Episode 36: How to Host a Fitness or Yoga Retreat with Marisa Merliss

Marisa Merliss

What’s the most beautiful backdrop you can imagine to host your fitness or yoga class? What if I told you that you could make this a reality, while also making money?

Marisa Merliss

Fitness Professional

What’s the most beautiful backdrop you can imagine to host your fitness or yoga class? What if I told you that you could make this a reality, while also making money? This week’s guest, Marisa Merliss, will take you through the steps of planning your own fitness-focused getaway, commonly referred to as a retreat.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

Where to hold your retreat

How to market the event

Pro’s and con’s to open and custom retreats

Here’s the Complete List of Tips:

1. Decide what you want to offer and why people should come.

If your product isn’t good, then people won’t want to come. What sets your retreat apart?

2. Picking a Location

Especially if this is your first time, choose a location that has experience hosting a similar event. Saves you time and energy rather than working with a resort that has no fitness equipment, space, or experience. Also keep in mind that there are many resorts that don’t require a deposit, which is very beneficial to you and your planning period!

3. Itinerary and Class Structure

Start basic on day one. They’re just getting off a long stretch of travel, you may have some new students, and they need a moment to stabilize themselves. What has worked well for Marisa is having more energizing workshops in the morning, recovery workshops in the evening, and structure this around any activities or excursions that you’re doing to make them relatable. Throughout the week, be conscious that people may be sore, but you can start to build the level of difficulty. Keep in mind that people are here for a vacation, a break. Yes, the classes are an important component to this, but they do need their moments to relax. Marisa typically has two classes a day, and a third class is suggested as a bonus optional class.

4. Excursions

Many people come on retreats to have someone do the research and planning for them. This is what is super exciting for people, so it is important to allow people to experience the culture and their new surroundings. However, less is more. Keep in mind that they are quite exhausting for both you and the participants and everyone will need some “me time.” Again, they’re happy to let you do the work, but its always nice to give your participants some autonomy and allow them to plan things that specifically interest them on their own.

5. Extra Planning Tips

– Don’t over feed people. They’re happy to buy some extra snacks that they enjoy eating within the local cuisine, but they’re there to workout and don’t want to head home with extra weight. You can keep it light and they will fill in the gaps if need be. Keep them energized, but not over-fueled.

– Most asked questions pre-booking to be prepared to answer:

How long will it take to fly there? – Easy answer.

What is the itinerary? – Marisa doesn’t normally share this before the event because things often change.

What are the accommodations? Will/Can I have a roommate?

– When choosing a hotel/resort, choose one that has less variety to keep it simpler for the participants when looking to purchase, and also for you when planning the cost.

– Offer survey’s to find out where your clients are interested in going, what experiences they’re looking for, etc. before planning your next retreat. This is really easy to offer at the end of a retreat to get immediate feedback.

Be sure to collect all the necessary information about 2-3 weeks before the retreat such as dietary restrictions, emergency contact, medical history, what excursions do you plan to go

6. Marketing

Marisa recommends personalizing e-mails as MailChimp often gets shoved into peoples’ spam folders. They operate their own website as well. Overall, social media has been very helpful. Facebook is useful among your circle of friends, followers, and regular class participants, but Instagram has been more for initiating new participants. Its very important to have great, high quality pictures to share and use for marketing on future retreats. This makes all the difference, as they can really see the experience, the size of the group, and creates a “FOMO,” which motivates people to want to be apart of a similar opportunity.

For international excursions, she recommends planing 5 months ahead. If it is regional, she normally begins her marketing 2.5-3 months beforehand.

7. Pricing

For some retreats (especially international), Marisa has offered early bird specials. If you sign up X-months ahead (typically 3-4), get $150 off/an extra massage/etc.

Find the base price based on their accommodations, food, round trip airport transfer (applicable within a certain timeline), excursions, and the teacher’s (your) expenses (flights, accommodations, food, airport transfer, marketing, insurance) based on a minimum amount of people. From there, add on a profit margin to cover the cost of your teaching and planning. Often, additional costs come up and this profit margin may have to decrease – so plan for this.

Have people put down an initial deposit. From there, you can offer payment plans that align with your payment schedule to the resorts. If you have a payment due July 15, then the participants’ payment is due June 30 (keep a cushion in case their payment is late).

8. Insurance

Marisa has domestic insurance, however she has been unable to find international coverage. She has insurance as an instructor and the resorts often have insurance as well, however international event insurance is so expensive that it would make these financially impossible without significantly increasing the price.

9. Open Retreats vs. Custom Retreats

Open Retreats = you’re hosting a retreat and anyone is welcome to come.

Pro’s: More freedom to develop your own program

Con’s: A little risky as people can back out

Custom Retreats = a company or group is hiring you specifically for their clients and their intentions to host a retreat

Pro’s: No marketing, direct hire

Con’s: They have a very specific expecation of what they’re looking for, so just be sure to communicate with them about their interests and what they hope to gain from the retreat as this is for them and you have less freedom.

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