Are you planning your first retreat but are unsure where to start? Here's our helpful guide of all the things you need to think about to make sure your first retreat is a great success...
Running your first retreat is an incredibly exciting, but often daunting prospect. Here are some key questions to work through to help you feel in control of the whole process.
How long should the retreat be?
In our experience, two or three nights is the optimal time for retreat guests to be able to escape from their everyday life and have enough time to really decompress and reap the benefits of the retreat. Friday to Monday retreats can be a nice option so there is one complete day where they are not arriving or thinking about packing and leaving.
How much 'downtime' should I factor into the itinerary?
This really depends on what activities and outcomes you are looking to achieve for your guests. We would recommend aiming for a balance between giving people enough to do, but also giving them the flexibility to relax in a hammock with a good book if they want to. You could also consider making some activities optional, or running two sessions for 'early risers' or 'lie ins' so your guests don't feel shoe-horned into a fixed itinerary which may not fit with their own personal rhythms and routines.
What do I do if guests don't want to share a tent with anyone else?
Depending on the nature of your retreat, you may wish to gently encourage your guests to step out of their comfort zone to a share safe space with others. If they would prefer to have their own space to retreat to then we typically charge a small surcharge (around £100) for them to have their own tent or bring their own campervan.
What do I do if the weather is bad?
If you are planning outdoor activities as part of the itinerary, it is always a good idea to have a plan B, particularly if you are running your retreat in the UK. We have a covered outdoor space at The Forge which is spacious enough for 16 yoga mats and can be closed up if the weather is particularly bad. Always worth asking your retreat venue what provision they have for poor weather, and also if there are any circumstances under which you may not be able to run your retreat, e.g. high winds.
Should I include additional activities?
This will come down to timing and also how much you are planning to charge. When you start to bring in additional instructors to run different sessions this will obviously drive up the price of the retreat. However, these activities, such as wild swimming or mindful walking, could differentiate you in the market and be a unique selling point, so think seriously about how these could enhance the overall experience.
How do I make sure I have time to decompress during the retreat?
Don't underestimate how much running a retreat will take out of you. Holding space for people over a number of days will be physically and emotionally draining, so much more than an hour's class. Your guests will also likely open up and want to share more as you develop deeper connections during the retreat and they may want to offload on you. Make sure that you build in time to retreat somewhere quiet to recharge your own batteries during the retreat.
Should I include catering and how much does this cost?
The decision about whether to include all or some food or not will largely depend on what price point you are looking for and the type of clientele you are looking to attract. A fully catered retreat can be a great selling point for stressed out people who relish the thought of not having to cook and wash up for a weekend. Eating together can also be an integral part of the whole bonding experience of the retreat. However, some people may want to bring their own food and feel safer and more in control when they are catering for themselves so they don't feel they have to share any dietary requirements or preferences. We have seen various models work well at The Forge, from having groups cook separately and eat together, to having people served waitress style from high end retreat caterers. As a guide we recommend budgeting around £100-150 per person for a 2 night, 3 day retreat, although this will obviously depend on the type and amount of food you are serving. Some retreat caterers give you the option of just providing certain meals so for example £15 for a breakfast or lunch and £20 per person for an evening meal. The price can also vary if you select to have extras such as nibbles and sweet treats for afters.
How can I make sure I make some money?
Now this is the million dollar question (if you pardon the pun!). We recommend creating a spreadsheet clearly outlining the costs of accommodation, food (if you are providing this - see above), additional activities, any welcome treats or gifts, plus, most importantly YOUR TIME. This is not just for the duration of the retreat but also for any prep time and wrap up and recovery afterwards. Then work out roughly how many people you plan to have on the retreat and you can work out what the cost per person will be. You can then add on your margin to come up with the price per person. You should also spend an hour or so researching what other companies are charging for retreats offering a similar experience so that you are not wildly under or over pricing your retreat. Put it out there and if you are getting no interest you may need to reduce the price a bit. We find that there is usually a sweet spot where people feel they are getting value for money and are happy to pay that price. It may take a little tweaking but you will get there in the end.
Do I need special retreat insurance?
We would highly recommend taking out some insurance in addition to your usual day to day insurance as a yoga teacher or equivalent. Under the 2018 Travel Package Regulations, where an individual organises two or more elements of trip which are combined together to form a single event that they sell to clients or the general public they may incur other liabilities as they are considered to be acting as a Tour Operator. This article might help. Also be sure to ask for the terms and conditions of the venue you have booked up front so you can see the cancellation policy if you need to cancel or move the date.
We hope this helps you to think through some of the different elements of organising and running a retreat. If you'd like any more advice or just to chat through ideas we are more than happy to help so please get in touch.