Clockwise from top left: Amanda Annis, Maggie Wood, Ashley Wall, Nick Ochtman

Meet the New Leaders of the International Hot Tub Association

Why they love this industry, what challenges we face and new goals to achieve

The International Hot Tub Association, an affiliate organization of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, exists to protect the hot tub industry and increase awareness of the health and wellness benefits of hot tubs.

The IHTA Strategic Leadership Team consists of eleven people representing a range of sectors in the industry. At the beginning of 2024, IHTA welcomed four new members to the team: Amanda Annis of Ohio Pools & Spas, Nick Ochtman of the Jacuzzi Group, Ashley Wall of Fluidra North America and Maggie Wood of Hansen’s Pool & Spa.

When and how did you get started in the hot tub industry?

Amanda Annis: I was pretty much born into it. I’m the third generation in our family business. After university and working a few different jobs, I was in a transition period and deciding what I wanted to do for my future. At that time, my dad needed some help in the business, so he invited me to come back. After about a year, I got more involved in networking with dealers and becoming part of industry groups, and that’s when I fell in love with it. I bought the business from my mom a couple of years ago.

Nick Ochtman: I’ve been with the Jacuzzi Group for about 10 years and have been working in the spa division for close to six years. It was by chance that I got involved in hot tubs. I started in the bath division right out of college and was there for about five years. I was in the National Kitchen and Bath Association, where I learned about what a trade association can do.

Ashley Wall: I started in the industry in 2008 with CMP on a whim. It was a summer job, and then it progressed, and I never left. I was with CMP until 2017, then worked for Waterway Plastics for six years, and I just started a new position with Fluidra North America this March. 

Maggie Wood: I grew up in the industry. My dad started the business in 1982. I started working when I was a teenager, and when I got into my early 20s, I made the choice to stick with it. So, career-wise, I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years. 

What made you want to be part of IHTA leadership?

Amanda: When I learned about the work IHTA has done to protect our industry, I was blown away. They work locally, nationally and even internationally to protect the space we’re in and be able to serve people in the wellness space.

I joined the leadership team mostly out of gratitude for the support that we’ve gotten from them and the IHTA’s history of protecting our industry as a whole. I’m optimistic and excited about the future of our industry, so I would like to give back and do my part serving in any way I can. When I was asked if I would be interested in joining the Strategic Leadership Team, I said absolutely. 

Nick: When I switched to the spa division, my boss was [former IHTA and PHTA board member] Tracine Marroquin. She and I worked closely, so I got to hear about a lot of IHTA’s exciting projects and some of the efforts she was involved with. When she left to pursue other opportunities, it felt like an easy transition.

My experiences with the National Kitchen and Bath Association set the tone where I knew I enjoyed influencing the industry in which you work. Fast-forward to working with [Marroquin], she and the other members of the organization see so much value in IHTA and what it does for the industry. It felt like something I would want to be part of because you can guide rather than follow.

Ashley: I first heard about IHTA three years ago. One of my coworkers at Waterway Plastics was co-chair of the IHTA board at the time. When he left for a different industry, he suggested that I reach out and see if there was a way for me to get involved. 

Being part of the IHTA Strategic Leadership Team is an opportunity for me to learn more about the technical and regulatory side of the industry that, working for a supplier, I wouldn’t otherwise hear about. I’m also excited to help our industry become better and advocate for all the different sectors of the industry. 

Maggie: We’ve been PHTA members for a long time, but I first heard about IHTA through a friend who’s in the industry, Ronak Shah [of Galaxy Home Recreation], who was already on the IHTA Strategic Leadership Team. He invited me to a couple of events, including the IHTA reception at PSP/Deck Expo last year. He asked me if I would ever be interested in joining the leadership team, and I said yes.

I like to be involved as much as I can with the industry. As a person who operates a business, it can be challenging because I can’t spread my time too thin. But the more we can get involvement from people at all levels and sectors — manufacturing, retail, whatever it may be — the better off we all will be. 

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What is the most pressing challenge facing the hot tub industry right now?

Amanda: It’s kind of cliché, but I believe that change is happening faster than it ever has, and change will never be as slow as it is right now. Big picture — there is change in technology, information, the economy, consumer habits, regulations and legislation. Right now is the time we can influence change in one direction or another. We need to continue to protect the wellness of our industry, and that can be done in a lot of different ways, whether it’s through advocacy or education.

Nick: It’s on the innovation side of things. There’s innovation in the retail showroom in terms of how the product is sold. There’s also innovation in terms of how the product is marketed. For decades, it’s been this sea of sameness in terms of how the products look, how they’re marketed and how they’re presented in the retail showroom. It’s important to me with the Jacuzzi Group to try to elevate the brands and share all the great things they’re working on.

We also want to innovate the way we’re marketing and presenting the products. That’s not just something the Jacuzzi Group is doing — that’s something other industry leaders are doing as well. It’s so important because that competition is what’s going to help the industry stride forward.

Ashley: Right now, the most pressing challenge is the saturation of hot tubs in the industry due to a spike in consumer demand during the pandemic. Overseas manufacturers are now importing hot tubs, which is putting a burden on U.S. manufacturers and adding to the competition.

Maggie: One of our biggest challenges as retailers is creating that value for customers. On the retail side, we have always had the challenge of people thinking hot tubs are just a luxury item. It’s starting to come around, though. The mental and physical benefits of regular hot tub use are coming to the forefront, but we still have a lot of work to do. We check in on the people who purchase our hot tubs and ask them how it’s going, and some say they don’t really use it. We continue to encourage customers to regularly use their hot tubs so they can see the many physical and mental health benefits it can bring.

 Another challenge is that over the last four years, there has been such a high demand for our product. Some companies were making hot tubs that were unregulated and sold over the internet. Now customers coming to me are experiencing issues they don’t know how to manage, and they aren’t getting support from the original seller on how to use it or how to properly treat their water. 

What do you hope IHTA will accomplish in the next year?

Amanda: I hope we grow participation and get more retailers involved. IHTA is, by far, the largest organization for our industry, and it is truly international. When we all come together, we can get so much done. It’s amazing for small businesses, manufacturers, suppliers and our consumers and communities. IHTA is here to both protect and grow our industry.

Nick: Growing IHTA membership is uber important. If there aren’t enough members of the organization, it’s not going to succeed. We need involvement not just from industry leaders and great board members but also from retailers, sales associates and marketing professionals — we need that expertise, and we want to offer them access to education and allow them to showcase their work and participate in things like the PHTA International Awards of Excellence.

Participation will help move the industry along — that’s a needle we can move pretty easily if we put the right efforts behind it.

Ashley: Growing awareness for IHTA, increasing the number of members we have and getting more involvement on the supplier side. Raising awareness of upcoming regulations is also very important. We want to advocate for the right aspects of the industry.

Maggie: Raising awareness. There are a lot of retailers that are hot tub only, and they might shy away from PHTA because they think it is pool-focused. But IHTA is here and dedicated to the hot tub industry, and we want to grow our membership.

We also want to put more emphasis on education. IHTA has plans to work with manufacturers and retailers to create more training for retailers, who can in turn create a more educated consumer.

To learn more about IHTA, visit ihta.phta.org.