Final numbers from HIMSS

Today, HIMSS released its final registration figures from last month’s annual conference in Chicago:

27,429 total registrants
6% decrease from the 29,177 at HIMSS08 in Orlando
13% increase over the 24,202 at HIMSS07 in New Orleans

12,564 total professional registrants
2.5% decrease from the 12,867 at HIMSS08
19% increase over the 10,523 at HIMSS07

Registration included:
1,388 clinicians
4,567 C-Suite attendees
4,044 healthcare facilities

14% of attendees were not based in the U.S.
38% of attendees were decision makers
37% of attendees were decision influencers
26% of attendees indicated this was their first HIMSS conference

907 exhibiting companies and organizations
4% decrease from the 942 at HIMSS08
2% increase over the 889 at HIMSS07

Obviously, multiple, competing factors were in play here. Clearly, the recession has had an impact on corporate travel for everyone. On the other hand, the fact that health IT is getting a net $19.2 billion from the economic stimulus legislation has energized this whole sector.

Chicago was a change from the normal Sun Belt cities that HIMSS meets in. This year’s conference was moved from February to April to account for the weather, and it still snowed during first day of the conference. Yet, people still got to town. The past two years, snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest played havoc with airline schedules and prevented some people from making it to HIMSS.

Two years ago, New Orleans had its own, unique challenges, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. By February 2007, hotel capacity had rebounded to close to what it was before the 2005 storm, but the city’s population had not. There were fewer flights available to the Crescent City, and, hampered by a labor shortage, hotel services were limited and restaurant waits seemed interminable at times. I imagine some people were scared away by reports of violent crimes against tourists, too.

This came after HIMSS06 drew a then-record 26,000 people to San Diego, creating a serious shortage of hotel rooms. Some people were forced to stay as far away as La Jolla, a good 45 minutes from downtown during rush hour. From what I understand, HIMSS will not be going back to San Diego before that city expands its convention center next decade and, more importantly, builds more downtown hotels.

Next year’s meeting is in Atlanta, which has a large convention center, plenty of flights and thousands of rooms in all price categories, but severe traffic problems and, in my opinion, not enough to do downtown after hours. I guess there is no such thing as a perfect venue.