’t already,” she added.
Dues for IHTA’s participating spa manufacturers and suppliers now
stand at $5,000, while companies whose primary product is not hot
tubs are charged $2,500. For their part, retailers are assessed $500
for their first location and $200 for each store thereafter.
Among the group’s stated goals:
• Hire lobbyists to work solely on behalf of the hot tub industry
• Join ANSI to enable unlimited IHTA members to attend their
meetings, present arguments exclusive to the hot tub industry, and
influence ANSI decision-making
• Create proper definitions that differentiate hot tubs from pools
and jetted bathtubs
• Promote standardization of a single energy protocol across all 50
• Reach out to the insurance industry to secure coverage for spas
purchased for medical reasons.
Mike Dunn, vice president of sales and marketing at Vista,
Calif.-based Watkins, said he was contacted by Tournas in early
October. By then, Tournas already had laid the foundation for the
new group and was seeking start-up support.
Dunn envisions IHTA as an independent group working cooperatively
with others in the industry.
“We see this as complementary. It is in no way meant to be
competitive [with APSP],” he said. “What spurred this, I believe,
were all these regulatory issues coming down right now. It’s really
coming at us from all directions. And we liked the premise of what
Andy brought us, which is more focus on protection than promotion.”
Watkins has no plans to abandon its membership in APSP, Dunn added.
“I’d really like to see our group and APSP working together,” he
said. “It’s certainly not an either-or proposition.”
The new group has signed an initial four-month contract with
Visioneering Consultants Inc., an association management company
known for its work with the Florida Swimming Pool Association, the
Genesis 3 Design Group and the National Plasterers Council. Mitch
Brooks, who heads up NPC, also is president of VCI.
As for whether IHTA could co-exist with APSP, Brooks was optimistic.
“We need to come up with a game plan, and I’m sure part of that’s
going to be cooperation and collaboration with the other
associations in the industry,” he said. “That’s just common sense.”
His sentiments were echoed by Jonathan Clark, president/CEO of
Jaccuzi Hot Tubs and Sundance Spas Inc., based in Chino, Calif.
“With the difficult circumstances the industry is facing with a
tough economy, we need to go forward with one voice,” said Clark,
who also serves on the APSP Board of Directors. “I would hope that
IHTA’s mission is aligned with APSP’s for the betterment of the