The annual RCMA Member Survey provides a picture of religious meetings conducted by RCMA's member meeting planners. A close look at the 2005 survey reveals the following:

  • The number of meetings conducted by RCMA members increased 8.2 percent; it's the third year in a row that the number of meetings reported has shown a big gain.

  • Downtown sites are the top choice for religious meeting planners and organizations, hosting 17 percent of all religious meetings.

  • Resort hotels and camps and retreats continue to grow in popularity as sites for religious meetings.

  • The need for supplier services has never been greater, with increases in the use of audiovisual services, ground transportation/tours, car rentals, and catering.

  • The popularity of international meetings is growing quickly, up to 9.1 percent of meetings in 2005, up from 8.6 percent in 2004.

The 2005 survey proves again that religious meetings are vital to attendees and to the people, facilities, and communities that provide services for religious events.

Big Numbers

RCMA members conducted 17,545 meetings in 2005 (Figure 1). Also in 2005, 12.9 million people attended meetings conducted by RCMA members. To place those numbers into historical context, only 4.3 million people attended meetings held by RCMA organizations as recently as 1995.

Committee meetings and seminars make up a significant portion of those meetings. In fact, RCMA organizations held 6,094 such meetings in 2005. Conventions and conferences ranked second in the number of meetings in 2005, with 4,037, followed by board meetings (2,941), and other types of meetings (2,482).

Going Downtown

Downtown hotels continue to be the top choice for meeting planners: 17.2 percent of the meetings in 2005 were held at downtown hotels. In fact, downtown hotels have led for the past 11 years.

Ranking second, conference centers continue to make gains with RCMA planners and organizations. In 1999, 15.5 percent of all meetings were held in conference centers. That percentage was up to 16.6 percent in 2005. To put those percentages in context, conference centers were the No. 4 option in 1994, when they garnered only 13.4 percent of meetings.

The third-most-popular meeting facilities, suburban hotels, fell slightly in the percentage of business they received from RCMA planners. Suburban hotels garnered 12.7 percent of the business in 2005, down from 13 percent in 2004.

Next, camps and retreats have come a long way with RCMA planners, doubling their percentage from 11 years ago, when these locations received 5.7 percent of the business. In 2005, camps and retreats claimed 11.8 percent of the RCMA business.

Resort hotels attracted 11.6 percent of the business in 2005. That's an increase from 9.7 percent in 1999, and more significantly, a big jump from the 6 percent of the business that they held 10 years ago.

In the sixth spot, convention/civic centers slipped in popularity in 2005; the percentage of meetings held at those venues decreased to 11.3 percent, down from 12 percent in 2004.

Airport hotels remained in seventh place in the ranking. Airport hotels hosted 10.9 percent of the meetings in 2005, up slightly from 10.5 percent in 2004.

Colleges and universities continue to represent an important alternative for religious meeting planners, with 7.9 percent of the 2005 business.

Rooms Needed

It wasn't unusual in 2005 for a religious meeting planner to need 100 to 200 rooms for his or her largest meeting. That category made up 17 percent of the survey (Figure 3), while meetings requiring 50 to 100 rooms were close behind, at 15 percent. Meetings requiring 10 to 50 rooms came in at 13 percent, as did meetings needing 300 to 500 rooms and 500 to 1,000 rooms.

Only 6 percent of meetings needed more than 3,000 sleeping rooms, but those meetings represent a very significant share of business.


The year 2005 was an unchanged year for meeting size, with 54 percent of the largest seating capacities being 50 to 1,000 (Figure 4).

At the upper end, 2 percent of those surveyed said that their largest meetings in 2005 required seating for more than 25,000 people.

If you're a meeting planner whose largest seating capacity in 2005 was 1,000 to 2,500, then you have a lot of company in RCMA. A total of 238 respondents (19 percent) said that was their largest meeting of the year.

The survey indicates that when it comes to exhibits and trade shows, a significant percentage of religious meeting planners do not use exhibits and trade shows. Thirty-three percent did not hold exhibits or trade shows in 2005.

The member survey for 2005 showed little change in the size of exhibit space needed, although it is interesting to note on the high end that 7 percent of RCMA members said their largest meeting required 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Help Wanted

The popularity of catering services continues to be high among RCMA planners (Figure 5). Just a few years ago, only a quarter of RCMA members surveyed reported using catering and banquet services. In 2005, however, 83 percent used those services, an 8 percent increase from 2000 and a 12 percent jump from 1999.

Audiovisuals, too, have become a common sight at religious meetings. RCMA members used AV supplier services at 83 percent of their meetings, up from 65.8 percent in 1994.

Efficient ground transportation and tours continue to be important to religious meeting planners, according to the survey. In 2005, 57 percent of those surveyed said they used ground transportation and tour services.

Exhibit and decorating services were used by 48 percent of RCMA members surveyed in 2005. The use of car rentals was 56 percent, while 46 percent used special air rates and ticketing.

Taking the Time

Year after year, the RCMA survey shows that people are willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to attending religious meetings (Figure 6).

The average length of conventions and conferences was 4.1 days in 2005, a level that has held steady since the early 1990s.

The survey also seems to indicate that retreats are an important piece of the meeting pie. The length of retreats remains high — 3.3 days in 2005.

The length of the average board meeting was 2.5 days in 2005, and the average committee meeting and seminar lasted 2.3 days, unchanged from 2004.

Beyond Borders

Meetings outside the United States represented 9.1 percent of meetings in 2005, an increase from 8.6 percent in 2004.

In regional meetings within the United States, the Midwest continues to hold the most meetings, with 17.3 percent of meetings being held there. The Southeast remains strong in its percentage of religious meetings, at 15.5 percent in 2005.

The Northeast states hosted 12.6 percent of the meetings, followed by the Western states at 12.2 percent and the South Central region at 10.7 percent.

Number of Meetings
Fig. 1

No. of Meetings Reported
Type of Meeting 2004 2005
Convention/Conference 3,797 4,037
Board 2,741 2,941
Committee/Seminar 5,674 6,094
Retreat 1,592 1,991
Other 2,410 2,482
Total 16,214 17,545

Types of Meeting Facilities Used
Fig. 2

Facility 2004 2005 2004 rank 2005 rank
Downtown Hotel 17.4% 17.2% 1 1
Conference Center 16.6% 16.6% 2 2
Suburban Hotel 13.0% 13.0% 3 3
Camps/Retreats 11.6% 11.6% 5 4
Resort Hotel 11.0% 11.0% 6 5
Convention/Civic Center 11.3% 12.0% 4 6
Airport Hotel 10.9% 10.5% 7 7
College/University 7.9% 7.9% 8 8