Repeat Retreats

Another surefire way to convince a group to return every year is to help solve problems. Most groups are bound to run into an internal issue while visiting. If you can solve their issues, you have almost guaranteed a repeat customer.

Here are a few examples:

• The season finale of a popular TV show was airing while a group was visiting our camp, and everyone wanted to see it. I went home, recorded it, burned it to DVD, and played it for the large group later that evening. That was four years ago. Every year, somebody comes up to me and comments on how much they appreciated the extra effort.

• On a snowy January weekend, a fraternity’s buses were extremely delayed in arriving at the camp because of the weather. The group leaders were panicked about being able to feed the group late at night. I called around and found a pizza shop willing to make 25 pizzas on short notice and deliver them in treacherous conditions by 12:30 a.m. I even talked the shop into giving the group a 15 percent discount. The group leaders were ecstatic and relieved that that issue had been handled. They used to send half of their fraternity to our camp and half to another camp, but now the entire fraternity attends our camp.

Be prepared to solve issues prior to a group’s arrival. Have extra items on hand, such as pillows, sleeping bags, towels, soap, shampoo, cellphone chargers, etc. You will be a hero.

Details, Details, Details!

In reading evaluations at the end of a session, I notice that most guests do not comment on the food, the facilities, or the various activities offered. Instead, most of the comments are about staff and service.

Some comment on how nice it was to be greeted upon arrival, while others comment on the ease of our check-in procedures. Parents express gratitude when a staff member spends extra time with their child at the archery range to make sure he or she hit the target. Attendees appreciate that a staff person personally walked a guest to the cabin or an activity. Others comment on the staff person who made a special trip into town to pick up something for the group members had forgot to bring with them.

Details matter!

To go the extra mile, keep detailed notes on groups to anticipate what they might need. Recently, a group leader asked me to email her my notes on her group so she would be better prepared for the group’s event. She knew I had detailed records on all of the group’s special needs.

Make It Happen

Whenever a new group inquires about booking a retreat, I always ask how the contact person heard about us. Roughly 95 percent of the time, another group that had a wonderful experience at our facility mentioned it to others.

Many groups did not find out about us through an advertisement, a mailing, or a web search. They heard about us through word of mouth.

Refrain from spending an entire day emailing another mass advertisement or snail-mailing your latest brochure to various churches, schools, and non-profits. I do not even have a brochure for off-season groups! Instead, use that time to stay in touch with current customers, and build on your relationships with them.

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, or feedback. I would be happy to share more about what to do to keep guests coming back!

Kyle Linback hails from Camp Tecumseh YMCA in Brookston, Ind. He has worked in the Retreats Department for 11 years, and has worked in YMCA camping for over 16 years. Contact him at


To learn more about word-of-mouth advertising, try reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

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Related posts:

  1. Day to Day
  2. Scary Stories
  3. Developing The Dream Team
  4. The Power of Group Partnerships
  5. Take Camp On The Road

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