The annual RCMA Member Survey provides a snapshot of the religious meetings conducted by RCMA's meeting planners. The 2008 picture shows that RCMA members are a force in the meetings industry, as they build on strong relationships with the people, facilities, and communities that provide services for religious events.

The 2008 survey reveals:

  • Attendance at meetings conducted by RCMA members stood at 11.3 million.

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

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

  • The duration of meetings continues to remain stable.

  • The percentage of meeting planners who said that they use venues throughout the U.S. stands at more than 22 percent.

The Numbers

In 2008, 11,387,533 people attended meetings that were conducted by RCMA members. Conventions and conferences accounted for 9.2 million of the total attendees, followed by 530,416 attendees at committee meetings and seminars. Retreats, with 346,404 attendees, and board meetings (118,890) followed.

Of the 13,981 meetings held in 2008, committee and seminars made up a significant portion; RCMA organizations held 4,697 such meetings in 2008. Conventions and conferences ranked second in the number of meetings in 2008, with 3,460, followed by other types of meetings (2,234), and board meetings (2,165).

Downtown Rules

Downtown hotels continue to be the top choice for religious meeting planners: 17.5 percent of the meetings in 2008 were held at downtown hotels. Downtown hotels have led for the past 14 years.

As the second-most-popular option, conference centers continue to be a popular choice for RCMA planners and organizations. In 2008, 16.8 percent of all meetings were held in conference centers.

The third-most-popular meeting facilities, suburban hotels, rose in the percentage of business they received from RCMA planners. Suburban hotels garnered 13.1 percent of the business in 2008, up from 12.8 percent in 2007.

Next, convention/civic centers commanded 11.3 percent of the business.

Camps and retreats continue to be appealing, claiming 11.1 percent of the RCMA business.

In the sixth spot, resort hotels attracted 10.9 percent of the business in 2008.

Airport hotels remained in seventh place, hosting 10.8 percent of the meetings in 2008.

Colleges and universities continue to represent an important alternative for religious meeting planners, with 7.1 percent of the 2008 business. Cruise ships garnered just 1.5 percent of the religious meetings business.

Room Blocks

It was not unusual in 2008 for a religious meeting planner to need 100 to 200 rooms for his or her largest meeting. That category made up 18 percent of the survey, while meetings requiring 10 to 50 rooms came in at 15 percent.

Meetings requiring 50 to 100 rooms were 13 percent of RCMA business. Meetings with 300 to 500 rooms were at 12 percent. Meetings requiring 500 to 1,000 rooms and 200 to 300 rooms also represented 12 percent.

Only 5 percent of meetings needed more than 3,000 sleeping rooms, but those meetings are a significant share of religious-meetings business.

Meeting Sizes

If you are a meeting planner whose largest seating capacity in 2008 was 500 to 1,000, then you are not alone in RCMA. Eighteen percent of respondents said that was their largest meeting of the year.

Seventeen percent of respondents said that 1,000 to 2,500 was their largest seating capacity. Meetings in the 100-300 size also represented 17 percent, followed by 300-500 (16 percent).

At the very high end, 2 percent of those surveyed said that their largest meetings in 2008 required seating for more than 25,000 people.

The survey indicates that when it comes to exhibits and trade shows, a significant majority of religious meetings use them. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed needed exhibit space in 2008, which is a slight increase from 67 percent in 2007.

The member survey for 2008 showed little change in the size of exhibit space needed, with 27 percent of planners needing 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. On the high end, 2 percent of RCMA members said that their largest meeting required 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 7 percent needed more than 50,000 square feet.

Help Wanted

The popularity of catering services continues to be high among RCMA planners. Just a few years ago, only a quarter of the RCMA members surveyed reported using catering and banquet services. In 2008, however, 80 percent used those services.

Audiovisuals, too, are an integral part of religious meetings. RCMA members used AV supplier services at 81 percent of their meetings.

Efficient ground transportation and tours are important to religious meeting planners as well, according to the survey. In 2008, 54 percent of those surveyed said that they used ground transportation and tour services.

Special air rates and ticketing were used by 49 percent of the RCMA members surveyed, while exhibit and decorating services were used by 46 percent of RCMA members surveyed. Forty-three percent of those surveyed made use of car rentals.

Time Well Spent

Again in 2008, 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 2008, a statistic that has held steady for more than 10 years. The survey also seems to indicate that retreats are very important. The length of retreats remains high: 3.4 days in 2008. The length of the average board meeting was 2.3 days in 2008, and the average committee meeting and seminar lasted 2.2 days.

From Sea to Shining Sea

The Midwest continues to be popular for religious meetings, with 19.4 percent of planners reporting that they hold meetings there. The Southeast remains strong in the percentage of planners who chose it, at 15.4 percent in 2008. The Northeast states were used by 13.2 percent of the planners, followed by the Western states at 10.4 percent and South Central at 10.1 percent. The percentage of planners who hold meetings “throughout the USA” was 22.2 percent.

Of those surveyed, 9.3 percent said they hold meetings outside the United States.

Meeting Attendance
Fig. 1
Type of Meeting Total Attendance 2008
Convention/Conference 9,204,732
Board 118,890
Committee/Seminar 530,416
Retreat 346,404
Other 1,187,091
Total 11,387,533
Types of Meeting Facilities Used
Fig. 6
Facility
Downtown Hotel 17.5%
Conference Center 16.8%
Suburban Hotel 13.1%
Convention/Civic Center 11.3%
Camps/Resorts 11.1%
Resort Hotel 10.9%
Airport Hotel 10.8%
College/University 7.1%
Cruise Ship 1.5%