The reality of post-pandemic travel is that we’re operating in a world where there is a slightly higher level of uncertainty relative to the past. As we face the ongoing curveballs affecting the travel industry, there’s a fresh set of considerations around risk management when planning and hosting retreats.
In an informative panel discussion, which you can watch here, Jen was joined by expert speakers from our community of retreat leaders and wellness travel companies. The conversation focused on risk management and the key considerations when planning future retreats.
Christina Papavlasopoulos, Co-Founder @ Myths & Muses
Joe Fagan, Director of Partnerships @ beYogi
Chad Stouffer, Lead Attorney @ Conscious Counsel
Dulce Santoyo, Account Executive @ WeTravel
How Retreat Leaders Can Manage Risk Management & Expect The Unexpected
One way to better prepare for the risks that have arisen as a result of the pandemic is to pinpoint the emerging trends. Doing so can help to inform your decision-making when planning, organizing and executing retreats this year.
Below, our panelists share some key considerations about hosting retreats in 2022.
Understand The Emerging Wellness Travel Market
The pandemic has changed how retreat participants, vendors, and retreat centers handle payment arrangements. Industry leaders are seeing a split trend in how participants are approaching travel.
On the one hand, some people seek out discounts, find great deals on airline tickets, and save money when traveling. On the other hand, there are those looking to treat themselves as the world reopens and spend more money for a luxury experience.
Therefore, it is vital as a retreat leader to know what your audience is looking for and cater to that.
Expect Demand For Flexible Payment Options
Another emerging trend is the growing prominence of flexible booking processes and payment options.
For example, many vendors, retreat leaders, and accommodation providers are open to creating payment plans to suit their clients’ budgets.
They are also segmenting out the retreat add-ons and offering them a la carte for clients to select as they please.
To attract early sign-ups, retreat leaders are getting creative with discounts. We’re seeing examples such as discounts for a small group sign-up or the first five spots sold.
Throughout all of this, it’s crucial to offer clients secure payment options with an easy-to-follow checkout process. Keep the process as simple as possible using call-to-actions where needed. Anything too complicated checkouts can cause potential clients to abandon the purchase process and look elsewhere.
Offering secure and encrypted payment options will also build more confidence with clients and ensure that their information is protected.
Be Mindful of Possible Admission Requirements Around Vaccinations
Admission requirements with regards to vaccines differ from one place to the next – this includes venues, retreat centers, public and private spaces, restaurants, and even countries. As a retreat leader, it’s essential to be proactive and know exactly what’s happening in the locations you plan to visit.
Be clear about the requirements for your attendees. Do they have to be vaccinated before joining? Or will a negative Covid test be sufficient? This can include requirements for participating in the retreat, staying at a retreat center, and dining and activities.
Prepare For Shifting Dynamics Between Retreat Organizers and Vendors
Another critical consideration for retreat leaders is how the pandemic has affected the dynamics between organizers and vendors.
One of the significant changes that has gained traction is that vendors, venues, and hotels might renege on certain commitments. This could be because of shifting lockdown rules or other situations both within and outside of their control.
The key is to ensure that the integrity of the retreat remains intact.
For example, there may be abrupt changes to certain restrictions in the country of entry, such as no large indoor events due to an increase in Covid cases. Or establishments may be temporarily closed due to a member of staff testing positive.
To combat this, retreat leaders need to make sure there are fallback options in place (e.g., another activity that aligns with the retreat and the group).
A positive is that hotels and vendors are hungry for business, and it is likely that you can negotiate to gain some amazing perks for your clients. For example, you might negotiate additional rooms with the hotel if your clients want single occupancy for health and safety.
You could also request special spaces within the hotel. For example, allowing your clients to access a public gym or pool after hours. These negotiable perks create a memorable experience for your clients.
A key negotiation tactic that can help cushion the financial risks in the current climate is to process final vendor payments on the day they are due or negotiate late payments. This creates a bit of breathing room that can help if clients pull out or something goes wrong.
Get Retreat Insurance Coverage
Ensuring that your interests and those of your clients are covered during a travel retreat is essential. An effective way to do this is by investing in retreat insurance.
For example, there has been a growing need for coverage for online live-streaming and pre-recorded videos to protect retreat leaders (should someone get hurt while using their content and try to sue).
Therefore, to avoid legal disputes, it is vital to protect yourself by getting insurance coverage that has been tailored to your retreat.
Keep in mind that currently, insurance does not cover any Covid-related issues (for example, if someone contracts Covid while at the retreat). Communicable diseases like Covid are usually excluded from liability policies.
Therefore, it is important that you enlist the aid of a qualified lawyer or seek the help of an insurance consultant to draw up waivers that cover you.
Pay Attention To Legal Matters
Legal disputes are one of the major risks associated with travel retreats. Therefore, it is important to put contingencies in place to avoid them. These contingency plans often take the form of written consent forms, waivers, and formal contracts outlining terms and conditions.
For example, retreat leaders should have their participants complete an agreement form or a written consent form that outlines the refund policy, cancellation policies, and contingencies for potential safety hazards like a physical injury.
Having these contracts in place protects the interests of the retreat leader if anything goes wrong. They also ensure that clients know exactly what they are signing up for and are informed of the policies before their visit.
With these contracts, it is important to clearly and effectively communicate to all parties. Retreat leaders need to make sure that their clients are on the same page and understand the terms of the agreement.
Having an agreement in place regarding refund policies and cancelations is fantastic for avoiding legal disputes. However, sometimes clients can threaten to sue despite the pile of waivers.
Despite your best intentions, clients could also decide to submit chargebacks on their cards if they are unsatisfied. Chargebacks are credit card disputes where someone disagrees with a charge and flags it as fraudulent.
To de-escalate a situation like this, ideas could be to offer a client a 50% discount on the next retreat, additional perks, or something similar. Extending the olive branch can go a long way to strengthening the integrity of your business and avoiding legal disputes.
The changing landscape around the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact how we travel and how we organize travel. Now more than ever, it is critical to prepare yourself and your business for the risks that can arise.
Doing so can ensure that you are better protected against the unexpected. It can also help you provide a better customer experience to your retreat goers are requirements for travel are made clear.