At this year's Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, the debate continued - air or jetted tubs? Where is the industry headed?

MTI Whirlpoolsoffers water experiences of all types - deep-soak tubs, exercise spas, foot massagers and even laundry-sink agitators. And while the air bath trend is strong, a new whirlpool-cleansing system from the company have decreased the hazard potential for jetted tubs and opened up the market again. MTI believes both air and jets have their place. Director of Marketing Michael Kornowa even suggests installing both types.

Kornowa suggests that air holes be positioned at the bottom of the tub, so bubbles come up through and around the body, promoting blood circulation as the tiny bubbles break along the skin.

MAAX has a collection of tubs that includes its Hydromax® jet system, a “true whirlpool” that swirls the water by placing jets opposite each other for circular motion. Backmax® in-line jets offer a full-effect massage eliminating back, neck and muscle pain. On tubs like MAAX's best-selling Palace model, users can customize their own settings. A perimeter air system offers tiny bubbles as an option, too. An Air Massage valve and hygiene system ensures watertightness and cleanliness.

TOTO USA has always committed to air baths, as hygiene is of paramount importance, says Lenora Campos, TOTO's public relations manager. Its tubs are hermetically sealed so no water can seep out. Tubs such as TOTO's Nexus™ Air Bath are deep bathing wells made of cast-acrylic for durability and slip-resistance. With quiet blowers and simple design, the style is minimal but luxurious. A final purge/drying cycle cleans each of the 16 air holes, and the individualized check valve system allows the bather to use soaps, bath oils, salts, etc., without harming the performance of the air system.

Jacuzzi has rebuilt some of its product line to meet the changing needs of consumers. Recent research shows that people want two-person tubs and showers (more than one-third take showers together, the study showed). Creating an environment in the bath - a mood and sanctuary - was this company's goal for 2005. The clean, simple lines of air baths lend themselves to the minimalist movement in modern bathrooms, though it's not as therapeutic as a whirlpool. Jacuzzi's new Allusion offers both air and jet as a combination luxury tub. The company also suggests moving body jets vertically in the shower as a way to get the best of both worlds.

Other offerings from Jacuzzi include fiber optics for lighting the tub and shower, instead of the traditional candle. But designing for two may be where the industry is heading.