HIMSS Apparently Pulls Out of Chicago for 2019

TSE STAFF
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Chicago, IL – The Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has apparently pulled out of a commitment to hold its annual conference and exhibition in Chicago in 2019. The group notified Choose Chicago, the city’s convention bureau, in late October that it was having difficulty negotiating with some area hotels on room availability and rates and thus would move its 2019 event to Orlando.

In a written statement to Trade Show Executive, Choose Chicago officials indicated that additional negotiations with HIMSS conducted in an effort to mitigate their concerns had broken down. The statement, sent on behalf of Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh, said:  “Choose Chicago and McCormick Place have exhausted all efforts that are within our control. While we had hoped that HIMSS’ leadership would allow us the opportunity to host its annual conference in Chicago in 2015 and 2019 as originally contracted, we will no longer host HIMSS in 2019. We do not anticipate any challenges in filling this recent opening in Chicago.”

Choose Chicago helps show organizers identify available hotels for their show dates, but, like most CVBs, does not directly get involved with room rate negotiations between organizers and the hotels.

HIMSS cited a room rate clause in effect for the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) as a stumbling block with a few hotels in negotiations for 2019. The clause guarantees RSNA a lower room rate than any other conference in Chicago with at least 10,000 room nights that is held between April and November. RSNA’s event is held in off-peak season – November 30 to December 5, opening three days after Thanksgiving when no other Gold 100 trade show is held anywhere nationwide.  HIMSS’ conference and show is held in prime dates in April.

Karen Malone, HIMSS’ vice president of meeting services, would not respond to calls or emails, but Joyce Lofstrom, senior director of corporate communications, sent this response by email, “We don’t have any information to include at this time.” Visit Orlando declined to say whether HIMSS has contacted them about available dates for its 2019 show. The Orange County Convention Center’s Kathie Canning referred questions to HIMSS.

Steve Drew, assistant executive director of RSNA, said the room rate clause in question was negotiated “many years ago.” The RSNA show will celebrate its 100th anniversary at its event this year. Drew said his understanding is that the special hotel clause came about at a time when the city wanted to book trade show business during the off-peak Thanksgiving holiday period. RSNA was willing to take those dates, and a room rate deal was conceived with hoteliers.

“That has been in place for many years,” Drew said. Today, RSNA operates like every other trade show when it comes to room blocks and rates, he said. “We negotiate a hotel agreement for a certain amount of years and each year go back and (firm up) the deal for the current year, just like every other trade show out there.” “We follow PCMA standards,” he added.

Drew also said that the number of hotel rooms in Chicago hasn’t always kept pace with the growth in RSNA’s attendance, so rising rates sometimes result from simple supply and demand. Currently, about 4,000 new hotel rooms are expected to be available by 2017, which could increase competition between hoteliers for convention business and possibly give show organizers an edge in negotiations.

HIMSS ranked No. 31 among the Gold 100 shows based on 2013 data. The RSNA show ranked No. 33. HIMSS saw a 9.1% growth in attendance to 38,000 and a 5.5% growth in exhibitor numbers to 1,211. The RSNA show drew 54,008 attendees in 2013, up 4.3%, and posted a 2% growth in exhibitors to 662.

It’s not the first time that HIMSS has bolted from Chicago. In 2009, the group left for Las Vegas and said it would not return to Chicago because of the high cost of labor at McCormick Place. Two years later, after changes to work rules and other concessions at McCormick Place, HIMSS announced its 2015 return to the city.

Reach Steve Drew at (630) 571-7879 or sdrew@rsna.org; Don Welsh at (312) 567-8500 or dwelsh@choosechicago.com; Karen Malone at (312) 915-9217 or kmalone@himss.org