Florida could well be on the road to recovery, with organizers of this year’s Orlando Pool & Spa Show reporting their highest attendance since 2007.

More than 4,000 industry professionals converged on the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center last month, marking a 7 percent increase in attendees and exhibitors from the previous year.

“Everyone’s looking forward to where we’re going — there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Wendy Parker Barsell, executive director of the Florida Swimming Pool Association in Sarasota, Fla., which produced the show.

“Last year people were a little depressed about the economy,” she continued, “but it seems like everyone has accepted it and adjusted their businesses appropriately.”

The show’s educational offerings drew more than 800 attendees, and remained a highlight of the program. Among the most sought-after courses were presentations on pool tile installation, tax tips, and the latest Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for public facilities.

Also popular was a seminar on phosphates and enzymes. “It was a new class, so perhaps it was an example of something people are dealing with every day,” Parker Barsell said. “ It was developed based on feedback we received, and obviously it was needed.” 

On the show floor, several of the 200 exhibitors reported increased foot traffic as well as an overall sense of optimism.

Indeed, much of the trepidation that typified the previous year seemed to have faded away, according to Erik Skarie, vice president of sales at Splash Lights, LLC, in Boynton Beach, Fla.

“Now it looks like people are ready to move forward,” Skarie said. “Certainly there’s an awareness of competitive issues, but there really hasn’t been a single word about businesses hurting badly. Nobody has been griping about the economy. And for us to have a hundred good conversations with qualified customers is great. We had a very positive impression of the show.”

Participants also noted the number of new goods on display. A Product Showcase yielded a three-way tie for Best New Product at the show, as voted on by attendees. Taking top honors were Hardscape Creations’ Pool Scribe coping system; Fusion Pool Products’ LED Underwater / Landscape Lite Collection; and Aladdin Equipment Company’s Service-PRO cartridge.

For Robert Brownlee Jr. and others, the event provided another bit of proof that the Sunshine State may once again be ready to ignite.

“It seemed much busier this year,” said Brownlee, owner of Colonial Pool and Spa in Fort Myers, Fla. “And we’re off to a good start already, so I anticipate it will continue in a positive direction.”