Pivoting Retreats With New Mandates & Border Closings – How To

Pivoting retreats is never a fun thing, but unfortunately has been the name of the game since planning retreats in 2020 and beyond.

I turned on the news the other day to see that many countries are closing their borders to South Africa. No biggie right? Yeah, its kind of a big deal when I am planning & executing a retreat in South Africa in 2022. Just when I think we are out of the woods. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time this has happened to one of my retreats in the past couple of months.

In October Costa Rica announced that they were mandating the vax to all public areas starting Dec. 1st including hotels and restaurants, which became an issue with having THREE Costa Rica retreats between Jan-Feb of 2022 and a heavy amount of attendees un-vaxed. (P.S. Costa Rica has since cancelled the mandate).

So with all of this going on the number one thing I am asked is…

What did you do?

Today, I want to share with you exactly what we did and how pivoted to ensure all 4 of the above retreats continued to happen in 2022.

Now before I dig into the specifics of each retreat, I am going to set a firm boundary of this is not a conversation of if you should get the vax or not or if you should continue to host retreats during this time. All of the retreats hosts I am speaking on below (who will remain nameless) share different viewpoints on this matter, but ultimately care about the safety and well being of their attendees.

Pivoting Costa Rica Retreats

As I mentioned above, in October of 2021 Costa Rica announced a new mandate would take effect on Dec. 1st requiring the vax for all public places including hotels & restaurants. I have 3 clients all hosting retreats in Costa Rica January-February of 2022, here is what we did for each.

Retreat #1

This group was at a retreat center so what I did was reached out to the retreat center and asked what their regulations were going to be starting Dec. 1st, which they informed me they wouldn’t be requiring the vax or masks to be in there space, which was the retreat hosts wishes.

The whole retreat was being hosted at the retreat center and we were not going off-site for any activities so I didn’t have to confirm with excursions what their regulations were.

What was going to effect the group was many of the attendees were planning to arrive a day early and fly out a day late and stay in a hotel near the airport. So what we did was get all the attendees connected through a WhatsApp group and let them know that if they are not vaxed they will just need to get an airbnb vs. hotel room and if they wanted to find someone to room with to ask in the WhatsApp group.

Retreat #2

This retreat was being hosted at a resort & the retreat host did not want to make anyone feel discluded/uncomfortable by requiring the vax to attend the retreat so we moved the retreat to the United States. We chose Florida because it had a similar tropical vibe and Florida has remained consistent with staying open.

My client had at that point put down a couple thousand dollar deposit with the resort in Costa Rica, so I explained the situation to the resort and requested a refund. They asked if we would be willing to move the deposit to a later date or a sister property in another country and we let them know with how uncertain things are right now we would prefer the refund and they refunded my client 100%.

Retreat #3

We had just gotten to the stage where we were exploring venue options when we received this news. We were looking at hosting the retreat at an airbnb so the new mandate wouldn’t effect us much beyond excursions and travel days, but this client had the same mindset as Retreat #2 and didn’t want anyone to feel discluded so decided to pivot.

We found a new large airbnb in Sedona, lowered the ticket price & the retreat host reached out to all the attendees that had already booked explaining the situation and the updated ticket price, which all were perfectly fine with.

Pivoting South Africa Retreats

Now this retreat we haven’t had to pivot yet & are hopeful we wont have to since its not till November of 2022. But when we saw that borders were closing due to the new variant coming out of Southern Africa we decided to put a plan in place.

  1. We sent an email to all the attendees and let them know that we are monitoring the situation, still planning to proceed as normal and if anything changes they will be the first to know.
  2. We also informed all the attendees if they plan to book flights or other travel arrangements to make sure they are fully refundable or purchase travel insurance to be safe.
  3. The retreat host and I made a plan to revaluate in the summer and if things haven’t changed we will either push the retreat to a later date or move to a new location, which we will let the attendees vote on the new location.
  4. I also reached out to the venue host to ask what the cancellation/reschedule policy would look like given the new variant and border closings. Make sure you get this part in writing, not on a phone call.


Advice for Pivoting Retreats

Pivoting retreats is never fun, so here are some things to keep in mind if you are in this position.

  1. Stay calm. Remember you are the leader of the retreat and your attendees will follow your lead. So if you are stressed, anxious or frustrated your attendees are going to feel that and feel the same. If you need to have a frustrated moment behind closed doors or to a friend, go for it, but keep calm for the attendees.
  2. Don’t make a bigger deal of it then it needs to be. Obviously a deadly virus is a serious thing and should be taken seriously, but when you approach your attendees with updates, changes & pivots stay super positive and optimistic. The past 2 years have been really heavy for everyone and the last thing people want is more dooms day news. Present them with the facts + what the plan is and how excited you are to eventually retreat with them.
  3. Before pivoting research your new plan. Make sure your back-up option will fit in your budget. I recommend using the Retreat Pricing Formula to help you figure this out.

My last piece of advice is don’t lose hope. I know planning a retreat during a pandemic can be stressful, but its so needed. A lot of retreat hosts are fearful to host retreats right now, meaning there are not nearly as many retreats being hosted as there have been in years past. But there are still a LOT of people that are craving going on a retreat and aren’t finding the options they need. People need retreats right now more than ever!

And of course if you find you need help planning your retreat reach out about full service retreat planning our join the self paced retreat planning course, Retreat With Ease.


Brooke Dumas

Brooke is a Retreat & Experience Planner who helps business coaches, entrepreneurs & spiritual leaders create, plan and execute retreats all across the world. After opening her wedding planning business, Stellaluna Events, in 2016 and serving couples all across Michigan, Brooke felt a call to serve entrepreneurs through events. She created her first live event for entrepreneurs called The Haven Conference. After three successful conferences, she felt led to offer her event planning gifts to all types of entrepreneurs and Brooke Dumas Retreats was born. 

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