Repeat Retreats

Having worked with weekend and off-season guests for more than 11 years, I have successfully unlocked some of the secrets to outstanding return rates.

Taking time to really help group members can encourage them to return to your facility.

With increasing competition, budget cuts for schools and nonprofits, and economic uncertainty, some groups may be hesitant to return.

They may look for cheaper options, go elsewhere, or cancel an event altogether.

With that in mind, it is important to provide groups an extraordinary experience to keep them coming back year after year.

Keep In Touch Throughout The Year

You may have heard the old adage that donors do not leave camps … camps leave donors. Essentially, the message is you need to stay in touch with donors throughout the entire year–not just once a year when you ask for money.

The same applies to year-round guests. Here are some ways to stay in touch:

1. Postcard or email. Send one of these out to group leaders a few days after a group departs. Thank the contact person for volunteering to coordinate the event. This helps to acknowledge the leader, and shows an appreciation for all of the hard work and planning.

2. Christmas cards. Every November/December, I send out about 150 to 200 Christmas cards to various group leaders with a personal message on every card. I try to make the photo on the front of the card funny enough so that the contact person will share it with others. This is a wonderful marketing tool. I receive numerous emails and calls from group leaders telling me they love the card and they have shared it with everyone they work with. Wow–what a way to achieve word-of-mouth advertising! Do not limit yourself to Christmas. Send another card during the year letting groups know you are looking forward to seeing them again next year.

3. Random emails. Send random (personal) emails to guests. Highlight something new and exciting at the camp that the groups will enjoy. Email pictures of the newest activity. I guarantee they will forward it to others in the group to get them pumped up about an upcoming trip.

Do Not Nickel And Dime

I hear numerous stories from group leaders who have been nickeled and dimed by other camps. One leader told of a $100 addition to the final bill for failing to put tables and chairs away at the end of the weekend.

Another group leader said he was frustrated when the group was billed for being one person short of the minimum count guaranteed in the contract. He added that the group had been attending the camp for many years and this was the first time it was short on numbers.

Scout leaders say they have run into similar situations where they were charged a fee for being short one or two people.

What impression do you want to leave on guests? Do you want them to leave with bad feelings? Or, would you rather have them tell their friends and family what a wonderful experience they had and how accommodating the staff members were?

Is the extra $100 worth the negative advertising? Is it worth making the groups so upset they start looking for another camp? Keep in mind–camps live and die via word of mouth.

Word of mouth brings groups back for repeat retreats.

Solve Their Problems

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