This is especially true now, in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic. As we adjust to a “new normal” in how we approach teaching and travel, both new and veteran yoga retreat leaders need to be especially aware of current realities.
In performing initial due diligence on your venue, you’ll need to dig into COVID-conscious operating procedures – especially those related to hygiene, sanitation, supply chain management, shared spaces, and food service.
Later, as you consider signing a contract, you’ll want to be extra careful to clue in to the “fine print” and negotiate terms wherever possible. There’s enough uncertainty in the world right now -- save yourself from extra headache by ensuring that your contracts and financials are well in order.
And finally, make sure you’re communicating effectively with your partners and participants. This starts with your sales & marketing, sales page copy, booking communications, and retreat terms & conditions. However, it doesn’t end there – you’ll want to stay in touch with both your venue and other vendors, as well as your group members, frequently prior to departure.
Let’s explore each of these essentials a bit further!
1. Make Health & Safety A Top Priority
Before you commit to hosting a yoga retreat, you should feel confident that you can hold space in as safe an environment as possible for your group.
In large part, this means working with vendors and partners (such as retreat centers, caterers, transportation providers, etc.) that have responsible, well-considered operational frameworks in place.
Ask your venue about the hygiene measures they’re implementing for both their guests and employees. For example:
- How are they coordinating food deliveries and managing catering?
- Have they changed their operations to provide more outdoor space and single room accommodations?
- Are there specific guest rules for mask wearing, distancing, maximum occupancy levels?
- What about temperature checks, COVID testing, or similar measures on-site?
2. Pay Extra Close Attention To Your Contracts & Financials
Careful attention to the bottom line is always the cornerstone of a successful yoga retreat, but that’s never been more true than it is at the moment.
At the very beginning of your planning process, you’ll want to put together a budget that comprehensively accounts for your costs -- those that are fixed regardless of the number of participants that ultimately join, as well as those that depend on how many people sign up.
This process goes hand in hand with determining your targeted group size and the participant pricing you plan to offer as you start marketing your retreat.
In addition, you’ll need to carefully scrutinize the contracts you’re signing with your vendors and partners. A few of the most important considerations include the following, though others are laid out in the checklist referenced above:
- What is the minimum deposit you’re required to make when you sign your contract?
- When is the balance of payment(s) due?
- What are the cancellation policies in terms of conditions and timeline?
Given the slowdown in travel due to COVID, you may be in a position to negotiate contractual terms. In addition to lowering deposits, staggering installment payment(s) closer to your arrival date, and providing flexible cancellation policies, retreat venues may be able to provide extras or freebies. Ask about, for example, early / late checkouts, airport transfers, or on-site activities.
3. Be Super Mindful In Your Marketing & Communications
Clear communication goes a long way in terms of instilling trust. As mentioned previously, this starts with the copy you write for sales emails and landing pages, the terms & conditions you build into your participants’ registration process, and the notifications you send out between their initial booking and departure.
Go above and beyond in providing detail on the landing page you’ll use to market your retreat and take your bookings. Consider including things like a detailed daily itinerary, suggested packing list, and all health & safety precautions in place (plus your expectations of your participants in this regard).
Just as you should expect clear, thoughtful contracts from your partners and vendors, you must provide this same attention to detail in drafting your own retreat terms & conditions. These should cover:
- Cancellation policies with specific provisions related to personal illness or travel interruption
- Circumstances in which refunds are possible, whether in cash or as a credit toward a future offering
- Health & safety-related stipulations (disclosure of pre-existing conditions, agreement to your stated policies, and/or required insurance coverage)
Try to anticipate the types of questions you might be asked, and provide this information proactively. It will make you look professional and well-prepared, cut down on email back-and-forth in fielding queries, and build confidence among your participants.
There’s little doubt that your students are eager for the adventure and transformation that a yoga retreat promises. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t want reassurance from you every step of the way.
Only you can decide if and when the timing feels right for you to take a group on a yoga retreat. When you think about the prospect of planning things, you may feel some anxiety, but this should be matched by equal parts of excitement and focus.
A climate of heightened uncertainty and risk means that you will need to be extra diligent in your research, budgeting, and communications. However, it also means that your retreat could represent a wonderful opportunity for your students to reset and regain their equilibrium.
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