Nothing seems to be able to stop the growth of themarket, a market that has survived and thrived in the post-9/11 era.
The results of the 2002 RCMA Member Survey, an annual study of the RCMA membership, show that religious meetings conducted by RCMA organizations are near historically high levels. This year's survey also indicates:
- Retreat settings continue to climb in popularity as sites for religious meetings.
- Attendees are investing significant amounts of time to attend religious meetings.
- A larger percentage of 2002 meetings were held close to home in regional U.S. locations.
The 2002 survey proves that religious meetings are as important as ever. Religious meetings are vital to attendees and to the people, facilities, and communities that provide services.
One fact jumps out immediately when examining the data from the 2002 RCMA Member Survey: More than 16 million people (16,464,402 to be precise) attended religious meetings held by RCMA organizations in 2002. In 2001, the total was 16,488,229. To place those numbers into historical context, only 4.4 million people attended meetings held by RCMA organizations as recently as 1994. The total number of meetings in 2002 was 14,044.
Committee meetings and seminars make up a significant portion of those meetings. In fact, RCMA organizations held 5,624 such meetings in 2002. Conventions and conferences ranked second in the number of meetings in 2002, with 3,686, followed by board meetings (2,326) and retreats (1,475).
No Retreat for Retreats
The rankings for types of meeting facilities used by RCMA members remained largely unchanged from 2001 to 2002, with one exception: For the second year in a row, camps and retreats gained in popularity (Figure 2).
Camps and retreats have come a long way with RCMA planners, doubling their percentage from eight years ago, when these locations received 5.7 percent of the business. In 2002, camps and retreats claimed 11.8 percent of the RCMA business and moved up in popularity from fifth to fourth.
Downtown hotels continue to be the top choice for meeting planners: 17.3 percent of the meetings in 2002 were held there. In fact, downtown hotels have led the category for the past eight years.
Conference centers, the second most popular option, continue to make gains with RCMA planners and organizations. In 1999, 15.5 percent of all meetings were held in conference centers; that percentage inched up to 15.7 percent in 2000, to 15.9 percent in 2001, and to 16.5 percent in 2002. To put those percentages in context, conference centers were the No. 4 option in 1994, when they garnered only 13.4 percent of meetings. With their focus on meeting-centered, distraction-free gatherings, conference centers are well positioned to meet the needs of the religious meetings market.
The third most popular meeting facilities, suburban hotels, remained steady in the percentage of business they received from RCMA planners. Suburban hotels received 13.5 percent of the business in 2002, an increase from 13.2 percent in 2001. Convention/civic centers ranked fifth in popularity in 2002, but the percentage of meetings held at those venues dropped to 11.3 percent, from 12.1 percent in 2001.
Airport hotels, meanwhile, held steady, remaining in sixth place. Airport hotels hosted 11.1 percent of the meetings in 2002, the same percentage as in 2001.
Resort hotels, the traditional holder of the seventh spot in this ranking, had 10.8 percent of the business in 2002. That's an increase from 9.7 percent in 1999, and more significantly, a big jump from the 6.7 percent of the business that they held in 1994.
Rounding out the list, colleges and universities continue to represent an important alternative for religious meeting planners, with 7.6 percent of the 2002 business.
Lots of Room
It wasn't unusual in 2002 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 300 to 500 rooms were close behind, at 16 percent. Those rankings and percentages are identical to 2001.
Meetings requiring 10 to 50 rooms remained at 10 percent, while meetings needing 50 to 100 rooms edged up slightly, increasing from 14 percent to 15 percent. Meetings requiring 500 to 1,000 rooms remained unchanged at 12 percent.
Only 6 percent of meetings needed more than 3,000 sleeping rooms, but those meetings represent a very significant piece of business. Six percent equals about 900 meetings, and when you consider that these large conventions typically last at least four days, this small percentage represents more than 12 million room nights.
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|Type of Meeting||2002||2001|
|Facility||2002||2001||2002 rank||2001 rank|
Seating for Many
The year 2002 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 their largest meetings in 2002 required seating for more than 25,000 people. That represents a 1 percent increase from 1998.
If you're a meeting planner whose largest seating capacity in 2002 was 1,000 to 2,500, then you have a lot of company in RCMA. A total of 215 respondents (19 percent) said that was their largest meeting of the year. That was the same percentage as the 500 to 1,000 category.
The survey indicates that when it comes to exhibits and trade shows, a significant percentage of religious meeting planners don't use them.
The vast majority, 77 percent, of those surveyed said that they didn't use exhibit space or that their needs didn't exceed 10,000 square feet. Thirty-one percent did not hold exhibits or trade shows in 2002. That's up from 30 percent in 2001.
The member survey for 2002 showed little change in the size of exhibit space needed, although it is interesting to note on the high end that 5 percent of RCMA members said their largest meeting required 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Time for Food
The popularity of catering services has never been higher with RCMA planners. Consider this: Just a few years ago, only a quarter of the RCMA members who were surveyed reported using catering and banquet services. In 2002, however, 80 percent said they used those services, a 5 percent increase from 2000 and a 9 percent jump from 1999 (Figure 6).
Audiovisuals, too, have become a common tool for religious meetings. Members used AV supplier services at 83 percent of their meetings, which is up from 65.8 percent in 1994.
The importance of efficient ground transportation and tours continues to be important to religious meeting planners as well, according to the survey. In 2002, 58 percent of those surveyed said that they used ground transportation and tour services, the same percentage as 2001.
And for making a stylish presentation, exhibit and decorating services were used by 49 percent of RCMA members surveyed in 2002, which is a 2 percent increase from 2000.
Rounding out the category, the use of car rentals and airline ticketing and tour arrangement decreased slightly in 2002.
Year after year, the RCMA survey shows that people are willing to dedicate a significant amount of their time to attending religious meetings (Figure 7). This probably speaks to the recognition that religious meetings are important sources of renewal for attendees, perhaps more vital than ever.
The average length of conventions and conferences was 4.1 days in 2002, very close to the 4.2 days reported in 2001. (The average length of such meetings in 1994 was four days.) The survey also seems to indicate that retreats are an important opportunity for reflection and renewal. The length of retreats remains high — 3.3 days in 2002.
The length of board meetings increased slightly, to 2.6 days in 2002 from 2.5 days in 2001, while the average committee meeting and seminar trimmed its length slightly to 2.3 days, down from 2.4 days in 2001.
Closer to Home
It should come as no surprise in a post-9/11 world that the percentage of religious meetings held overseas continued to decrease in 2002. Overseas meetings have slipped from 8.6 percent of the meetings in 2000 to 8.1 percent in 2002. Prior to 2001, international meetings had been on the rise.
In response to the cutback in international meetings, the percentage of meetings held at “national” locations bounced back in 2002. In 2002, 22.9 percent of the meetings were held throughout the United States. That compares to 22 percent for 2001.
The majority of RCMA organizations still plan their meetings for the same region each year, giving religious meeting planners the opportunity to build strong relationships with people they know at CVBs and in the hospitality industry.
The Midwest continues to host the most religious meetings, with 17.1 percent of meetings being held there. The Southeast remains strong in its percentage of religious meetings, at 16.2 percent in 2002. The Northeast states come in third, hosting 12.6 percent of the meetings, followed by the Western states at 12.4 percent and the South Central region at 10.7 percent.