A Retreat Center Marketing Tactic that Works
Remember Yellow Pages? Businesses listed their contact information for a basic fee and sometimes paid extra for bolded listings and even more for featured ads. No business that wanted to grow chose not to have at least a basic Yellow Pages listing.
For 20 years we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in salespeople and ads to promote our conference center, Garrett Creek Ranch. Once or twice a week groups would call asking for assistance in finding a location they could afford because our property was designed for corporate groups and rather expensive. As a high service company, we spent a lot of time trying to help those groups, most often placing them in national chain hotels because that is all we could find in their budget.
Retreat Center Marketing
In 2008 I received a call from a summer camp who operated as a retreat center during the school year. I had no idea such a retreat product even existed!
We immediately launched a full-blown investigation into the budget retreat market only to discover that there was no organization around the field! Hotels have multiple organizations dedicated to improving every aspect of their operation as do camps, from physical plant to sales training. We engaged the first national study on the retreat market and discovered that 10% of group travel was going to camps and retreat centers. Yes, it is a small percentage, but the market is over $94 billion dollars! The travel industry is well over $1 trillion!!!
We formed a new company, Retreat Central, and set out to grow the percentage of groups booking at retreat centers, competing directly with budget hotels.
Our goal was to help camps and other retreat locations increase their revenue from retreats, whether they operate during the shoulder season or year round. With minimal effort a camp can make $50-100,000 in additional revenue by being available to outside groups for the two or three weeks before and after camp. Year round operators can make an easy $400,000-1,000,000+ if they take this work as seriously as they do summer programs.
Thousands of retreat centers work hard to bring in groups outside of camp, but they are not hitting their goals. Boards and owners become frustrated with the lack of success, especially when they see properties right down the road hosting group after group. Why are they not succeeding?
Often the answer is simple. They’re not listed in online directories designed specifically to promote retreat centers! In essence, they have an unlisted number!!!!!
Think about it, for a little as $200 per year (a little over 50 cents per day) they could have exposure to thousands of event planners, and have a direct link to their website and support in presentation.
For 20 years I never knew about retreat centers as a viable option for the budget-minded groups trying to stay at my conference center. It doesn’t have to be that way for the next 20.
By Jaynie Schultz
Jaynie Schultz created Garrett Creek Ranch with her mother more than 20 years ago. She served as the founding Director of Sales and Marketing and is involved in many non-profit organizations and leadership development programs. Jaynie is the co-founder of Retreat Central, a free online retreat directory that lists hundreds of retreat centers nationwide.
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