12 Things to Check before Booking a Retreat Venue

Polly | March 11th, 2023

Choosing the right venue for a retreat can be a challenge, because there are so many different types to choose from. We can compare our dilemma to going to a clothing store to purchase a sweater. We need to know the size, the colour, and the style at least, to have a sporting chance of success!

Yoga Retreat with Emily Ruth at The Farmhouse in Morzine
The Farmhouse

We share our critical checklist after helping other clients find the right venue. Some of these tips are similar to choosing a place to stay for a summer holiday. Although most of them focus on what makes the ideal retreat venue for you, which is the point of this article.

Your decision will be critical to the success of your retreat, but at the same time you don’t want the options to overwhelm you. Without further discussion let’s leap into our 12 steps to check before you decide. Then you’ll have a clearer idea of the boxes to tick, to help YOU ensure a successful retreat!

1. Modest Versus Luxurious Accommodation

The type of accommodation you provide will make a deep impact on your project. In the first instance, it will definitely affect the type of people who sign up for your retreat. But it will also influence how well they feel part of it, and want to engage.

Retreat venue with swimming pool near Geneva
Chalet Brio

But most people are somewhere in the middle. They want a comfortable breakaway where their needs are cared for. The cost of the venue knocks through to the rates you charge, and the number of people who might be potentially interested.

2. Indoor / Outdoor Space for Group Activities

Does your retreat program involve gathering guests to share group activities? Many of these, like yoga, creative arts, and exercising to music are critical to building a team. Outdoors in fresh air is often best, but what about factors like privacy and weather?

Ideally, you want to be able to have a choice of both indoor and outdoor options, so you can take advantage of fine weather, but have a cosy retreat when it chills. Keeping things flexible is important, unless your retreat is in a dry area. You can never be quite sure what will happen, especially in the Alps where there can be four seasons in one day.

3. Conference Rooms for Meetings / Talks

You may like to consider the quality of conference facilities, if you are planning meetings or seminars. Things to consider include quality lighting, comfortable seating, and audio-visual equipment. Here’s a more complete list if this is a critical aspect:

Meeting room and conference venue in Les Gets
Marmotte Hotel

Small details like these can make, or break the flow and success of your retreat.

4. Bonus Amenities for a Special Touch 

You may like to encourage your retreat participants to bond and share, depending on the venue and your over-arching goal. A hot tub, pool, spa, or sauna may add a convivial way to relax and rejuvenate.

Hot tub with mountain views in Morzine
Chalet Debussy

They can be real attention grabbers, as a potential guest dreams of looking at mountain views from a hot tub during sunset. But pay careful attention to the location, if some of your guests prefer peace, solitude and relaxation. Remember, additional features add to the cost.

5. A Quiet Place Simply to Be

A view may make the day, but not the retreat. We can be at peace in the city, provided we have a quiet space for reflection, meditation and introspection. Make sure each guest has a private spot where they can recharge their batteries.

This could be one of several corners they could find to be alone, away from busy chatting. It could also be a shady spot in the garden, or a comfortable chair in their room. Any space could do, as long as they have private time for themselves.

6. Nearby Activities to Liven Things Up

Private peacefulness is a must for every retreat. However, there are times when your guests will thirst for some action. Meet this human need by choosing a location guests can explore during their free time.

Summer Hiking in the French Alps

This could be hiking, biking, or water sports. But it could equally be something quietly inspiring, like a network of wandering streets, or some fine historic building. Ideally, these should be ‘on the doorstep’, although a short drive away would also be fine.

7. A Retreat Should Be an Accessible Location

Your guests will arrive thirsting for an opportunity to chill out, reconstruct, and grow. You don’t want them to turn up so exhausted they take a whole day to recover. Be mindful of this when you choose your retreat. How are they going to get there?

Geneva airport taxi to Morzine - Skiidy Gonzales
Skiidy Gonzales Airport Transfer

Let’s assume for a moment they are going to fly in, or travel by train. What will transit arrangements be like when they arrive at the terminal? How easy (or difficult) will it be for them to find an onward connection? Remember, they may be strangers when they arrive.

8. Food Quality Is a Clincher on a Retreat

Your guests are looking for more than a moment to catch up with themselves, in a special way. They are also hoping for a break from routine, in other words a holiday. While you may prescribe a special diet, that’s no excuse not to have top-quality food. For example:

The quality of the meals can be the discriminator between ‘it was okay’ and ‘I am recommending this to my friends’. Spend time on this one. It matters!

9. Support Staff to Handle Admin Stuff

There are a load of support activities happening in the background during a retreat. Unless you are bringing extra hands with you, you need to make sure help will be there when you arrive. The last thing you want is abandoning your guests to their own devices, while you wash up the dishes and make the beds!

Check carefully before you book your retreat venue. What support will you have in terms of room cleaning, room service, and transportation? Will there be people to clean tables, wash up dishes, and fix things when they break? If these resources are not included, then you need to have a contingency plan:

10. A View to Set the Tone for Your Retreat

Your guests may arrive expecting a great view, especially if you choose a setting in the Alps with a mountain backdrop. These things really matter, so be sure to showcase the environment in your promo material. Great photos can make or break a sale, but they should be genuine.

Retreat venue with mountain views near Geneva
Chalet Grand Duc

Speak to the venue owner, or agent before you book your space. Ideally, you want somewhere with a stunning mountain view, a serene forest, or a picturesque beach. Our Alpine venues are popular because they help you connect with nature through a window. Besides, could you think of a better place to do yoga than out in the great outdoors?

11. To Share, or Not to Share the Venue

When you’re up and running, you may be able to book out an entire venue for your retreat. However, there will be other times when you only have enough interest to fill a reasonable space. But if you choose a big hotel, then you will always share some facilities with other guests.

Is sharing a good idea, or not? We could write screeds about this one! A larger venue will have facilities no smaller, private one could ever offer. It’s up to you to decide which works best for you. However, it is a fact of life that smaller options should be more intimate, and create better dynamics and bonding within your group.

12. Do You Want to Be in the Action, or Alone?

Most of the best Alpine retreat venues are in small, picturesque villages and towns. This has the added advantage of having all the attractions nearby, or a short walk away. Although these features are often limited, some city dwellers may expect more in the way of night life.

It’s really a matter of the group demographic you prefer. Both mountain villages, and cities with sightseeing, shops, and restaurants have their takers. Remember urban areas can get quite noisy and hectic in season, denying your guests their right to peace and quiet during their retreat.

Hiking in summer in the French Alps

It’s up to you to choose, and we certainly won’t take sides on this one. The most important thing is to match your clients expectations, and experience. Make sure you describe your chosen venue accurately in all your marketing material.  That way, you will have a far better chance of satisfying, rather than disappointing your guests.

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