Group wellness retreats represent a new potential sales vertical for resorts and urban destination properties, but capturing that requires knowing the playing field.
Group sales often is an important revenue stream for resort and urban destination properties, and finding ways to attract new segments is key to growth. Understanding the expanding market for group wellness retreats and innovating on your property’s positioning to attract them is smart business and a great way to boost a property’s group sales numbers.
The Wellness Tourism Association defines a wellness retreat as a “guided, intention-driven, multi-day program with a set or semi-set schedule, and hosted by one or more facilitators. The program may include learning and lifestyle workshops such as meditation and healthy eating, as well as fitness activities such as yoga, nature walks and hiking.”
Many wellness resorts, sanctuaries and clinics are purpose-built to welcome guests for various types of curated or customized wellness journeys and have staff to facilitate each guest’s experience. Increasing in prominence, though, are organized retreats that are run by a fitness leader, yoga or meditation instructor, nutritionist or other specialized facilitator who has no attachment to a particular property and is prepared to shop around for the ideal venue to host their event. While these types of retreat trips might not appeal to everyone, the market is significant.
Anticipating and addressing retreat leaders’ needs is key to converting sales.
Know the playing field
Retreat organizers can be wellness influencers with large Instagram followings, YouTube fitness sensations, self-help gurus, self-published authors or anything in between. What they all have in common is a message and an engaged audience that’s prepared to shell out real money to have a live self-improvement experience with a guide that they know and trust. Some retreat organizers work with third-party companies that act as an intermediary, handling site selection, booking and marketing. Other organizers take more of a do-it-yourself approach, engaging directly with candidate host locations. Most of the steps properties can take to innovate and distinguish themselves are common to both of these paths.
Build attractive, functional spaces
A property that is undergoing a renovation or refresh would be wise to think about the needs of retreat organizers at the design phase. If there’s no one on your design and planning team focused on the business of wellness, there should be. Retreat organizers want more than the typical anonymous meeting room or subdivided ballroom. Outdoor spaces and rooms with natural light are essential. Intuitive, accessible and guest-controlled audiovisual equipment and adequate sound insulation are also important. Separate spaces adjacent to existing fitness/spa/pool facilities to cater to group activities will also attract interest. What’s most important is offering a variety of truly comfortable and memorable multi-purpose spaces that permit privacy and utility, but also do not give organizers the impression that their guests’ experience will be confined exclusively to conference rooms. Don’t be put off by the scope of these suggestions—it’s also possible to audit an existing property to make small-scale yet impactful improvements, and not have to do a full renovation.
Offer customizable, creative F&B options
It’s perhaps stating the obvious, but most wellness retreat organizers will expect a host property to offer a food-and-beverage program that meets the dietary needs of their guests. Predicting the specific demands of every group is impossible, but properties seeking to position themselves to attract group retreat business should be prepared to address common requests. Options for vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo and other preferences are important, but separate, fully built-out menus are not required. Emphasizing flexibility and a willingness to address and accommodate each group’s needs is more important. Making contacts with specialist local caterers and restaurants can help fill gaps in what your property can offer on its own.
Options for experiences to complement retreat activities
Retreat facilitators, of course, will come prepared with their own slate of activities to market to their participants. Properties that offer additional features and ideas to tack on to retreat schedules are seen as a value-add. These can come in the form of additional hotel facilities, but they can also be less expensive and/or programming-intensive options such as walking maps, lawn games and scavenger hunts. Pre-arranged partnerships with local specialized fitness or sports facilities, restaurants, outdoor activity purveyors and cultural institutions can also be marketed to potential retreat organizers as supplements to their planned activities. Also consider shopping your competitors to evaluate how your proposition stacks up.
Make your property’s offer easy to understand and book
To capture retreat business, your sales team cannot be in the position of starting from scratch when a potential retreat organizer calls. Consolidating your property’s selling proposition for retreat business into an easy-to-understand package will go a long way to converting sales. A summary of the retreat hosting offer can be used as a separate section on your website and/or as sales collateral to quickly send in response to sales inquiries. Also, consider appointing a wellness retreat champion (similar to those assigned to other sales verticals), which will add credibility to sales pitches/responses to potential clients and develop subject matter expertise over time for the property. As with all group sales, if you thoughtfully focus on a segment from design to sales and event execution, you can drive and generate repeat business.
Adam Glickman is the principal of Parallax Hospitality, a trusted partner in bringing memorable hospitality brand concepts to life. With over 20 years in the hospitality industry, he has a passion for creating premium, distinctive and wellness-forward brand concepts and helping non-hospitality companies navigate the complexities of the hotel industry to form partnerships and grow.
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