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Many wellbeing teachers dream of taking groups of motivated students on a retreat, and it’s easy to see the appeal. Just imagine the possibilities for self-growth and exploration if you could immerse yourself fully in your practice, inspired by the positive energy all around among like-minded individuals. As a teacher, you could give so much more – and hosting a retreat in a beautiful foreign location could be a useful extra income stream that combines business and pleasure. So, how do you go about it?
1. Choose your retreat theme
Are you a yoga teacher looking for a experienced group of Ashtanga students to take them to the next level? Will your retreat be a juicing detox, an introduction to raw veganism or the macrobiotic diet?
Are you doing mindfulness meditation? Alternative therapies and healing? Inspiring talks and lectures? Or possibly a combination of different activities, including any or all of the above? Before you get carried away by a dream location, make sure you know what your retreat is all about.
Share your ideas with fellow teachers who are on the same wavelength and who may want to team up with you. Offering yoga and meditation with nutrition and cookery classes, for example, is a tried and tested formula that combines well with massage and hill walking to create a balanced ‘wellness’ holiday package.
2. Choose your retreat location
It’s important to choose a truly inspiring, beautiful location for your holistic retreat. Make it exotic – but not too far to make it impossible (or unaffordable) to get to. Make it luxurious – after all, people will see it as a vacation. And make it relaxing – so everyone can switch off from the nitty gritty of daily life.
Consider the time of year you’re planning to go, as well as the climate. How about a winter or spring break in sunny Spain? A hot summer island retreat in the Balearics or Greek islands? Don’t forget to check flight connections and airport transfer times too.
Once you’ve chosen your country and region, take a look at available accommodation options. Established retreat centres or hotels may be your best bet for larger groups, as they’ll be able to help with organisation and are used to the logistics involved in catering for many people. For smaller groups, a large holiday villa may work exceptionally well – providing the luxury, flexibility and tranquillity to achieve a truly relaxing retreat without any unwanted distractions. If at all possible, visit your chosen place beforehand, so you know exactly what you and your guests can expect.
3. Gauge interest and choose your group
The success of any retreat hangs on getting enough people to come along to make it viable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge group – it all depends on the number of students you’re comfortable with, what subject(s) you are teaching and what makes financial sense. Sometimes it’s best to start off small; a retreat for 5-10 students will have a much more personal and intimate feel to it than a large group of 30-50 people.
As you choose your location, make sure you consider the profile of the people you’re hoping to attract. Are they young and adventurous, or perhaps older yet more affluent?
Ask around among your current students/clients and email your entire contact list to gauge initial interest well in advance of any provisional dates, then follow up nearer the time.
4. Set a price and take bookings
Many wellbeing professionals feel uneasy about charging anything more than modest rates for their services. However, it’s important to remind yourself that organising a group trip is a lot of work and can be expensive, so you need to make sure that you at least break even.
Better still, stretch yourself and price your retreat well – you’ll be offering high quality tuition and mentorship, so in addition to covering your outgoings (and any risks associated with the retreat not being successful) you are entitled to a proper reward for your efforts.
Make sure you take a realistic deposit from each participant as soon as they book (50% is customary), with the remainder payable a week before departure. Add a refund policy if you wish.
The importance of having money clarity cannot be overstated. Decide what is included in the price (e.g. accommodation, tuition, food and drink) and what will be extra (e.g. flights and transfers, extra activities or treatments).
5. Spread the word through marketing
Once all the basic elements of your upcoming retreat are in place, it’s time to really start promoting it. Talk about the retreat at any given opportunity to get people excited about wanting to come along. Create an engaging direct email campaign for your existing network of contact, clients and students.
Use social media platforms and groups to promote your retreat. Have cool posters and flyers designed and share them at your classes, at wellbeing events and with fellow practitioners and alternative health centres. Put them on Facebook and Instagram too.
Encourage people to book via ‘early bird’ rates or discounts for multi-bookings with a friend or partner.
6. Create a programme and timetable
When the retreat starts, it’s a good idea to have a daily timetable to guide your participants and to keep to the same structure every day. Have set times for meals, classes and other activities and schedule them to the most appropriate time of day.
Make sure there is a balance of activity and relaxation, both mentally and physically. While it’s tempting to cram the entire stay full of classes so that no-one gets bored, remember that downtime is also important.
Finally, don’t forget that you’re the host – people are there because of you. Give them your attention, engage and hang out with your students Ask for feedback and be there to provide extra advice, guidance or instruction. It’s what hosting a retreat is all about.
Dakota Murphey is a (BA Hons) Marketing Graduate working as an independent content writer. Marbella’s largest and longest running real estate agent Panorama, were consulted for this article.