Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2010

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Page 48 of 68

THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF PLANNING FOR THE RELIGIOUS MARKET where people find strength, solace and fellowship. As you might have guessed, arguably the most popular group of individuals in our industry these days are reli- gious meeting planners. Hoteliers, CVBs and other sup- pliers are looking for a piece of the action to keep their balance sheets above water until a broader economic recovery takes hold. But religious gatherings shouldn’t be a piece of business pursued only in tough economic times. Suppliers should incorporate the religious market in their business paradigm regardless of the economic cli- mate. Need proof? The Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA) 2009 Survey shows attendance at meetings con- ducted by RCMA members was over 10 million that year and rising, with a total of 13,394 meetings planned. These meetings include conventions/conferences, com- mittee/seminars, retreats and board meetings. The RCMA survey revealed some other rather interest- ing findings. Downtown hotels hosted 17.5 percent of all religious meetings. Resort hotels hit an all time high in popularity as sites for religious meetings attracting 11.3 percent of all such gatherings. Other top places for reli- gious meetings; conference centers (the second most popular), suburban hotels, convention/civic centers, air- port hotels, colleges and universities and cruise ships. The percent of meeting planners who use catering serv- ices continues to surge upward with 83 percent of RCMA planners reporting they use such services, compared to 25 percent 15 years ago. The percentage of meeting planners who use venues throughout the United States stands at just over 23 per- cent with nine percent being held outside the U.S. The RCMA survey has great news for suppliers. In addi- BY MICHAEL BENNETT L ooking for a recession proof business? Look no fur- ther than the religious market. This protracted reces- sion and painfully slow recovery has severely weakened the meetings marketplace. As many of you have experienced firsthand, attendance figures and corresponding revenues in the meetings market are down sharply from the heydays we enjoyed during the middle part of this decade. But the religious market is bucking this staggering downward trend. This recession proof segment of the industry held steady even in the wake of September 11, once airlines started carry- ing passengers again and today’s tough eco- nomic environment is no exception. Spirituality and faith guide people through tough times such as these – It’s 48 tion to the catering services mentioned above, 84 percent used audiovisual services. Fifty-seven percent used ground transportation and tour services. Over half were able to negotiate special airfares to their chosen destina- tion and 44 percent used car rental services. And almost half of RCMA members used exhibit and decorating serv- ices. If you divide the country into regions, the Midwest con- tinues to lead the way in religious gatherings at 17.5 percent, followed in order by the Southeast, Northeast, South Central and the West. Only five percent of religious meet- ings need over 3,000 rooms but those destinations that score one of these larger gatherings reap huge financial rewards. As reported in Black Meetings and Tourism’s annual report of top African-American conventions, religious gathering dominate the list. The 104th National Baptist Congress of Christian Education visited Detroit in 2009 using over 24,000 hotel rooms – estimated direct spending was $76 million. The Gospel Music Workshop of Black Meetings & Tourism September/October 2010:

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