There are a number of benefits to be reaped by attending an exhibition the size and scale of Coverings 2001 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, May 21-23. The largest international tile and stone exhibition in the western hemisphere offers attendees the chance to network, forge new relationships and explore new markets, all while taking in the charms of one of America's most eclectic cities and sampling some of the South's more exquisite culinary delights.

The opportunity to be among the first to see the latest products and accessories for the tile and stone industry is hard to pass up. With more than 1,000 exhibitors filling the convention center, it is impossible to feature every new design, accessory and technological advance debuting at the show. Even so, NFT provides a quick look at some of the products making their debut in our special "Coverings 2001 Products" section on page 44.

Attendees will notice a marked difference at this year's event. Breaking from its traditional format, Coverings will take place during three days instead of four. According to Coverings' representatives, the decision by the Board of Governors currently applies only to the 2001 event. Scheduling decisions for future exhibitions will not be made until results and comments from this year's event are compiled.

Because of the change in the show's duration, Vision 2001, Coverings' global conference program, will have new hours. Conferences will begin Sunday, May 20, the day before the exhibition hall opens, offering special seminars targeted directly at specific industry segments. The conferences held during the show's exhibition hours are as diverse as they are informative. Beginning May 21, sessions like "Developing Your Tile Contracting Business," "Warm Solutions to Cold Tile Floors," "Decorative Tile: Hot Stuff for Interiors & Exteriors," and others promise to deliver as much important information as anyone could desire.

Regarded as an integral part of Coverings' success, Vision 2001 has been approved as a registered provider by the American Institute of Architects/Continuing Education System (AIA/CES). This approval results in many of the seminars becoming eligible for AIA-member learning units through the CES program, which emphasizes learning and enabling architects to keep up with current trends and master new knowledge and skills.

Coverings 2001 promises to again lead the way for the exhibition, education and promotion of ceramic tile and natural stone. Add the cultural and traditional flavors of New Orleans to the mix, and out comes the recipe for success.