Yoga practitioners spend $630 million per year — 11.25 percent of total yoga-related spending — on yoga-based retreats and vacations. The success of yoga retreats has generated interest in multi-day events focused on many other types of fitness activities. More and more people are looking for ways to take their workouts to the next level while enjoying a vacation. Fitness retreats are also popular for people traveling alone, or busy clients who want to just write a check and not have to worry about every detail of their trip.

Fitness devotees aren’t the only ones loving retreats these days. Retreats are a win for studio owners, too. If your retreat is well attended and budgeted right, it can be a far more lucrative three days of classes than at your home studio.

START WITH A PROFITABLE PLAN
The number-one goal of planning a successful fitness retreat is to not lose money. Start by listing the anticipated expenses of your event, such as travel, accommodations, food, excursions, etc. You also must cover the cost of your trip, lost class time, client tuition for the retreat classes and the time you spend organizing. Add 10 percent of that total cost for miscellaneous.

Next, calculate how many clients you need to break even. Once you understand the equation, you can get more specific about planning the location, length of retreat and other varying details.

It can be scary to lay down all the deposits for lodging and services for the trip before you fill the class, but it’s a necessary risk. Most retreats need to be booked six months to a year in advance. Don’t forget to negotiate group rates for all components of the trip. Then you can charge normal rates, and the markup can be a percentage of your profit.

SELECTING THE LOCATION
You can make more money per client with longer fitness events, but they are more work to plan, sell and conduct. Consider your workload and risk versus reward, accordingly. Your markup and per-client profit usually can be larger on a longer, more exotic event. But, the higher the cost can mean fewer people will sign up because less people can afford it. Also keep in mind you will have a bigger turnout for a shorter trip as well.

If you are new to leading a retreat, language barriers, distance and organizational glitches can make planning in faraway, exotic locations challenging. You may want to start out close to home and retreating to a nearby, natural landscape. Within a few hours’ drive of most major metro areas, there are woods, lakes, mountain and desert backdrops that can give clients a feeling of getting far away from the daily grind — without bringing a passport. Participants can drive themselves to the retreat, or you can hire a shuttle service at a relatively low cost. By eliminating the cost of airfare, you open up the retreat to people who may balk at the price of a more exotic getaway.  This also gives you the opportunity to add hikes, mountain biking, kayaking, surfing and other outdoor sports to your agenda.

You may also want to explore a relatively turnkey option. The growing popularity of yoga vacations has given rise to a crop of hotels that specialize in hosting retreats. There are also many spa hotels that have amenities you will need for other types of fitness retreats.

TYPES OF RETREATS
To really sell your retreat, you have to make it clear that you are giving clients an experience they cannot get inside the studio’s walls. For example, instead of planning a general yoga getaway, consider doing a yoga for weight lost or meditative yoga weekend.

Take a holistic approach and plan a wellness education retreat. You may want to partner with a Whole 30 dietician or an organic farm-to-table chef who can teach cooking or nutrition classes. A sports therapist could come in and demonstrate stretching techniques or start each day with a guided morning meditation. By addressing your clients’ total wellness, you are adding value to the time they are committing to spend on the retreat.

  • Detox retreat. Provide two fitness classes per day, spa or wellness services and serve meals or juices from a popular cleanse.
  • Boxing and salsa. By kicking butt by day and kicking up your heels by night, this type of retreat can be a sexy option for fitness-loving couples or a fantastic ladies weekend away.
  • Run-cation: If you find runners respond to your program, create an agenda that will teach effective running techniques to improve speed, endurance and form. You can also include sessions that help running addicts work other parts of their body to increase general fitness levels, like Pilates for runners.
  • Survival Camp: This is a fun way to take your CrossFit or boot camp program to a new location and leverage the landscape and culture to improve your clients’ fitness.
  • Ride Outside: Spin classes become more crowded during the winter months when dedicated cyclists can’t take to the icy streets. Plan a cycling trip to a warm weather destination.

CREATING THE AGENDA
In addition to determining the types and frequency of classes, you will need to plan out nearly every meal, lecture and excursion, along with a few fun, nighttime activities. Incorporate the local culture as much as possible. Add a component of exploration and adventure to give your clients a more memorable experience. The big selling point of a retreat is to get out of the studio. Plan for surf lessons in Puerto Rico, wine tastings in Northern California, a run through Central Park in NYC, rowing in the British countryside or line dancing in Nashville.

MARKETING THE RETREAT
To effectively market your retreat, start by thinking like a client. Here are the four points clients will be considering when deciding to join your retreat or not:

  1. Is the personal trainer someone I want to spend time with on vacation?
  2. Is the location somewhere desirable and easy to get to?
  3. Are there other people like me on the trip?
  4. Will I come home somehow transformed or better?

Because very few people will invest the time and money to go on a retreat with unfamiliar instructors, your client email list will be your best source of leads. Targeted emails and signage around your studio and neighborhood will work much more effectively than a broad marketing campaign. Hopefully, you have been diligent in collecting your clients’ email addresses and getting permission to send them information about studio events. By far the biggest percentage of retreat attendees will be clients and the friends and family of clients who have referred you.

GET IT IN WRITING
You don’t know how much you don’t know when it comes to planning your first retreat. To protect yourself and your studio, call your attorney and insurance company to make sure you are planning this event as risk-free as possible.

You’ll want to create a contract that spells out exactly what each client will get for his or her money. Get as specific as possible about the meals, room and board, fitness sessions, etc. you will be providing in exchange for the cost of a ticket.

WHILE ON RETREAT
It is nearly impossible to teach all of the classes, make sure all your clients are satisfied and cared for, and stay on top of all the logistics. You will want to bring a trusted employee or partner to help you keep things running well while you oversee your clients’ needs. Another option is to hire a travel company. There are many experienced travel companies that can take a lot of logistics off of your plate so you can focus on being with your clients and teaching.

HOME SWEET HOME
Don’t let all the good times and warm feelings you and your clients create stay at the retreat. Keep them going with follow up emails, hashtags and photo sharing sites. Using social media to keep the retreat top of mind is an effective way to keep all the participants connected at home and to promote your next retreat.

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