The annual RCMA Member Survey provides a glimpse of the religious meetings conducted by RCMA's meeting-planner members in 2009. The survey shows:

  • The attendance at meetings conducted by RCMA members was 10.2 million, and the total number of meetings planned was 13,394.

  • Downtown sites continue to be the top choice for religious meeting planners and organizations, hosting 17.5 percent of all religious meetings.

  • Resort hotels grew in popularity as sites for religious meetings.

  • The percentage of meeting planners who use catering services continues to surge. It's now 83 percent, compared to 25 percent 15 years ago.

  • The percentage of meeting planners who said they use venues throughout the United States stands at 23.3 percent.

The Attendance Numbers

In 2009, 10.2 million people attended meetings conducted by RCMA members. The types of meetings are broken out as conventions/conferences, committee/seminars, retreats, and board meetings. Eight million people attended conventions and conferences in 2009. The committee/seminar category had the second-most attendees in 2009 — 507,319.

The retreats category was next with 365,969 attendees. Board meetings had 115,809 attendees.

When looking at the number of meetings held by category, committees and seminars led with 4,577 meetings. Conventions and conferences ranked second with 3,294 meetings, followed by board meetings (2,144), “other” types of meetings (1,815), and retreats (1,564).

Downtown is Tops with Religious Planners

Downtown hotels continue to be the most popular choice for religious meeting planners: 17.5 percent of the meetings in 2009 were held at downtown hotels. Downtown hotels have led for the past 15 years.

As the second-most-popular option, conference centers landed 16.7 percent of all meetings in 2009.

The third-most-popular meeting facilities were suburban hotels, which garnered 12.3 percent of the business in 2009.

Resorts claimed 11.3 percent of religious business. This is a high-water mark for resorts: They drew 11 percent of the business in 2004, 9.7 percent in 1999, and only 6.7 percent in 1994.

Next, convention/civic centers commanded 11.1 percent of the business. Airport hotels tied for sixth place in the ranking with camps and retreats. Each grabbed 10.9 percent of the RCMA business.

Colleges and universities were next, with 7.5 percent of the business. That percentage has remained steady for the past 10 years.

Cruise ships had 1.8 percent of the religious business in 2009.

Room Blocks

It was not unusual in 2009 for a religious meeting planner to need 100 to 200 guest rooms for his or her largest meeting. That category made up 18 percent of the survey. The 100 to 200 category has held the top spot for the last 10 years.

Meetings requiring 10 to 50 rooms came in at 16 percent. Meetings requiring 50 to 100 rooms were 13 percent of RCMA business.

Three categories had 12 percent of the 2009 business: 200 to 300 rooms, 300 to 500 rooms, and 500 to 1,000 rooms.

The largest category, more than 5,000 rooms, has been entrenched at 3 percent for the past 10 years.

Size of Meetings

If you are a meeting planner whose largest seating capacity in 2009 was 1,000 to 2,500, then you have company in RCMA: 18 percent of respondents said it was their largest seating capacity of the year.

Seventeen percent responded that 500 to 1,000 was their largest seating capacity. Meetings in the 100 to 300 and 300 to 500 sizes were tied (15 percent).

At the high end, 2 percent of those surveyed said that their largest meetings in 2009 required seating for more than 25,000 people. That's unchanged from historic RCMA numbers.

The survey indicates that 69 percent of religious meetings use exhibits and trade shows. The member survey showed little change in the amount of exhibit space needed, with 24 percent of planners needing 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. Two percent of RCMA planners said their largest meeting required 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 7 percent needed more than 50,000 square feet.

Types of Suppliers Used for Religious Meetings

Use of supplier services in all categories grew in 2009.

The popularity of catering services continues to climb among RCMA planners. Fifteen years ago, only a quarter of RCMA members surveyed reported using catering and banquet services. In 2009, 83 percent used those services.

The use of audiovisual services continues to grow — 84 percent used AV suppliers in 2009. Back in 1994, only 66 percent of religious planners used AV suppliers.

Ground transportation and tours are important to religious meeting planners, according to the survey. In 2009, 57 percent of those surveyed said they used ground transportation and tour services.

Special air rates and ticketing were used by 53 percent of the RCMA members surveyed, while exhibit and decorating services were used by 49 percent. Forty-four percent of those surveyed made use of car rentals.

Length of 2009 Meetings: Up and Down

The RCMA survey shows that people are willing to spend time attending religious meetings. The average committee meeting and seminar lasted 4.1 days. The average length of conventions and conferences was four days in 2009, a statistic that has held steady for more than 10 years.

The length of retreats remains high at 3.5 days average. The length of the average board meeting was two days.

Where the Meetings are Held

The geographic locations where RCMA planners hold meetings have not changed over the past 10 years. The Midwest continues to be strong, with 17.2 percent of planners reporting that they hold meetings there, followed by the Southeast (15.9 percent), Northeast (13.1 percent), South Central (11.3 percent), and the Western states (10.2 percent)

The percentage of planners who hold meetings “throughout the USA” was 23.3. And 8.9 percent said they hold meetings outside the United States.

Meeting Attendance
Fig. 1

TYPE OF MEETING ATTENDANCE 2008
CONVENTION/CONFERENCE 8,005,190
BOARD 115,809
COMMITTEE/SEMINAR 507,319
RETREAT 365,969
OTHER 1,232,266
TOTAL 10,226,553

Types of Meeting Facilities Used
Fig. 6

FACILITY
DOWNTOWN HOTEL 17.5%
CONFERENCE CENTER 16.7%
SUBURBAN HOTEL 12.3%
RESORT HOTEL 11.3%
CONVENTION/CIVIC CENTER 11.1%
CAMPS/RETREATS 10.9%
AIRPORT HOTEL 10.9%
COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY 7.5%
CRUISE SHIP 1.8%

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