12 Things to Check before Booking a Retreat Venue
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!
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
- 2. Indoor / Outdoor Space for Group Activities
- 3. Conference Rooms for Meetings / Talks
- 4. Bonus Amenities for a Special Touch
- 5. A Quiet Place Simply to Be
- 6. Nearby Activities to Liven Things Up
- 7. A Retreat Should Be an Accessible Location
- 8. Food Quality Is a Clincher on a Retreat
- 9. Support Staff to Handle Admin Stuff
- 10. A View to Set the Tone for Your Retreat
- 11. To Share, or Not to Share the Venue
- 12. Do You Want to Be in the Action, or Alone?
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.
- Some people long to simplify their lifestyle while on a retreat. They hope for a rustic type of life, with just a basic room and a bed.
- Other people want to be ‘spoiled rotten’ by a high, even unique standard of accommodation. You need to know the difference.
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?
- You can manage the environment better in a controlled indoor space, by regulating temperature and blocking out distractions. However, your participants are more likely to spot imperfections. Make sure the space is clean, well-lit and has adequate ventilation.
- Outdoor spaces are a wonderful way to connect with nature, and contemplate our place in it. We recommend a tranquil atmosphere set aside from the built-environment, roads, traffic etc. Check mobility factors before you choose this option. How easy is the access?
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:
- How many people fit in easily
- Table and chair spacing and comfort
- Power network throughout the room
- Availability of Wi-Fi and internet links
- Flexibility of audio-visual equipment
- Flipcharts, pens and other office supplies
- Facilities for coffee breaks and snacks
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.
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.
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?
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:
- How well is the retreat kitchen equipped … can they supply an experienced chef?
- What is your food budget? Feeding guests could be one of your highest expenses!
- Do you want to provide ‘home cooked’ basic, or are you planning gourmet quality?
- Should you allow for vegan and vegetarian alternatives? What about alcohol?
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:
- You could fall off the bottom of the rankings, if your guests arrive and find dust on the furniture. A clean and well-maintained space is essential for creating a positive atmosphere. Ask to see the venue’s cleaning schedule. Will they do a sparkle clean before you arrive?
- Room service matters, especially if you have a sophisticated clientele. Covid groomed a generation of people accustomed to their own private space. Ask any venue you are considering what level they provide. If there is no, or limited room service, mention this in your advertisement.
- Your guests may arrive at a strange terminal at the end of a long journey. A seamless transfer to your retreat is a great selling point, and delivers them to you relaxed. They will also depend on local services to ferry them around. Your clients will mention the quality of this in their feedback and reviews.
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.
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.
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.