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Rosa Whitehead's secrets for running a successful Pilates retreat

22nd May 2014

Rosa Whitehead's secrets for running a successful Pilates retreat
Thinking of taking your Pilates business to the next level this year? Check out Rosa Whitehead of Pilates Plus Wellness top tips for setting up and running a Pilates retreat abroad.

Rosa Whitehead is the founder of Pilates Plus Wellness and has been running successful Pilates retreats since 2010.
Here she shares her top tips for running a Pilates retreat.


Running a Pilates retreat for the first time can be challenging but persistence pays and the reward is certainly worth it. My advice for all first time retreat runners is a passion for Pilates and a desire to inspire, motivate and educate people are fundamental to making your Pilates retreat a success.

Below are my top tips about how to run a Pilates retreat:

Pick the right location - Chose a location which compliments the whole experience of your Pilates retreat e.g. somewhere beautiful and relaxing.
Making sure people LOVE your Pilates retreat will mean they are more likely to spread the word about your next one - the people on my first retreat each told five of their friends, all of whom booked for the following year.

Network, network, network! - Don't be afraid to ask for help and advice from local businesses. You'll find people are supportive of your venture and happy to share their knowledge. Ask around and look for joint ventures, you never know who someone might suggest. A personal recommendation is worth its weight in gold!

Choosing a venue: think small not big - I run my Pilates retreats from a small family-run hotel. The hotel has a lovely, friendly feel and gives my clients and I excellent service, which I couldn't find anywhere else. We're treated to the kind of care and attention you can't get with more commercial hotels.

I would always choose a small hotel which makes my clients feel at home over a big commercial hotel or serviced apartments. Personal service makes all the difference.

Don't be afraid to negotiate - Getting the right price for you, the hotel owner and your clients is key. When negotiating price I always ask"What is the best price you can give me, with a view to bringing you more business and at a price we will both be happy with?". Listen to what the hotel owner has to say and don't make the first suggestion. Make sure you are happy with the offer and terms to your agreement and have everything in writing.

During Pilates retreats I get my own room for free and the hotel owner agrees not to take payment for rooms in advance - this way nothing is lost if you do not make up the numbers.

Legalities - If your retreat is outside the EU check for any relevant legal restraints. For example you may have to collect the money for your retreat in the UK or have to apply for a work permit.

Always speak to someone who can advise you on any of these issues before hand as well as carrying out your own research. Contact people who are also running retreats in the area - they don't necessarily have to be Pilates retreats - and ask them for information. Remember you will need public liability insurance.

Marketing Pilates retreats - I spend 60% of my time marketing my Pilates business and retreats. When marketing a Pilates retreat remember emotions are much stronger than thoughts. Your marketing should connect with your clients emotions giving them a vivid picture of your retreat. Describe how they will feel throughout and after your retreat as well as the amazing things they will see and do.

There are many different way to market the retreats. Make sure you have a good website or somewhere your clients can pay using PayPal and see exactly what they are getting, I use my website (www.pilatespluswellness.com).

I list my classes on Pilates Near You which also allows you to promote Pilates retreats on your own page as well as nationally on their Retreats and Holidays page. This is a great way to advertise a Pilates retreat online as it allows you to reach a much wider audience, plus you can include a full listing of your events alongside images, price and location.

I also use professional leaflets and flyers. When distributing flyers ,make sure you deliver them wisely e.g. in Pilates studios, health spas where people will be interested in your retreat.

Don't be afraid to ask local magazines and newspapers to run stories about your Pilates retreat. My retreats were featured in Soul and Spirit magazine as well as Spirit and Destiny which gave them great PR coverage.

Promote your USPs - When promoting a Pilates retreat think about what your unique selling points are and promote them. For me it was that I combined Body Control Pilates, coaching, visualisation, relaxation techniques and NLP. This, alongside the fabulous hotel and home cooked meals it offered, set my Pilates retreats apart.

If you can offer people something different, promote it!

The right time & length - From experience running the Pilates sessions in the morning is the best time. It allows clients to use the rest of the day as they please - whether it's for relaxing or exploring is up to them.

A two hour session I find works best, it may sound like a lot for clients but I can guarantee by the third day they will be asking for longer sessions! It also ensures that your clients feel like they are getting good value for money and are learning a lot whilst giving them time to relax.

Give value for money - My Pilates retreats cost as little as £650 and I always offer a 20% discount for early bookings as this helps get the minimum numbers in and also allows me to confirm my flights early, which makes the flights cheaper!

My retreats include 2 hours of daily Pilates classes, 2 pampering sessions, healthy, local brunches, beautiful rooms and monthly updates to keep them on track. Think about what you can offer for little or no cost to you that will add value to your customers and make your Pilates retreat irresistible.

Remember everyone starts somewhere - Run your retreat even if you haven't filled all the spaces on your first Pilates retreat. Remember everyone has to start somewhere. Your numbers will grow next year and it acts as a working holiday for you. You still get time to relax and enjoy the sun whilst being a tour guide and showing your clients the beautiful country you have chosen.

Alongside her Pilates retreats Rosa also runs Pilates classes in South London including beginners, pregnancy and circuits Pilates classes.
Check out her Pilates Near You page for more information about Pilates Plus Wellness and to book one of their Pilates classes.