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26-39 50th ANNIVERSARY:SPN Master pages 15/09/2009 10:22 Page 37
Celebrating 50 years of Swimming Pool News spnfeature
…from hippies to
1982 – Spas and hot tubs continue to
gain wide popularity with consumers.
The National Spa and Pool Institute
reports ‘massive interest in hot tubs’ as
high society
consumers soak in the privacy of their
homes. It claims that this year
approximately 200,000 new families will
add a spa or hot tub to their homes.
When the innovative spa builders sought who wanted a serious stake in the hot tub
out a more portable unit, they knew they industry must not only be competent in 1982 – Innovative spa manufacturers
needed a lightweight substitute for the selling techniques but also technical experts’ incorporated high-tech electronics for
gunite used for in-ground models. insofar as hydro massage and prudent water portable spa use. Solid-state
Manufacturers experimented with chopped treatment was concerned. Showrooms were computerised systems and
glass, epoxy, resin and gelcoat. The advent becoming extremely chic and stylish, rather temperature-control devices entered
of fibreglass altered the industry. like prestige car retail areas, in order to the scene. Additional companies,
A number of spa builders, played a role show off the hot tubs that in turn were providing custom-built controls for spa
in producing viable fibreglass moulds. They becoming more and more sophisticated with manufacturers, came on the market.
coated the fibreglass with a gel coat finish each new model that arrived.
to make the surface less porous. The slightly risqué side of hot tubs has 1984 – The first electronic switch
The 70s and 80’s saw the emergence of reared it’s head on a number of occasions suitable for use in the hot water
manufactured stand alone hot tubs in since the hippies first headed west. industry came out of California.
mainland Europe and across to the United Many of the first spa builders considered
Kingdom. Big names such Arctic, Marquis, the units to be an offshoot of the pools they 1986 – Hot tubs change shape, design
Beachcomber, Hotsprings, Jacuzzi and were accustomed to building. These builders and look and now resemble what we
Catalina were diligently investigating the delivered the hot water and bubbles using know today as a hot tub. But insulation
best ways of achieving sales in Europe. the products they had at hand. is a problem and jets are low tech.
Manufacturers installed pumps, filters, After dealing with heaters that burned
control systems and of course jets, although out and pumps that overtaxed the system 2002 – Virginia Graeme Baker, 7, of
the first spas only had a handful of them. – coupled with increased competition – McLean, Virginia, drowns in a hot tub in
Many of these components were largely manufacturers began offering smaller, a friend’s backyard. The powerful suction
borrowed from the swimming pool industry, more compact equipment. of the tub’s drain had trapped her
down-sized to fit under or around the spa, Hot tub manufacturers incorporated underwater. A simple drain cover could
which when skirted with timber, became self- high-tech electronics for portable spa use. have prevented Virginia Graeme’s death.
contained and known as portable spas. In Solid-state computerised systems and
the race to provide better equipment, Brett temperature-control devices entered the 2002 -BISHTA (British and Irish Spa and
Aqualine introduced in 1977 what would scene. Additional companies, providing Hot Tub Association) is formed as a
later be termed the first “spa pack”, an all-in- custom-built controls for spa governing body for the rapidly growing
one component system that united the manufacturers, soon came on the market. UK hot tub industry.
pump, heater, control, blower and plumbing. Spa manufacturers considered these
Spa side controls brought the unit to the electronic controls, which featured solid- 2005 – The boom years start for hot
next technological level. The controls allowed state components, more efficient and eye- tubs. The market expands at an exciting
the user to adjust the water temperature, catching than previous controls – and many rate on the back on innovation and
circulation, jet action, air blower and spa light hot tub makers incorporated them into consumer demands. In the UK there’s a
with the touch of a button. their products. record number of manufacturers,
Bathers could adjust functions by Acrylic soon became the industry suppliers and sales.
pushing a button that sent short bursts of standard. Today, the major players in the
air through tubing running from the control acrylic industry continue to experiment 2008 – The worldwide recession bites
panel to the spa machinery. with spa surfaces. The firms have modified more deeply than imagined. Hot tub
The UK also had its very own home the hot tub’s colours and textures to create sales in the world’s number one market
grown hot tub and spa manufacturer in the a fashionable product. plummet – as do sales in the UK. The
shape of Spaform formed in 1983. While acrylic surfaces line the majority of whole market contracts.
Retail sales were slow in coming and it portable spas, alternative polymer surfaces
was not until the late 80’s and into the 90’s and soft-sided spas have also forged a 2009 – The top end of the market
that hot tub sales outlets started to make niche in the marketplace. strengthens with luxury products
their mark. Wooden hot tubs can still be promoting the ‘wellness’ theme.
In the main these companies had purchased to this very day – although Innovation, new technology and a
sprung up from their roots as swimming they bear little resemblance to their early slimmer market looks forward more
pool builders and retailers. These were ancestors and have matured into hopefully. The quest for the ultimate
the people with the greatest knowledge of comfortable and stylish tubs. insulation continues.
how to harness and sanitise water when Acrylic hot tubs have evolved into a
used for leisure purposes. Companies home leisure addition that offers almost
from other industries using high pressure bespoke choices for every individual or
salespeople also grabbed a slice of the family requirement. Eminently sociable
action but inexperience in the art of water and utterly sophisticated today’s beauties
chemicalisation and lack of knowledge in can be self cleaning and boast many extras
even basic filtration caused problems for such as TVs, DVDs, surround sound music
both consumers and the burgeoning hot systems, waterfalls and jets that are multi
tub industry and these problems led to the functional to deal with every aspect of
welcome formation of BISHTA (British and hydro-massage.
Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association) in 2002. The era of wellness is now the theme
It became a recognised fact that those for the hot tub’s future. spn
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