The Resurgence of Retreats: Do They Make Sense For Your Studio?

The pandemic has evolved our society and consumer behavior, including redefining the word “vacation.” Inherently, vacation is always an escape from the routine and everyday schedules—an expense to bring excitement, discovery, Instagrammable photos—and some really fantastic food. But after a few years of solitude and overcoming a stay-at-home mentality during the pandemic, physical and mental wellness and mindfulness are top of mind. Hotels and resorts are looking to tap into the health-conscious travel demand.

Nothing rings more accurate to this uptick in this well-being travel trend than Condé Nast Traveler’s coverage and a recent report stating that 60% of wealthy travelers plan to spend more on travel in 2023. The key driver in their vacation planning? Yep, you guessed it! Wellness. And fitness retreats. 

Fitness retreats have been popular amongst studios and communities for many years. But with the recent resurgence, loosening restrictions, and significant shift in vacation mentality, consumers, clients, studio owners, instructors, and staff are revamping their retreat locations and agendas or are considering hosting one for the very first time. But is a retreat right for your studio—and how can it benefit your business model and community?

“As a studio owner, retreats have given me a new place to utilize my creativity, community-building abilities, and leadership skills. They require a different kind of work and thoughtfulness, but the return can be so rewarding,” says Danielle Barbeau, owner of The River Yoga in Denver. “I love seeing people make intentional time for themselves so that they can return to their loved ones and colleagues feeling nourished, refreshed, and inspired. And I believe that when we take time for ourselves, we do a better job taking care of those around us, which helps us do a better job taking care of our world.” 

One of Danielle’s biggest lessons from hosting yoga retreats is that you must have a clear plan to ensure you can optimize revenue opportunities and not get burnt out.  

If you’re considering planning a retreat to engage with your clients and tap into a new revenue stream, here are a few benefits and pointers you’ll want to consider when putting pen to paper and planning your dream wellness trip!

Diversify studio revenue—and create a profitable plan.

It’s pretty straightforward: Retreats will be an added source of revenue for your studio. But how you price your retreat and where you book can impact your bottom line. Your main goal should be not to lose money. Even though you are doing this for your community, you must be strategic with pricing your retreats high enough to cover expenses while still making a profit. Sometimes this can be a sticky subject for owners and teachers because it might not always feel comfortable selling spots that will actually turn a profit.

The best place to start is by listing out major expenses, including travel, lodging, and activities. Also, consider the time it takes to plan and studio downtown due to the retreat. Add about another 12-15% for additional costs. Doing this exercise should help you estimate how many attendees you need to break even—but remember, you want to make some profit—and will give you a better idea of retreat destination options and time spent there.  

TIP: Ask other studio owners in your community about their percentages and pricing model for past retreats. You might be pleasantly surprised by what your clients are willing to pay for an experience and a studio they love—and an empowering getaway. Still not sure? Send a poll! 

Plane, train, automobile, boat—determine your destination.

Where you decide to host your retreat comes back to cost and profit. If you choose somewhere more exclusive, inherently, your markup per client is going to be higher. Consider your client demographic, schedules, and spending behaviors at your studio. That should speak to your destination, revenue-generating price point, and how long you should make your retreat and time of year (because sometimes more than three nights away is hard for some clients).

If you are new to hosting and leading a retreat, going outside the country can present exciting opportunities and organizational challenges if you’re not a seasoned traveler. Connect with other studio owners about their international destination experiences. Mexico is very popular for yoga retreats, and many big and small resorts offer personalized packages. Trying to start small and gauge interest? Consider planning a retreat within a few hour drive from your studio location with nature as your backdrop. Think desert, beach, mountains, lakes. This eliminates airfare, could be for a shorter or longer period and can reduce costs, making it more realistic for some clients. Plus, you’re supporting local small businesses! 

TIP: Not the best planner, but want to do a retreat? Too many places in the world? The growing popularity of wellness vacations has led to resorts and boutique + spa hotels specializing in retreat options. You can customize the experience for your clients, but take out the extra work!

Create the agenda and market your retreat

Classes are just one part of the agenda at a wellness and fitness retreat. From meal time to nighttime dance parties, it’s important to incorporate your studio culture—and the culture and activities for your chosen destination. You want to give your clients a memorable experience because one of the best parts of a retreat is creating a deeper connection with your community outside of your studio walls! Hiking in Kauai, surfing in Mexico, glamping in Colorado, walking The High Line to get a smoothie at Chelsea Market in New York, adding a local approach to wherever your studio retreat lands adds to the excitement and allure.

Once you’ve decided your destination and agenda (and put that deposit down), it’s time to share with your clients! To effectively market your retreat, think about what your clients want to know, like, is your lead instructor a person they want to spend time with, and are the pricing and benefits clear? Promote via email marketing to your client list, share on social media, publish a banner on your website, use in-studio signage. Talk about it at class check-in. The opportunities to promote your retreat are endless!

TIP: By far, the most significant number of attendees will be clients—and friends and family of clients. A great way to keep your retreat top of mind is by creating an email campaign and an incentive to get your clients to book early. Maybe it’s a discount on the retreat, first pick of accommodations, or a plan promotion. Still, a sense of urgency around your retreat builds the excitement, drives the bookings, and keeps the conversations about the experience going.

At its core, a fitness retreat brings your community together in a healing and life-changing experience, no matter how close or far. They can help build your brand and create curiosity around your studio and future wellness-related adventures!