Within the space of three months, car wash professionals will have gathered twice in Texas for a convention and tradeshow. At the end of January, the Southwest Car Wash Association held its annual event at its new home in Fort Worth. The International Carwash Association’s The Car Wash Show is scheduled for April 6-8 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Now it’s true that it would be mostly exhibitors doing this Texas two step, though not exclusively so considering the SCWA show drew non-exhibitor attendees from 45 states and three foreign countries.
There is but an eight-year gap between the 1997 San Antonio Show and the last in that city in 2005. After a second absence — this one of 15-year duration — it’s about time the car wash industry’s premier event again puts out the welcome mat in the Lone Star State. Since the San Antonio show in 2005, The Car Wash Show has been to Las Vegas 10 times, Orlando once (2008), Chicago once (2014), and Nashville twice (2016 and 2019).
Whenever the ICA’s show ventures out of Las Vegas, attendance becomes a concern. Following the worst years of 2010 and 2011, attendance at Las Vegas venues was slowly growing. There was, therefore, some skepticism in the ranks when it became known that The Car Wash Show for 2016 was destined for Nashville. It had been 17 years since the car wash community last gathered in Music City USA. The concerns were unfounded. With close to 8,000 registrants, it was the biggest show in 10 years.
In neither 1997 nor 2005 did San Antonio attract Las Vegas-sized crowds, but turnout at each of these events was respectable. Whether it can pull off a Nashville-like coup remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this year the Texas venue can already boast of one record: measuring in excess of 170,000 square feet, the largest exhibit floor in the history of The Car Wash Show. With 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space available, the convention center can easily accommodate the event, and then some. Other facilities include 70 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, and the Lila Cockrell Theater.
Education is again the focus at this year’s show. Of course, every exhibit booth on the show floor presents a learning opportunity. With more than 17 hours available to interact with over 350 exhibitors, attendees will have ample time to gather information on the latest innovations in the industry and have vendors answer their questions.
In addition, the organizers have put together a formidable two-tier education program: premium and basic. The premium program is divided into five categories: Technology, Talent Management, Business Strategy, Marketing, and Fast Lube. This compares to the breakdown of 15 years ago: Conveyor Car Wash, Self-Service Car Wash, Detail, Petroleum/Convenience Store/In-Bay Automatic, and Fast Lube/Oil Change. These car-wash-segment-specific subjects are now addressed in the basic program (to which premium pass holders also have access) under the title Partner Solution Sessions.
Whether you spring for a premium pass or manage with a basic, the organizers have provided ample opportunities for your edification and delight. Nowhere else in the world of car washing can so much be had by so many in so little time. This concentrated car wash experience comes but once a year. Don’t miss it.