Have you been considering starting a wellness retreat business for a while? There is no better time to do so than now. As consumers are reframing their mindset around wellbeing and are considering self-care as more of a necessity rather than an indulgence, wellness retreats are on the rise.
If you have the skills, ideas, and inspiration to kick-start your business journey but are unsure what the right pathway is, then this guide is for you. In just a few chapters, we will walk you through the key components of planning a wellness retreat. From figuring out your goal to developing your marketing strategy, we will help you set a clear plan and put your mind at ease so that the whole process feels like a retreat to you.
Table of Contents
Understanding the wellness retreat business
The wellness retreat market is currently at its peak, and is projected to keep flourishing in the coming years. According to a recent market research by Technavio, it is expected to increase by USD 427.46 billion from 2022 to 2027, progressing at a CAGR of 7% during the said period.
This presents you with ample opportunities to position yourself within the wellness tourism market and capitalize on the growing need for wellness practices. In return, you will build a community of like-minded people that feels both like home and a heart-centered business to you
But with the popularity of the wellness retreat industry come certain challenges, such as intensified competition, higher consumer demands, and increasing prices for services and suppliers.
In order to thrive, you need to equip yourself with passion that fuels your growth and business acumen that helps you see the next logical step for your business.
It’s best to start your journey with a thorough market research to understand the challenges and opportunities within the market and how to best position yourself. Find out who your competitors are, which destinations they’re operating in, what type of customers they’re attracting, and how they’re performing on the marketing front.
Once you’ve covered the ground-basis, you will be able to look ahead to growth and the opportunity to build a cherished community.
Before Planning: Defining your retreat’s goal, focus and target audience
Once you have a better insight into the wellness retreat business, you can start polishing the idea of how you want your personal business to look like.
Wellness is not a one-size-fits-all concept. There are a variety of retreat formats, destinations, and activities you can focus on. In a world where consumers are seeking unique, personalized, and targeted experiences, it’s important to facilitate a customized retreat program that meets your clients’ needs.
Determine your goal
Having a clear goal will help you stay focused and master your ‘niche’, all while ensuring your mission statement and values are communicated with your customers. In 2023, customers value authenticity, and the more your personal signature is evident in your retreat business and branding, the more of your desired customers you’ll attract.
Sit quietly in meditation and imagine your business flourishing. Think about those “5-year-plan” questions specific to goal-setting. Then, write down what the purpose of establishing your wellness retreat business is. Perhaps you want to foster a community within a specific group of people, develop it as an additional facility to your hospitality business, or generate a side income. Consider your involvement in the business (sole trader, co-founder, investor), how much time and money can you invest in it, and what your return of investment expectations are.
It’s a good idea to write your mission statement, encapsulating your goal, as it will help you with determining your values and the rest of the components of your business.
As an expert in the wellness industry, you may want to think about the questions you get asked the most by your customers. This will help you identify a gap in the market and shape your business goal. You can even run a poll with your social media followers to gauge what your potential clients are interested in and get a clearer idea about your retreat focus.
Which brings us to the next few things to consider at this stage of planning your retreat business:
Define your retreat focus
What is the focus of your retreat business, or your ‘niche’? From yoga and meditation retreats to ‘Wim Hof’ style experiences, there is an array of retreat formats to choose from. The focus of your retreat goes hand-in-hand with your target audience.
Create your user persona profile
Who is your dream consumer? Are you planning on hosting self-discovery solo retreat journeys, dreamy couple retreats, community-centered group retreats, productivity-boosting corporate retreats, or perhaps a combination of all of those? Consider what your consumer’s interests, expectations, demographics, and approach to wellness are and create their user persona profile.
Come up with a unique proposition
What’s your unique proposition? With such a wide array of retreat options available, you need something to make you stand out. You can take any retreat format and elevate it by adding your own signature to the mix. Perhaps you want to pass on the art of sustainability by sharing DIY eco-friendly tips at your eco village fusing a resort experience with practical skills? Or, your retreat is located in the Amazon forest where you have formed connections with a local tribe and are offering a connection with the ancient roots of the land in liaison with the tribal community?
Once you are able to answer those questions, you will have a clearer idea about how you want your retreat business to look like. The more specific you are in terms of determining your goal, focus, and target audience, the easier it will be for you to plan and market your retreat.
Choosing the perfect retreat location
You can decide to host your retreat locally or at another destination abroad. Each has its pros and cons. Organizing your retreat locally means you have greater accessibility and perhaps an already established network of potential clients, suppliers, and specialist support, particularly if you’re already involved in the wellness and hospitality sector. Nevertheless, your local destination might not be able to provide the climate or atmosphere you’re looking for in your desired retreat. That’s when you need to broaden your search for the perfect location.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your ideal retreat location:
Depending on the type of retreat you want to host, climate is of vital importance. A surf retreat would require more exotic weather conditions that predispose retreat-goers to indulge in energy-boosting activities followed by a peaceful relaxation. Alternatively, a hiking retreat will need to be nestled in a beautiful mountain with lots of hiking trails.
Accessibility for both you and your residents is also important. A remote island would likely necessitate the use of air transport and perhaps a boat, making it more costly and difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, if connecting with a local tribe or providing a ‘survivalist’ type of retreat experience is a part of your unique proposition, then the pros might outweigh the cons.
Vice versa, if you’re hosting a weekend detox retreat for “busy bees”, you’ll be better positioned to look for a retreat location somewhere that’s easily accessible and preferably close to an airport or a big city yet still off the beaten track.
Think about what kind of travel links the location you’re considering has and whether you need to arrange transport on your own. How would that affect your budget, scheduling times, and team?
Your visitors are coming to your resort to experience the whole package: from the retreat activities to the relaxing atmosphere of a retreat center away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Factoring in the ambience of your retreat location will ensure your visitors feel serene, tranquil, and at peace, devouring every moment of their stay.
The first thing they will notice upon arrival is the views and the overall ambience, so make sure you choose a retreat location that’s aligned with the atmosphere you want to recreate. A popular retreat destination might look attractive in the photos, but in reality, it can be overpopulated and create an inauthentic experience. Instead, opt for a location that feels true to your brand.
Selecting the ideal retreat venue
After you’ve selected your retreat location, it’s time to get set on a venue. Similar to planning a wedding, the retreat venue plays a key role in creating the perfect atmosphere and setting the tone of your retreat center.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing your retreat venue:
- Would you like your retreat to have a more luxury or simplistic feel to it? This will be translated in the overall architecture, the interior design, the choice of materials and decorations of the venue.
- What facilities does your retreat need to feature in order to meet the needs of your clients and the type of retreat activities you plan to offer?
- Do you need an outdoor yoga deck or an indoor pool? Perhaps you’d like to have a thermal pool? In that case, is the retreat venue close to a mineral water spring?
- Do you need a kitchen to prepare fresh, homemade meals or are you going to use catering services?
- Would you like to install spa facilities to elevate your guests’ experience?
- A spacious garden can be a nice addition to the serene experience, especially if you put the emphasis on detox foods, local produce, cooking classes, or honing gardening skills.
- Do you need a special room for gatherings, rituals, or meetings?
- What views does your retreat have? They will largely impact the ambience. Is it mountain, sea, panoramic, or garden views you’re offering your visitors?
Finding a suitable retreat venue can take time but it’s also fundamental to your retreat’s success, so don’t hesitate to be picky with it!
Creating a retreat program
Your retreat program is essentially what will drive people to your establishment. This is the fun part of retreat planning! What will a day at your resort look like?
Prepare a timeline of retreat activities
In order to keep things organized and be professional, it’s a good idea to prepare a timeline of retreat activities that you can hand out to newcomers upon their arrival or include in their welcome package.
People come to your retreat with two agendas: to relax in the beautiful surroundings of your venue and benefit from the activities you offer. That’s why it’s important to find the right balance between downtime and action.
Start your daily plan with wake-up and breakfast time, make sure to include lunch breaks, workshops and other retreat activities, and finish off with dinner or a closing ceremony for the day if you want to incorporate such before visitors head to their retreat accommodation. Write down the details. How long will each one take? Where will they take place? Who will teach them?
If you’re hosting a week-long retreat, for example, you might want to include an off-site day for exploration of a nature resort or another landmark in the area that fits with the tone of your retreat. This will be the perfect in-between break.
Although people come to your retreat to rest from their routine, they also like having a schedule to follow, so that they feel like they’re getting the most out of their experience. The more organized you are and are providing value to your clients, the more likely they are to come back and give you a good rating.
Choose the right specialist support and suppliers
Running a retreat is not a one-man show. You’re building a community for outside visitors, but fostering a community within your business will provide you with a strong basis for growing it.
Finding the right team starts by figuring out what you can do best yourself. If you’re a yoga instructor, you will likely be most involved with teaching the sessions. Perhaps management, marketing, or finance are your strengths? Focus on the area where you can be of most help and hire experts in the other fields to help you facilitate a well-organized and quality retreat experience.
From chefs and catering companies to masseuses and sound bath teachers, make a list of the roles you need to fill, and start searching for the people who fit with your mission. It’s important to look at the legalities of hosting certain activities, as some may require you to hire qualified professionals, such as a skilled hiking guide or a diving instructor.
And while you may be focusing on what you do best or providing overall support to the whole team, remember that people value personal and authentic experience. Having you as the one to spark meaningful conversations with your guests will contribute to a more synchronized experience.
Ensuring retreat profitability
Running a retreat business is not only rewarding in terms of creating a platform for healing, wellbeing, and fostering a positive connection with nature, but it can also be a highly profitable business.
Adopting an abundance mindset
One of the key teachings of spirituality is that there is infinite abundance as long as you’re a vibrational match to it. This applies to business too. There are endless opportunities for growth and profit within the wellness industry, and embracing this approach will help you become more resilient and ride the wave of creativity rather than scarcity.
We might have adopted certain limiting beliefs around money, but guess what – running a healing business and earning money from it can go hand in hand. And just like your visitors come to your retreat with the mindset that “health is wealth”, so should you approach your business too.
Developing a financial plan
Alongside having the right mindset, developing a stable financial plan will ensure retreat profitability. It’s important to factor in your expenses to establish a budget and pricing plan that aligns with your values.
Understand fixed and variable costs
Write down all of your retreat planning and running expenses by considering both fixed and variable costs.
Fixed costs do not depend on the level of goods or services you produce and are often recurring. These include your venue rental, your personal costs, and the bottom line you desire to make from each deal.
Variable costs change as the quality of the goods or services your business produces changes, meaning that you have some control over them. These can include meals of guests, salaries and gratuities for staff, retreat activities, and so on.
Calculate break-even and pricing strategies
When you’re pricing your retreat, you have to think of various scenarios. Sometimes, you might not be able to fill all the spots in your retreat, especially when you’re just starting out.
That’s why you need to set your budget and price based on the ‘worst case scenario’. If you can accommodate 20 people at a time and eight people is the lowest number of participants you can expect, calculate how much you would need to charge per person in order to make a profit at your ‘worst case scenario’. This is your break-even rate and will depend on the type of retreat you’re hosting, but the bottom line is that you’re getting paid for the work you’ve put in and deserve. After that, any other amount of attendees higher than your ‘worst case scenario’ will be an increase to your financial reward.
Compare with your competition
The retreat market is very competitive, and there are a lot of successful and not so successful stories out there. You can learn from those, especially when it comes to your pricing strategy.
Take a look at what your competitors are offering, at what price, and most importantly, what their visitors are saying about the experience.
This will help you perform an honest examination of your business model. Are you offering value for money?
Legal considerations for retreats
When starting a wellness retreat business, you want to ensure that you’re following all legal requirements. Each country has its own regulations, so you need to do your research beforehand to avoid paying unnecessary taxes or penalties.
What are the legal requirements for running a retreat
First of all, it’s likely that you will need to register your business and pay tax. Find out which business structure and tax bracket works best for you. This will depend on the number of owners, the size of the business, and how much personal liability you are willing to have. Complying with tax regulations will help you protect your personal assets in case of bankruptcy.
Moreover, you might need to obtain certain licenses or permits to run your retreat business in specific countries. These can include a building permit, healthcare-related permits, or an environmental permit. You may also be required to adhere to certain zoning regulations, such as noise levels, outdoor lighting, or the number of guests you can have.
The importance of insurance
Last but not least, it’s important to get proper insurance that will protect you, your business, and your staff. There are various insurance types that may apply to your business. A General Liability Insurance covers any injuries that may occur at your premises or at your event, and it’s highly advisable to obtain it. A Professional Liability Insurance, or also known as Errors & Omissions Insurance (E&O) in the US, will protect you from negligence claims made by a client and the associated costs of giving incorrect advice or forgetting to tell the client something important that caused harm.
It’s best to speak with a legal professional to ensure you’re fully legally compliant and your business is well-protected.
Creating a memorable brand experience
You have created a solid plan of how you want to realize your wellness retreat business, what your goal is, and who you want to attract to your resort. Now, it’s time to wrap your business idea in a beautiful packaging by giving it a brand identity.
Your branding will help create awareness among the crowd, increase your brand recognition, and make you stand out.
It goes beyond having a nice logo, colors, and fonts. Good branding creates a story around who your brand really is and helps your clients interact with it better. That’s why having a memorable brand name, strong messaging, and a clear tone of voice in line with your values, mission, and the essence of your business is crucial.
Branding will also help you create consistent marketing and advertising content, thus supporting you in spreading the good word about your wellness retreat business and creating an all-round positive brand experience.
Marketing your wellness retreat
Now that you have a clear idea about your retreat, you want to share it with the people who would be interested in joining your experience and start building your community. In order to attract the right kind of people, you need to let your business through the doors of marketing, both online and in-person. Here is how to promote a retreat in the most efficient way.
Establishing your online presence
Nowadays, most of the marketing and advertising is conducted online. We see an Instagram reel about a heavenly retreat in the deep forest, we head to the website of the company, and in a few moments, we’ve booked our sought-after experience in three months. Six months down the line, we receive an email from the same retreat company with an upcoming themed retreat and a 20% discount. Here we are again, jumping on the train to wellness, this time bringing our best friends along on the journey. The cycle repeats.
While there are various sales paths, customers generally follow the same pattern when it comes to making a purchasing decision, especially in the wellness industry. From reading reviews to following influencers to making sure you have some credible information to share in the health & wellness field, they perform a thorough check on you as detectives for the best value for money deal.
Having an established presence across all channels is crucial. It is the presentation of your brand, your voice in the field, and your credibility that will attract new visitors and keep your current ones happy and engaged.
Here are some of the best / most efficient online marketing channels to master for your retreat business:
A wellness retreat website
Your website is your digital business card of today. It’s where you direct potential clients to and the last station before your customers click the “buy” button. That’s why you want it to be as visually-appealing and user-friendly as possible.
You don’t have to use expensive developer services in order to create a quality website. Nowadays, you can use web content management systems such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix with pre-made templates to create simple but effective websites. And no one would be able to tell you’re not a professional when it comes to website building!
Your wellness retreat website should contain an about page, a services page, a contact form, preferably a blog, and a gallery that immerses your website visitors into your retreat experience. Clear and enticing images are incredibly important when operating in the experiential business, perhaps just as important as SEO, but about that, at another time.
Social media is a great space for fostering your community. Think of it not only as an opportunity to promote your retreat and drive sales but also as a platform to showcase your unique, authentic self. Your visitors want to get to know the real you, the you as a brand they can relate to and share the same values with.
Focus on creating personable content, showing behind-the-scenes footage, and engaging your followers with polls and thought-provoking reels content. Decide which channel your desired customers are primarily using, and focus your efforts there. Most likely, it would be Instagram, as it is centered around heavy imagery and community-building features, but Pinterest, Facebook, and TikTok are good platforms too.
While having a blog on your wellness retreat website is definitely recommended, writing guest blog posts in other publications and platforms will enhance your outreach efforts. You will reach a wider audience, establish meaningful connections with other bloggers, and most importantly, increase the SEO value of your own website through backlinks.
Make a list of the publications and blogs you would like to collaborate with and that align with your business and purpose, and reach out to them to see how you can form a mutually beneficial relationship.
One should never underestimate the power of email marketing, and you can start building your email list from the get-go. It’s the channel that will likely allow you the most personalization when it comes to your messaging tactics, which is a driving factor. According to McKinsey’s Next in Personalization 2021 Report, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized communication, and 76% experience frustration when they don’t receive such.
With email marketing, you can address your subscribers by name, offer them custom-tailored offers, and most importantly, target different customer segments depending on which stage of their purchasing journey they are at.
As a start-up, you can significantly benefit from email marketing in terms of building better brand recognition, establishing your reputation, and starting to develop meaningful client relationships and loyalty. In addition to that, it’s one of the most cost-effective digital marketing strategies that’s great to include in your mix.
Using pay-per-click advertising
While putting efforts into your online presence increases organic search traffic, it can often take about six months or longer to see significant results.
As a new retreat business, you want to start sharing the joy of wellness with your customers as soon as possible. / As a new business, your aim is to start attracting visitors to your website and retreat center as soon as possible. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a great way to reach new audiences quickly by targeting a specific customer base and keywords, allowing you to tailor your messaging and showcase your unique proposition.
After you’ve set up an account with a PPC provider such as Google PPC, you can adjust your ads and test different messaging and imagery to see what works best and what type of services might create the biggest hype.
Listings on business directories
Another marketing tool you can use to increase your visibility and traffic is business directories. While some of the directories that might have worked in the past no longer have the same leverage, there are certain free business directories that can be worthwhile.
These include Google My Business, which is linked to Google Maps, Facebook Business Page, Apple Maps, Yell, and various trade bodies. The links you get from them will contribute to a healthy ‘backlink profile’ in line with Google’s standards.
Leveraging personal and business networks
If you’re already in the health & wellness industry, it’s likely that you have an established professional network. From your own customers to business owners you’ve partnered with, these are the people who already trust you and can either be your first clients or recommend you to their own networks.
Make sure you spread the word about your new endeavor and reach out to people who might be interested or willing to recommend you. If you work at a yoga studio, for example, tell your students and business associates about the extension of your practice.
Using testimonials and reviews for credibility
A sure-proof way to increase your credibility in the vast marketing world is through testimonials and reviews. People love having their decision-making process supported by what others have said about your retreat. This increases their trust in you and can easily sway them from considering your retreat to actually booking it.
Make sure you request from your visitors to leave a review after their visit, and soon you will have a portfolio of happy clients worth sharing with your future audiences. You can share the testimonials you receive on your website and social media channels.
Reviews and testimonials can serve as a reflective tool to get an insight into what is working and what isn’t in your business from the perspective of the most important ‘judge’ – your clients.
Being critical about how your retreat is operating and constantly on the lookout for improvement will ensure you’re growing as the industry grows. Be open to feedback and you will see your retreat flourishing.
Running a wellness retreat business is a rewarding and satisfying endeavor. You will meet inspiring people whom you can collaborate with and build a community of like-minded people. With a clear plan, a positive attitude, and a team of people who share your values, you can start your journey into building a mindful business whole-heartedly. Say yes to wellness!