Despite a down economy, attendance was strong for the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show.

The event was held Jan. 26-28 at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center.

A total of 11,324 attendees and exhibitors were on hand, up slightly from 2009, according to the Northeast Spa & Pool Association. Exhibiting companies numbered 403. The 75 seminars were well-attended, with 568 in the classrooms on Monday and 2,007 on Tuesday.

“The numbers looked great this year, and that’s obviously good for our industry,” said show manager Trish McCormick. “People are coming to the show, and that means they are out there doing business and confident that things are turning around.”

Rich Sedell, Northeast sales representative for Paramount Pool & Spa Systems of Chandler, Ariz., agreed: “The show was very good. ... Traffic was similar Tuesday and Wednesday to past years, and the last day is never busy. It’s been a strong show for us, and I think people have gotten a lot out of it.”

Indeed, the trend this year was toward more companies attending, but bringing fewer employees. “The buzz was that exhibitors were happy with attendance because the decision-makers were there,” McCormick said.

In a somewhat surprising development, the number of spa exhibitors was up this year — more than 30 compared with 20 last year. McCormick wasn’t sure why, but suggested that in a slow economy, spas are not as expensive as some home improvements — and “there’s that whole cocooning and ‘staycation’ thing going on out there. And spas are great for family fun.”

Returning for the third year was the Commercial Exhibit Venue. The 14 exhibitors displayed, among other things, VGBA-compliant products and SVRS’s. Larry Benz, national sales manager at Lawson Aquatic in Naples, Fla., said his firm has recently begun distributing VGBA products, and called the venue “invaluable.”

On the show’s education side, the all-day Technical Forum on leak detection, led by Lance Anderson, drew a crowd of 100, plus another 75 watching in a separate room via video remote. Other popular courses

included tile installation, heater troubleshooting, leak detection basics and intermediate water chemistry.

Attendee Keith Herbert enjoyed the 2010 event for a couple of reasons. “I come every year,” said the owner of Cozy Pools, Spas & Hearth in Mt. Airy, Md. “I like to see the new technology; that’s my main reason for coming. And I like the classes.”

Though the emphasis is on exhibits and seminars, organizers included activities such as the welcome party at the Tropicana Casino & Resort. And the first-ever silent auction featured more than 125 items, from pool and spa merchandise to tickets for two to anywhere in the continental United States. More than $34,000 was raised for the NESPA Foundation for the Advancement of Education and Professionalism.

The show will return to the Atlantic City Convention Center Jan. 25-27, 2011. McCormick said one change is already being planned, based on feedback from this year’s show. Exhibit hours will be 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Typically, it’s noon to 6 p.m.) “For 29 years, there’s been no overlap with classes, so we’ll have to figure this out,” she said.

Rebecca Robledo contributed to this story.