More than 9,000 pool and spa professionals gathered in Las Vegas earlier this month to take part in the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5.

At press time, organizers were still tabulating attendance figures, but were optimistic about the numbers.

“We expect attendance to be slightly up, which we’re excited about,” said Lindsay Roberts, IPSPE director at Hanley Wood Exhibitions, which is owned by the parent company of Pool &  Spa News. 

Exhibitors reported brisk traffic, especially during the first two days.

“We saw a lot of people, and our booth was busy,” said Buzz Ghiz, president of Paramount Pool & Spa Systems in Chandler, Ariz. “I think the builders who were there are the ones who are going to survive this [economy] and are looking for new technology and creative ways to help their businesses.”

Attendee Stacy Baqui could see the increase. “It looked like a better turnout than last year,” said the Maui branch manager of Island Pool & Spa Supply, which is headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. “My favorite thing was the fact that there was a lot on energy efficiency and solar. It was also good to see Pentair and Hayward back.”

Exhibitor figures definitely increased compared with last year, with 458 firms showcasing their wares. That was a 5 percent increase from 2009. Floor space also saw growth, rising 12 percent for a total of 122,261 square feet.

“Given the state of the economy, if we can see a growth in exhibitors, square footage and attendance, that’s very exciting,” Roberts said.

This year’s Expo also incorporated more focused exhibit areas, called pavilions, than in the past. The Product Pavilion proved one of the most popular, with more than 60 offerings in a variety of categories. The VGB Pavilion, which featured products and seminars pertaining to the federal pool and spa safety law also saw brisk attendance, organizers said.

The Backyard Living Expo and Genesis 3 Pavilion showed strong traffic as well.

The educational offerings saw plenty of traffic, with a slate of 72 seminars, 48 of which were new to the event.

“I think people were hungry for the information,” said Conference Manager Tracy Beaulieu. “We had some great sessions this year and were so happy that people took away the information they need.”

The Power Panels preceding the Expo opening proved to be a draw as well. This year, organizers expanded the event to four separate panels, with one each targeting an industry sector: builders, retailers, service professionals and hot-tub professionals. Nearly 500 people attended the 75-minute-long sessions, in which industry veterans fielded questions from the audience.

“The panels helped answer a lot of very in-depth questions,” Beaulieu said. “Panelists were representative from all over the country, because everybody has different issues, whether it be different economies or weather. That is the kind of information the industry needs right now.” 

Overall, people reported a more optimistic mood at this year’s event. “There was a good energy about this show, and it seemed a little more positive, enthusiastic and hopeful than last year,” Roberts said.

Next year’s International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo will take place Nov. 2-4, 2011, at the same venue. The conference will begin Oct. 30, 2011.