The annual RCMA Member Survey gives a snapshot of religious meetings conducted by RCMA's meeting planners. The 2006 picture shows that RCMA members are a vigorous, growing force in the meetings industry as they build strong relationships with the people, facilities, and communities that provide services for religious events.

The 2006 survey tells this story:

  • Attendance at meetings conducted by RCMA members increased 13.6 percent, from 12.9 million in 2005 to 14.7 million in 2006.

  • Downtown sites are the top choice for religious meeting planners and organizations, hosting 16.9 percent of all religious meetings.

  • Conference centers continue to grow in popularity as sites for religious meetings.

  • The duration of meetings continues to remain stable.

  • The percentage of meeting planners who said they use venues throughout the U.S. increased to nearly 23 percent.

Big Attendance Numbers

In 2006, more than 14.7 million people attended meetings conducted by RCMA members. To show how much RCMA has grown, 4.4 million people attended meetings held by RCMA organizations as recently as 1994. RCMA members conducted 16,716 meetings in 2006.

Committee meetings and seminars make up a significant portion of those meetings; RCMA organizations held 5,527 such meetings in 2006. Conventions and conferences ranked second in the number of meetings in 2006, with 4,112, followed by other types of meetings (2,708), and board meetings (2,562).

Downtown Remains Popular

Downtown hotels continue to be the top choice for meeting planners: 16.9 percent of the meetings in 2006 were held at downtown hotels. Downtown hotels have led for the past 12 years.

As the second-most-popular option, 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 is up to 16.8 percent in 2006.

The third-most-popular meeting facilities, suburban hotels, fell slightly in the percentage of business they received from RCMA planners. Suburban hotels garnered 12.4 percent of the business in 2006, down from 12.7 percent in 2005.

Next, camps and retreats continue to be very appealing, doubling their percentage from 12 years ago, when these locations received 5.7 percent of the business. In 2006, camps and retreats claimed 11.1 percent of the RCMA business.

In the fourth spot, convention/civic centers rose slightly in popularity in 2006, with 11.6 percent of meetings, up from 11.3 percent in 2005.

Resort hotels attracted 11.3 percent of the business in 2006. That's a decrease from 11.6 percent in 2005.

Airport hotels remained in seventh place in the ranking. Airport hotels hosted 10.4 percent of the meetings in 2006, down slightly from 10.9 percent in 2005.

Colleges and universities continue to represent an important alternative for religious meeting planners, with 7.5 percent of the 2006 business.

Room Blocks

It wasn't unusual in 2006 for a religious meeting planner to need 100 to 200 rooms for his or her largest meeting. That category made up 16 percent of the survey, while meetings requiring 50 to 100 rooms and 300 to 500 rooms were close behind, tied at 14 percent. Meetings requiring 10 to 50 rooms came in at 13 percent. Meetings requiring 500 to 1,000 rooms represented 12 percent.

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

Meeting Sizes

The year 2006 was an unchanged year for meeting size, with 52 percent of the largest seating capacities being 50 to 1,000.

At the upper end, 3 percent of those surveyed said that their largest meetings in 2006 required seating for more than 25,000 people.

If you're a meeting planner whose largest seating capacity in 2006 was 1,000 to 2,500, then you are not alone in RCMA. A total of 238 respondents (20 percent) said that was their largest meeting of the year.

The survey indicates that a significant majority of religious meetings use exhibits and trade shows. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed needed exhibit space in 2006, an increase from 67 percent in 2005.

The member survey for 2006 showed little change in the size of exhibit space needed, although it is noteworthy on the high end that 6 percent of RCMA members said their largest meeting required 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Outside Help

The popularity of catering services continues to be high among RCMA planners. Just a few years ago, only a quarter of RCMA members who responded to the annual survey reported using catering and banquet services. In 2006, however, 82 percent used those services.

Audiovisuals, too, are an integral part of religious meetings. RCMA members used audiovisual supplier services at 84 percent of their meetings, up from 66 percent in the early 1990s.

The importance of efficient ground transportation and tours continues to be important to religious meeting planners, according to the survey. In 2006, 55 percent of those surveyed said that they used ground transportation and tour services.

Exhibit and decorating services were used by 48 percent of RCMA members surveyed in 2006, which was about the same as 2005. The use of car rentals also remain steady, at 56 percent, while 44 percent used special air rates and ticketing, a slight decline from 2005.

Valuable Time

Year after year, the RCMA survey shows that people are willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to attending religious meetings. The average length of conventions and conferences was 4.1 days in 2006, a level that has held steady for more than 10 years. The length of retreats remains high: 3.6 days in 2006, and a slight increase from 2005. The length of the average board meeting was 2.3 days in 2005, and the average committee meeting and seminar lasted 2.2 days, down slightly from 2005.

Where Meetings are Held

The Midwest continues to be popular for religious meetings, with 18.5 percent of planners holding meetings there. The Southeast remains strong in the percentage of planners who choose it, at 15 percent in 2006. The Northeast was used by 12.7 percent of the planners, followed by the Western states at 11.6 percent and South Central at 10.4 percent. The percentage of planners who hold meetings “throughout the USA” was 22.8 percent.

Meetings outside the United States meetings represented 9.1 percent of meetings in 2006, unchanged from 2005.

Meeting Attendance
Fig. 1
Total Attendance
Type of Meeting 2006 2005
Convention/Conference 11,989,870 10,285,181
Board 154,739 153,599
Committee/Seminar 621,207 761,419
Retreat 506,587 523,597
Other 1,474,672 1,251,171
Total 14,747,075 12,974,967
Types of Meeting Facilities Used
Fig. 2
Facility 2006 2005 2006 rank 2005 rank
Downtown Hotel 16.9% 17.2% 1 1
Conference Center 16.8% 16.6% 2 2
Suburban Hotel 12.4% 12.7% 3 3
Convention/Civic Center 11.6% 11.3% 4 6
Resort Hotel 11.3% 11.6% 5 5
Camps/Retreats 11.3% 11.8% 6 4
Airport Hotel 10.4% 10.9% 7 7
College/University 7.5% 7.9% 8 8
Cruise Ship 1.9% 1.6% 9 9