4 biggest mistakes selling retreats online

Many of today’s travellers have grown up as digital natives. They use the internet as their main source of of information and have a fundamentally different approach to consumption and travel. They take the ability to book online for granted and user-generated content like reviews on social media are part of the research process for most of them.

This also means that as long as your business is not yet well known you need an excellent online marketing strategy including a landing page to convert visitors to bookers.

But building an excellent landing page is not easy and many operators fail. Let’s talk about the main reasons for failure:

#1 You’re not having enough online know how

Many of you aren’t online marketing experts. This is fine as your core competence lies in providing customers with unforgettable experiences.

However, even if it is not your core competence, you need the ability to judge what is a good landing page and what is not. If you work with external service providers like agencies or freelancers, you should be able to ask the right questions and spot the missing elements.

To convert visitors into bookers you need the right content, design, online marketing strategy in conjunction with the right technology.Click To Tweet

Agencies are usually made up of expert teams who have mastery over all the individual fields. But be careful to select the right agency; working with the wrong agency or freelancer will be more of a hindrance than a help.

#2 Working with the wrong or the inexperienced agency next door

Web agencies are often recommendations from your friends and might even be a friend‘s own agency. However, the chances are high that these recommendations is NOT be the best choice for you because the agency might not have the experience in building good booking sites. Recommendations you should trust come from people working in the same field as you and who have a professional track record.

#3 Trying to do it yourself without using the right skill-set or tools

A few of you have a dedicated marketing person who is supporting you during the season. But we have noticed a lack of expertise even in this case. This is not because your people do not have the right training in marketing; it is simply that the complexity of online marketing has grown very fast over the past years and it is becoming more difficult to master all fields. For great online marketing, expert knowledge is needed in the following areas:

  • Webdesign (Skill Designer)
  • User experience design
  • Web development
  • Copywriting
  • Online marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Experience in converting users into bookings

Do you have this knowledge?

#4 Copying content from other websites. Ouch!

As mentioned above, having quality, authoritative, regularly updated content on your business’s website is important for the success of your business. Producing this by yourself (ie not copying it) will

  • inform potential guests about the individual aspects of your packages and help them to make a booking decision;
  • increase the chances of other websites linking to you;
  • potentially generate more traffic from long-tail searches; and
  • ensure that you get traffic from Google and other search engines.

Unfortunately, many of you overlook this important aspect of the landing page and the SEO process. We often hear the argument that there is not enough time and money to invest in these activities. Whilst it is true that there are many other jobs you have to do to grow your business, if you do not invest in these growth activities, you are missing an opportunity. Many parts of your website may stay as they are for two years, but others are refreshed more often. It might be a bit of work in the beginning, but will not be that much once everything is up and running.

Potential clients visiting your website do not search online only to admire a prettily designed website; they are looking for relevant answers to their questions. If you are able to meet their needs and can fully answer their questions, there is a good chance that they will make a booking.

If you copy other people’s content, you might fall into the same trap others have fallen into and put your business at risk. You might say to yourself: “Hey, these people’s website looks pretty professional, so they probably know what they are doing. Let’s copy some parts of it.” But beware…

Copying Text

Copying text from other websites is a copy paste job and you could add a new page to your website in less than ten minutes. However, all content published online is covered by copyright law. This means that if you use copyrighted material, your competitor can obstruct your efforts with a simple legal notice. They can claim copyright infringement at Google who will most likely remove you from their search index and result in your page not being shown at Google anymore. Even if the rights owner does not inform Google, Google runs algorithms that can find similarities between sites. If the similarities are too high, Google blacklists your site as well; they do not want to get the search engine flooded with the same content. If your content is not unique enough, your site will be blacklisted as well. So be careful.

Copying Images

Copying images from other websites without knowing who holds the copyright is something you should avoid at all costs. Just as with text, images are often copyrighted and I recommend using images from copyright free image sites like https://pixabay.com . You must be very careful and make sure the image is really copyright free. Even if somebody has already uploaded a copyright protected image somewhere stating that it is free of copyright, you are still liable if it is not (This happens regularly.) To be on the safe side we recommend to either

buy stock material at

or use free image collections such as

But, as we have said above, users are searching for answers to their questions. They want to know what your place really looks like. We are sure your venue looks more awesome than any stock photograph, so don’t be shy; take your own photos or get a professional photographer to shoot your pictures.

#5 Not having enough time

Building a quality site costs time and money with time often being more important than money. You can save a lot of money for design or website programming if you have a clear concept of the content. Website designers will design around your content as programmers exactly know what you are looking for.

Invest some time and get your homework done!

At Good Retreats, we are fortunate to meet many inspiring people offering wonderful tours, retreats and camps all over the world.

With their determination, creativity, honesty and love of detail, they create concepts that win over not just us but also hundreds of guests every year. Its their passion to provide guests with an unforgettable experience is reflected in their choice of concepts, locations and fare as well as in countless positive reviews. Check our their top 5 magic ingredients for success.

1) Create one-of-a-kind experiences

Committing to satisfying the needs of your guests means leaving your ego behind and developing a deep understanding of your guests’ needs. Successful retreat owners are not primarily business geniuses with perfect marketing skills; they are above all empathic and thoughtful hosts who can sense what a guest might need at that very moment. Whether it’s a personal welcome upon arrival, a special tea for that itchy throat, an ice pack to help heal a bruise or fresh flowers from the garden on a guest’s birthday, it’s the little gestures that make a retreat memorable.

Passion check:

  • Do you have a unique feature that differentiates your offer from other providers?
  • Do you understand my guests’ individual needs and expectations?
  • Have you matched your activities to these needs?
  • Do you treat all your guests with the same dedication?
  • When do you or your team find it difficult to meet your guests’ individual needs?

2) Place special value on quality

Successful retreat hosts set and meet high standards of quality for all phases of interaction with their guests. Guest-friendly clear communication on their websites, choices geared to target groups as well as well thought out design of accommodations, activities and fare all contribute to meeting these high standards. Attention to detail in conjunction with quality are what make an experience special for your guests. This, in turn, leads to many positive reviews.

"Meet high standards of quality for all phases of interaction"

Quality check:

  • How do guests rate the quality you offer?
  • Has there been any critical feedback in the last few months that you have not been able to focus my attention on due to lack of time?
  • In which areas pertaining to quality do you need to catch up on?

3) Communicate quickly and well

Quick and efficient communications is the most important tool of successful retreat hosts. Whenever a guest gets in touch with you, it is of utmost importance that you respond immediately and with accuracy. The faster and more professional your response, the faster you can build a relationship based on trust with your guests and/or potential guests. Good relationships are much more likely to lead to bookings and guest satisfaction. Our experience shows that professional providers respond to queries within 24 hours. Make it your goal to have a quick response time and you will soon see results.

Communication check:

  • Have you streamlined my work flow so that I can respond to queries within 24 hours?
  • Are your responses to queries professional, ie free of formatting and spelling mistakes?
  • Is your website updated?

"professional providers respond to queries within 24 hours"

4) Stay committed

Successful hosts understand that guests have been dreaming of a special holiday for months. They have usually spent a lot of time and money to make their dream come true, so any unforeseen changes can be very upsetting. Professional providers need to ensure that fair standards and provisions are in place for both parties: If you have to cancel the retreat for unforeseeable reasons and guests would incur high cancellation fees, you should pay for their travel costs.  Professional providers take cancellations very seriously as they are aware of the negative emotions they cause which, in turn, often lead to negative reviews.

Communicate the minimum number of participants:

If your retreat requires a minimum number of participants, it is especially important to be transparent in your communications. Inform the guest upon confirmation of booking when you will be able to send them a final confirmation. This should be at least 4 weeks before the beginning of the retreat. It is otherwise difficult for the guest to find an alternative and to organise their travels. We are happy to assist you if you do not feel confident in this matter.

Have a Plan B:

Global warming can be an unpredictable factor particularly for sports holidays, as so many activities are held outdoors and the retreats often require a minimum number of participants. Communicate clearly that these retreats depend on the weather and other factors. We also recommend to have a plan B ready for any short term weather changes.

"Successful hosts understand that guests have been dreaming of a special holiday for months."

Commitment Check:

  • Have you taken on sufficient responsibility for any change of plans for the guests?
  • Have you put in place fair standards and provisions in case of cancellation?
  • Have you communicated the minimum participant requirements clearly?
  • Do you have a plan B for short term changes in weather?

5) Be honest in word and deed

Successful providers know that honesty lies in not only in words but in deeds as well. This is true for both the honest description of an offer and honesty towards employees and partners. Hosts with a strong sense of honesty and justice inspire trust and, hence, stronger relationships. This trust forms the basis of future relationships with returning guests, loyal employees and strong partners.

Honesty Check:

  • Do you really offer what I promise in my marketing activities?
  • Am you completely honest with all my employees, guests and partners?
  • Do you trust my employees, guests and partners?

"trust forms the basis of future relationships"


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