Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA)

June 27, 2024

Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA)

The Voice of an Enterprise


Education and PHTA advocacy help spur unification within the pool-building industry

Given the recent volatility of the pool and hot tub sector, an association that is in the business corner to ensure growth and clear waters ahead is needed more than ever. Helping to navigate the sector course the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) has continued to play a central role in the industry.

To grow, expand, and succeed, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA)has focused its strategic initiatives on building on the operational momentum gained through its pivots during the pandemic.

At the highest level, leadership has established a clear vision that follows a core set of values and mission that resonates with the workers and consumers of the industry.

On a more practical level, it has aligned its operations with key industry trends and emerging technologies. The organization is also creating a robust framework to support advocacy and improved industry standards.

By doing this, the PHTA seeks to position itself as a thought leader and influencer in the pool and hot tub sector.

To bolster these efforts, the organization prioritizes building strong partnerships and workforce development through an abundance of education and training.

At the end of the day, success for this organization is marked by its thriving, engaged membership base, strong industry presence, and reputation for excellence and innovation.

By empowering builders and educating consumers about the benefits pools offer to one’s lifestyle, as well as the associated safety standards, the narrative about pool ownership has begun to change entirely.

The Birth and Life of the PHTA

The Pool and Hot Tub Alliance is a relatively young organization. This year marks the 5th anniversary of its formation, the result of a fated partnership between two prominent organizations.

In April 2019, a merger between the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) triggered a significant transformation within the pool and spa industry.

This unification birthed the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, a move that consolidated resources and expertise, creating a powerhouse entity dedicated to the industry’s growth and improvement.

As of now, the PHTA boasts around 3,900 corporate members, encompassing manufacturers, distributors, builders, retailers, service professionals, hot tub manufacturers, and commercial pool operators.

The merger brought not only excitement but also challenges and the opportunities to advance that came with overcoming them.

One of the most pressing issues the alliance faced at the time was its need to align its core strategy with a set of principles that made sense for its industry and audience.

“We went through a strategic planning session… and we also talked core values… we’re inclusive, open and transparent, goal-oriented, results-oriented, and visionary. Then we organize ourselves under 3 core principles of educate, advocate, and elevate,” says President and CEO Sabeena Hickman.

Upon assuming the role in September 2019, Hickman’s initial task was to seamlessly integrate two newly merged organizations.

So, she worked closely with the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteer leaders in a comprehensive planning session that focused on defining the organization’s new identity.

Since then, the PHTA has experienced remarkable growth and success. Revenue has doubled, membership has increased by double digits, and several new programs have been launched.

Advancing the Industry through Workforce Development

One notable initiative is the workforce development program, aimed at promoting careers in the pool and spa industry.

The initiative seeks to dispel the misconception that working in this field is merely about being a “pool boy,” highlighting instead the fun, lucrative, and career-oriented opportunities available.

“We want to be the source of truth for the industry. So, we’re starting to gather more research and data for our members which we share every quarter,” Hickman says, explaining how this practice keeps PHTA members up to date on events happening in their industry.

This research-based approach goes both ways as well, as the PHTA has launched accompanying business operations surveys to gather valuable data from members, providing insights into industry trends and benchmarks.

This annual survey, complemented by quarterly five-minute surveys, generates “weather reports” that share key findings and predictions, helping members make informed decisions.

Workforce development is a critical focus for the PHTA, so its efforts also extend beyond its members, recognizing a need to promote the benefits of having a career in the pool industry.

To combat the competitive nature of the labor market, the alliance created a consumer-facing website targeting parents, job seekers, and high school counselors.

This platform provides information about job opportunities, career types, and inspirational stories from industry professionals.

Most notably, the platform also hosts an interactive job board, allowing PHTA members to post job ads for free and reach potential recruits, effectively bridging the gap between the industry and talented individuals considering a career in it.

The alliance has even doubled down on those efforts with an accompanying apprenticeship program for service technicians and builders, approved by the Department of Labor.

“This is rewarding work… there’s so much fulfillment in this field and we wanted to encapsulate that,” Hickman says, explaining that the program was launched to provide structured, on-the-job training and educate people about everything from compensation to culture within the industry.

The Blooming Voice of the Pool Industry

Being one of the alliance’s core principles, education is always a part of the PHTA’s larger strategy, and of course, it does this both internally and externally.

Internally, this means member certification and training, which the alliance has firm standards on. Pre-COVID, getting certified meant going to a trade show or conference to take a course and earn the certification.

However, the pandemic necessitated a shift to e-learning, making education more accessible, and even as a newly formed organization, quickly adapted to the new conditions.

Courses that previously required in-person attendance at trade shows or conferences are now available online. This change has doubled the number of professionals receiving training via the PHTA’s efforts.

Additionally, a partnership with Cornell University offers a cohort learning experience for executive and emerging leaders, further enhancing educational opportunities within the industry.

For certain industries, a critical component of education can also involve advocacy, which is the exact case for the PHTA. The alliance acts as an industry advocate on multiple fronts, spanning both state and national levels.

By organizing Lobby Days, where members meet with policymakers on Capitol Hill to discuss industry issues.

“We work with a federal lobbyist firm that helps us set up appointments… we come up with position papers and train people on what they should expect,” Hickman explains.

So far, the organization has been very successful in addressing regulatory challenges, such as natural gas usage for pool heating and drought-related concerns.  The PHTA’s standards development efforts have also resulted in over 550 state and local code adoptions, ensuring safety and consistency across the industry.

The most impressive development to come out of the alliance’s penchant for advocacy is undoubtedly the work it has done removing the stigma associated with pools.

The “Let’s Pool Together” initiative, for example, successfully advocated against drought-related restrictions by educating stakeholders about the water-efficient nature of pools.

Another standout initiative within the PHTA’s advocacy efforts is “Step Into Swim,” focused on drowning prevention. This initiative raises funds to provide swim lessons in underserved communities, addressing the high rates of childhood drowning among African American and Hispanic populations.

With the support of industry icon and Olympian Rowdy Gaines, this program has grown significantly, raising substantial funds and teaching thousands of children to swim.

“Rowdy joined us in January 2021… this year we’ll raise a million dollars and will give 30,000 children the gift of swimming,” Hickman says, confirming the confidence the alliance has in its projections thanks to Rowdy’s consistency and stellar performance as an advocate.

Alliance Directives on the Horizon

Looking ahead, the industry is poised for continued growth and innovation. The PHTA remains dedicated to its core principles of education, advocacy, and elevation.

Key priorities will continue to focus on expanding its workforce development initiatives, enhancing research capabilities, and furthering educational opportunities.

Additionally, the alliance aims to strengthen its advocacy efforts, ensuring the industry’s voice is heard both locally and nationally with an initiative called “Pool Horizons.”

“We want to tell the stories of the benefits of pools… how it brings communities together. We want to talk about environmental sustainability,” Hickman says, confirming the alliance’s success in enrolling individuals to give the testimonies needed to clear the misconceptions about pool ownership.

The PHTA’s member enrollment, engagement, and retention have all seen a rise in recent years, and it’s thanks to the valuable resources, educational programs, and certification courses the alliance provides to help members enhance their skills and stay competitive.

The formation of PHTA has been a transformative milestone for the pool and spa industry and it’s well-positioned to lead the industry into a future of continued success and growth.

Despite being young, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance has already become the go-to resource for industry knowledge, advocacy, and professional development, ultimately elevating the standards and success of the entire pool and hot tub industry it serves.


Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA)

What: A leading organization in the pool and hot tub industry aiming to position itself as a thought leader in the industry.

Where: National (United States)

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