Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Industry Briefs
The Smerf Market Is Alive & Well At Unique Venues
From a Government Agency to a Clown School, Things Are Looking Up in the Smerf Market
In a year when many meeting venues are turning to the SMERF market (Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal) out of necessity, Unique Venues is prospering with the niche. Founded in 1986 as a marketing and membership organization for non-traditional meeting venues around the globe, Unique Venues was focused on the specialized and marginalized markets since day one. According to founder and CEO, Michele Nichols, “we continue to take this special niche market very seriously – in both good times and bad. The SMERF market is the reason we got in to this business – to support that segment.”

“While the majority of the meetings industry is experiencing a decline in group meetings” says Nichols, “Unique Venues and its members are enjoying increases in planner visits, requests for proposals and leads.” Nichols reports that all Unique Venues records were broken in January with nearly 2,000 sales leads from every market segment distributed to our member venues throughout the US, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The SMERF market, in particular, has been a very solid market for Unique Venues. Over the course of the recent economic downturn, the majority of their venues (including colleges and universities, retreat centers, historic and cultural venues, and other special event venues) have not had to cut their prices because “they’re already affordably priced,” according to Chuck Salem, Unique Venues’ president. The SMERF market is a market that they actively pursue. It is, says Salem, “our bread and butter.”

The most recent Performance Report from Unique Venues to its members indicates that January visits to the newly re-branded website,, were up 77.64% over last year, while unique visitors were up 79.3%. The report also reveals the highest amount of traffic in January was for venues located in Maryland, New York, California, Illinois, and New Jersey. Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, DC experienced double-digit growth from new visitors while Ontario and British Columbia had 55% more planners searching for venues. UK traffic was up 92% over the previous month.

In recent weeks, Unique Venues has seen inquiries for a two-day retreat from the US Government to a 6,000-roomnight event for a church group in the Midwest to 500 room nights for a clown conference in the Midwest. There has also been a 25% increase in searches for venues for weddings, parties and receptions of every imaginable kind. Unique Venues continues to regard the SMERF market as their strongest segment moving forward. Salem continued, “this market seems to be more ‘out of the woods’ than others in the meetings arena, and Unique Venues is projecting a solid year by continuing to serve this market. We’ve been loyal to them, and they, in turn have been very loyal to us. It’s a good match.”

Unique Venues is a member-based portal of meeting and event venues in the US, Canada, the UK, and Ireland. Founded in 1986, Unique Venues continues to provide meeting planners with an eclectic collection of arenas and stadiums, camps and retreat centers, colleges and universities, conference and business centers, and cultural and historical venues. For additional information, visit the website at: or call (866) 266-6857.