Tampa’s hosting the Religious Conference Management Association's 30th Annual Convention January 29 to February 1, 2002, and according to Norwood Smith, vice president of sales with the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, RCMA’s potential impact should bring some boom times back to the destination. "These meeting planners have the ability to fill our weekends, summer months and holidays—business that is critical to our success," says Smith.

RCMA’s 30th anniversary conference and exposition will bring 1,282 attendees, including 400 meeting planners responsible for selecting sites for future religious meetings and conventions. DeWayne Woodring, CMP, RCMA’s executive director, says that the religious market holds more than twice the number of conventions and meetings than does the entirety of the corporate market. According to a member survey reported in RCMA’s magazine, Religious Conference Manager, members planned 16,335 conferences, meetings, and assemblies with nearly 15 million in attendance.

"Religious organizations have evolved over the years. They are looking for high-tech capabilities, first-rate hotels and world-class attractions. I can not think of a better time to be showcasing Tampa Bay," says Smith.

And Tampa’s looking to greet RCMA in style. The CVB is hosting a pre-convention familiarization tour for 30 of the meeting planners that will showcase area attractions and restaurants such as Canoe Escape on the Hillsborough River, Columbia Restaurant, Duck Tours of Tampa Bay, International Plaza, Old Hyde Park Village, Oystercatchers, Saddlebrook Resort, Samba Room, and WestShore Plaza.

RCMA also provides behind-the-scenes tours for its attendees, in concert with the host city. This year, attendees can learn the inner workings of the Tampa Bay CVB, Hyatt Regency Tampa, Media General, Tampa Convention Center, and Tampa Marriott Waterside. For those who want to tour the destination, options include The Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, a walking tour of Ybor City, and a bus tour of Tampa.

Conference events include the Opening Reception at The Florida Aquarium on Tuesday, January 29; the Opening General Assembly at the Tampa Convention Center and an evening function at Busch Gardens on Wednesday, January 30; and the Closing Banquet at the Tampa Marriott Waterside on Thursday, January 31.

To register for the conference, contact RCMA at (317) 632-1888, or visit http://www.rcmaweb.org.