The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) is the world’s oldest and largest association representing swimming pool, spa and hot tub manufacturers, fabrication agents, builders, designers, distributors, suppliers, installers, retailers and service technicians. PHTA has been serving members and the public with industry knowledge for over half a century. The organization is also the only industry body accredited since 1983 by the American National Standards Institute as the Standards Development Organization recognized for promoting and developing the country’s standards for swimming pools and hot tubs. PHTA President Franceen Gonzales emphasized that the Pool-Spa sector in Turkey has shown a serious development and that the great value given to water in Turkish culture plays an important role in this development. Below is the pleasant interview we had with Gonzales…
Could you tell us about the establishment process of Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA)? What was the purpose of merging the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF)?
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance officially launched April 1, 2019, unifying the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF) and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP).
Unification enabled the two most established and effective organizations serving the aquatics industry to create a more powerful and efficient entity to promote the fun and benefits of being in water, pools and hot tubs, to generate more swimmers, to enhance safety, and to better protect and support the interests of a broad and diverse group of members and stakeholders.
There had been increasing recognition by industry leaders and members alike of the tremendous potential to maximize collective investments for the greater good. After persistent effort, that potential became reality.
Through the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the industry now speaks with a single, united advocacy voice and is positioned to protect the interests of the industry through an unprecedented and expanded network that includes both nationwide and international alliances and relationships.
PHTA members benefit from a full array of education, certification, advocacy, promotion, safety standards development, research, career development, philanthropy, and support services previously delivered by APSP and NSPF separately.
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance is one of the oldest and largest pool associations in the world. What kind of mission does this experience impose on you around the world?
In mid-2020, PHTA unveiled its strategic action plan—the first of its kind for the alliance. This detailed plan clearly defines PHTA’s purpose, mission statement, core values, and pillars, which serve as our foundation and guide as we define priorities and chart PHTA’s pathway into the future.
During this process, PHTA formulated three core pillars: EDUCATE, ADVOCATE, AND ELEVATE. These three pillars focus on education, government relations, professionalism, chapter relations and PHTA’s spiritual purpose.
Our new mission is: The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance protects and advances the common interests of the industry by providing education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our Members’ professionalism, knowledge and profitability.
Our education and certification program, the Certified Pool Operator course, is used worldwide. We hope to continue educating operators of pools and hot tubs no matter where they are. We also have a robust education program for service technicians, designers, builders, and retailers. Everyone in the pool and hot tub industry can benefit from those whether they are PHTA members or not. We are also pursuing relationships with the various organizations that exist in different countries. Partnership allows PHTA to provide support based on the programs we have already invested in such as our education and certification programs as well as the suite of 17 PHTA safety standards.
How do you evaluate the development of the pool, SPA and sauna sector in the world? What is the position of the Turkish pool industry in this evaluation?
I especially love to work in countries where the culture appreciates water recreation. I also recognize there is a great affinity for the water in Turkey through the spectacular pools, spas, and saunas and the culture of health and wellness. We have witnessed one of the largest expansions of the pool and hot tub (spa) business in years, so we are very much interested to see how PHTA can support that continued growth and success around the world, especially countries like Turkey.
Where do you see the pool, spa and sauna industry, which is expressed in billions of dollars in the world, in the upcoming period? Is this industry open to development on a global basis?
The industry in the U.S. experienced 24% overall growth in 2020. We anticipate that this trajectory will continue into 2022. I am seeing the same kind of growth in other parts of the world. As COVID made people stay at home, many invested in their homes by remodeling their backyard or buying homes with a pool, hot tub, or sauna. Yet for many who live in multi-unit housing, pools were not available so there is a pent-up demand once the public pool facilities can reopen. I think families are realizing the value of physical activity and the health benefits of water. Since swimming pools are treated with chlorine, it is perceived to be a very safe activity. As long as the industry can educate and advocate about water recreation being safe, fun, healthy, and sustainable, then we will see continued growth in all sectors.
What kind of path was followed in the growth and development of the swimming pool industry in the USA? What were the mistakes made or the correct steps taken in this process?
The first swimming pool was a public pool built in 1887 in Brookline, Massachusetts and one of the first residential pools built was on the Vanderbilt estate in Asheville, North Carolina in 1895. Back then, pools were built by general contractors, road contractors, concrete contractors, and water treatment plant contractors and were usually made of concrete or concrete blocks. As with any emerging technology, not everything was perfect with those early designs. Technology evolved. New materials were developed, swimming pools became easier to operate, safety devices were put into place, and the quality of the water was improved.
One of the most impactful changes in recent history was the accreditation of PHTA as a standards development organization by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1983. PHTA embarked on developing 17 standards related to the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools and hot tubs in a variety of settings. The PHTA standards are recognized by regulators and our members, as they are a source of technical requirements for pools to be built and used according to a common standard. Representatives from federal agencies, such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), are involved in PHTA’s consensus standard development process. By developing standards within the highly recognized ANSI process, government agencies, consumers and other stakeholder interests are formally addressed.
What would you recommend for countries where the swimming pool sector is still developing?
Make water safety the most important message for all stakeholders in the industry and for owners and users of pools and hot tubs. The World Health Organization recommended that all countries create a Water Safety Plan to help save lives. PHTA is working with a coalition on the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan. Utilize the resources that PHTA has in educating not only those designing, building, and operating pools, but those using pools. PHTA produces safety pamphlets and educational courses and materials.
Create more swimmers: PHTA’s Foundation is focused on funding swimming lessons for under-privileged persons in order to reduce the number of drownings and foster a society that enjoys swimming.
Where possible, implement recognized industry standards, which can be adopted into regulation or can be voluntarily used in facilities. PHTA is the codeveloper of the International Swimming Pool & Spa Code (ISPSC), which is part of the International Building Code. The requirements in this Code includes barrier requirements, the prevention of suction entrapment, and diving area specifications. Each of these areas are important in the prevention of injuries related to pools. Please see APSP-16, APSP-7, which are both referenced in the ISPSC.
Make swimming pools and hot tubs an aspiration and available for families. When pools are beautiful, safe, fun, and healthy, more families will want one. Make it easier for a person to own a swimming pool or hot tub or make sure all persons have access to one and have the opportunity to learn to swim.
Your educational activities are carried out not only locally, but worldwide. Why do you care about these studies?
The stability and growth of the pool and hot tub industry is dependent on the quality of the different stakeholders in the industry. The PHTA education offerings are designed to reach persons in all segments whether operators of commercial pools through the Certified Pool Operator course (CPO) or the GENESIS program that is a university-level education program for designers and builders or our service technician suite of programs.
These educational programs offer employers and employees an opportunity to grow their careers in the pool and hot tub industry. . These programs also have professional certification, which validates the knowledge that is needed to create high-quality designers, builders, operators, and technicians. This in turn supports high public perception of our industry, which fosters growth.
Another silver lining of COVID is that we transitioned our education programs to a virtual platform, which makes them accessible to anyone, anywhere. You can learn more about these programs at www.phta.org.
How did the pandemic period affect the industry? How was this process managed by the industry?
Initially, the industry was uncertain about how we would be impacted. We did not know if our members would be considered essential businesses by the government in order to continue to work. PHTA aligned itself with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as environmental health officials and city and county governments across the United States. We were able to prove that COVID could not be transmitted in properly chlorinated water and we were able to make the argument that existing pool installations, which had not been completed, could be a public safety issue. We did the same for pools in the warmer climates that needed weekly service to maintain water quality. We created a website that provided up-to-date consumer communications, state and local government updates, and reopening guidance – along with a number of resources to help our members communicate effectively to their staff and their customers.
We also launched a consumer site – SplashFacts.org – that helps consumers understand what is truly involved when building a pool.
The industry in the U.S. is booming – with an historic growth of 24% overall in 2020. We are anticipating this to continue into 2022.
Finally, what would you like to say?
I am very proud of the accomplishments of PHTA. The unification of NSPF and APSP brought together passionate board members whom were focused on the success of the industry and in having a spiritual purpose through the mission. We hired our CEO, Sabeena Hickman, and she united and developed a talented team. The education platform is well-established and growing in-person and online with more certifications than ever before. Our advocacy efforts are touching on energy, safety, and labor, which each impact our members. Importantly, we are working to create careers, to create more swimmers, and elevate the public perception of our industry so it can continue to flourish.