How To Negotiate For Freebies & Gain Sponsors For Your Next Retreat – with Catherine Kontos

December 9, 2021
Keri Pfeiffer
8 min read

RetreatBoss Founder Catherine Kontos recently joined up with WeTravel to chat about negotiating freebies and gaining sponsors for retreats. If you’re launching your first retreat, starting a new business, or simply looking for ways to expand your value offering to your clients, you’ll love this Q&A.

About Our Speaker

Catherine built her retreat business a decade ago from a blank canvas.

Since then, she has explored every aspect of the retreat world.

Catherine has helped plan for thousands of guests their memorable retreat experiences. This is all while consulting with retreat venue owners on getting licensed with the local hospitality authorities by staging and designing retreats for the highest-quality consumer experience down to the last spoon.

Her business strategies have resulted in a successful turnaround for the venues, where 85% capacity and a minimum of 4.5-star guest reviews became the norm. 

After years of coaching retreat leaders on creating profitable and transformational experiences, Catherine decided to launch a new division to her company and offer online courses with her RetreatBoss brand.

The resources make retreat planning easy to help practitioners and professional planners build retreats for fun transformation and profit.

Free Ebook_5 Key Elements Of Planning Successful Yoga Retreats

How To Negotiate For Freebies & Gain Sponsors For Your Next Retreat

Step One Is Research

Keri: How does one start with getting the best deals when it comes to planning their retreat?

Catherine: Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of research that’s involved. You don’t just go up to somebody and start negotiating.

Whenever you’re in any type of negotiating, and I have a business background and a psychology background on consumer behavior, so I understand the negotiation process, you really need to know where they’re at in their business.

Are they new? Have they been around a long time?

What season is it? Is it high, low, or shoulder season?

Basically, you have to see what level they’re at because when you’re new, you’re looking for clients, right? You really want to launch your business, and you’re usually giving out great promotions because you want to attract clients.

At the same time, low season is where prices are slashed to at least half price. I know this because I was a retreat venue owner. Smart retreat goers know that, and they know they could get their best deals at that point.

Approach Experts In The Area You Host Retreats

One of the ways of doing your research is to contact the local Tourist Board of that area.

Talk to them. All around the world, we’re still relying on tourism boards to see what the locals have to offer.

Are there venues? Are there new activities that are happening? Whenever there’s a venue or an activity happening in the area, or even opening up a gift shop, they send all their discounts to the Tourist Board because they know that people will be in touch with them.

How To Negotiate Retreat Freebies

So, they might have some freebies to give out and even discounted items.

Then you could also get in touch with a local tour guide who knows what’s happening in the area that you want to go to.

He or she will let you know what is taking place. They will know where you can get in at a discounted price or even for free. There are venues that will do that; I did it for my place. I offered my venue for free a few times.

This is because there was an exchange that happened.

So you have to understand that exchange. What will it be? How will they benefit from having you at the retreat?

The essential thing is you have to do that research.

And be careful when you negotiate. You have to be respectful; you have to understand this is their business. You don’t want to go hardcore because that’s really a turnoff, and they’ll just not want to deal with you.

Be considerate. Be nice. Be respectful. Understand where their limitations are before you even go in; that’s the trick.

Learn How To Negotiate With Grace

Keri: Those are great tips. Let’s say you found the retreat venue that you want to work with. What are the best negotiation strategies to get the lowest price?

Catherine: Although it’s not always possible because of funds or because of your timeline, the best practice is to visit the venue beforehand. Stay there for a few days to understand what the services are like and what the retreat is like.

Do they deliver on their promises?

Negotiate Retreat Sponsorship

This stay, you should be able to get for free. Because when you go there, you are going to promote their place. For example, say you go to a retreat in Tulum, you will be showing off this retreat to a group of 500, 1 000, 10 000, 30 000, or 100 000 like-minded people who would likely use their facilities.

You have to know how to exchange with the retreat venue, and they have to know that you will deliver as well. If you are there to showcase their retreats to the world, this will make them more likely to give you a free stay for a couple of days. And or a discounted rate if you do come back with your group of people.

Whether you can stay for free depends on how they price the retreat.

For example, is it $2,000 for the week, or is it priced per person?

Maybe one or two staff can come in for free, and the rest have to pay.

These are little tricks up your sleeve you can know in advance that you can attempt to get.

Everything Comes At The Price Of An Exchange

Keri: What are some things you might offer the retreat venue in exchange? Let’s say you only have 1 000 followers – where do you start?

Catherine: Yeah, it’s not just a verbal agreement. You have to sign something with them like a promise of contract to say you will promote them in these groups.

Retreat Sponsorship

You let them know that it will be the Retreat Leader Hub, the x y z group, this group, and that group.

And you tell them how many people are in each group.

Also, what type of niche do they have.

And you’re going to tell them I’ll be showcasing you on such and such a date.

It’s really all about getting this venue, this activity, this gift, this facilitator; let’s say you hire someone for meditation, you have to showcase them. This is how you negotiate all of these things.

And really, it’s an exchange. You don’t want to be giving anything out for free ever as a venue owner. That is, free with no exchange. Instead, there should be a fair exchange.

Sponsorship Comes In Many Forms

Keri: That makes sense. The next question is, how can you get a portion of your retreat sponsored?

Catherine: Here’s the thing, it’s not always monetary. Figure out what’s not included, then include it.

Let’s say you negotiate to have certain VIP treatment, activities, or stuff that is not included, included. Or perhaps you can get a free night stay or go three days before to set up.

Maybe you can check out late, access free safes in the room, or get free WiFi. You could also receive a free dinner at a particular restaurant or a free room to do your yoga if that’s an extra charge.

There are those little freebies that can be negotiated and added on. You just have to do your research beforehand to see what’s usually included.

Freebie Wellness Travelers

Another thing you could do is invite an influencer. So if there’s an influencer you know in your niche who has the same clients as you, you can offer them a really good discount on coming to your retreat.

And in exchange, they’re going to be talking about this retreat. So that’s another way of getting more eyes on you.

When you’re doing a retreat, you also want referrals.

Here, the thing that you should focus on is the values of your retreat. You want to make sure those values are there with your clients, and then they’re going to be your biggest marketers. They’ll be your little army of marketing, and you won’t have to do anything because you really give them the value.

You just need one, then it’s soon two, three, and it just snowballs.

And you get really good at getting stuff sponsored as well. So even the little gifts you’re going to be offering could be given partly or mainly for free, depending on what exchange you’re giving this person.

Choose The Brands You Work With As Wisely As They Choose You

Keri: What best practices or suggestions do you have for finding brands to collaborate with?

It really depends on what you’re offering, as every retreat is different. Find a brand that is in line with you, and find a way to connect and build a relationship with them.

If you can, pick up the phone or go in person to see them. Don’t just send a message on social media. You really have to build a connection and then send out a formal email inviting them to set up a meeting or talk.

Strategic Business Exchanges

Basically, just like you love their venue or love their activity, they’ve got to love your brand, and they’ve got to benefit from it somehow.

This is business at the end of the day. They want to make money somehow. Whether it’s from new clientele or a monetary reward, they want to benefit through whatever they’re going to offer to you and your clients.

How Does RetreatBoss Help Retreat Planners?

Keri: How can RetreatBoss help retreat planners, and what services do you provide?

Catherine: We have online courses that are out right now. I coach as well.

The courses are for practitioners such as yogis or life coaches who want to do it for themselves.

Maybe you want to change careers or add to your travel business and learn specifically about retreats. You’ll learn how to plan retreats and make them super successful to the point where you are making thousands of dollars every time you finish up a retreat.

You’ll be creating the most transformational retreats because we give you the tips and tricks. There are also tons of templates and planners.

You’re also really supported by our community. And this is what we’re offering right now: these online courses with membership, directories,  and all the support you can get from me. I personally make sure that everybody is really aligned with what their goals are as a retreat planner.

We have a podcast as well. It gives you little nuggets of knowledge – the RetreatBoss podcast. There is also our blog. If anybody wants to be interviewed for that get in touch.

So there’s a lot of excitement, and we just got started. This is a business that I’ve been in for ten years RetreatBoss is a new brand within that company, and everybody’s welcome to join us.

Final Thoughts

It was a privilege to speak with Catherine and get her expert insights on negotiating freebies and gaining sponsors for your next retreat.

If you’d like to get in touch with Catherine directly, contact her on: