What I learned from analysing 20,000 retreats

For the last couple of years, I have been researching the topic of yoga retreats to try and understand if there is room in the market for a new yoga retreat website. During this process, I've collected a large sample of data, performed analysis and made some exciting discoveries which I'd like to share.

The data used in this study is freely available on the internet. I used a variety of sources, including Google Places, Trip Advisor, Facebook events and various yoga retreat booking sites. The total volume of data I've been working with is substantial and enabled me to make some well-informed decisions.

As a retreat organiser or leader, I hope this article will be useful when planning your next event, or perhaps you're deciding whether the retreat business is the right decision for you. It might also help those looking to attend a retreat for the first time as a guest.

Let's dive in and see what I found.

Most popular yoga styles

There are a vast number of yoga styles, the graph below categorises 18,739 individual retreats. I've removed data from this graph which only occurred once or twice, otherwise it would get ridiculous!

Top ten most popular styles

  1. Hatha - 26%
  2. Vinyassa - 14%
  3. Restorative - 7%
  4. Power - 2%
  5. Chakra - 2%
  6. Karma- 2%
  7. Iyengar - 2%
  8. Sivananda - 1%
  9. Bhakti - 1%
  10. Dynamic - 1%

Due to the large variety of styles, it must be confusing for people starting yoga for the first time. If your retreat is tailored towards beginners, it might be worth offering a clear explanation of your preferred style. It's clear that Hatha and Vinyassa are the most widely used descriptive terms. This might provide an opportunity to introduce some of the less well-known varieties into your trip, or you might choose to stick with the big names where people feel most comfortable and the market is largest.

For people who don't know, below I've paraphrased definitions from The Yoga Journal, which describe the Hatha and Vinyasa styles as follows:

Most western forms of yoga can be classified as Hatha. The term refers to the physical yoga postures. Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Lyengar are all types of Hatha yoga which is designed to align your body and calm your mind in preparation for meditation.

Vinyasa can be roughly translated as 'arranging in a special way'. In Vinyasa classes, movements are coordinated with breathing to flow from one pose to the next.

Most popular yoga retreat destinations

Below I've plotted 5,817 retreats on a map of the world using a fantastic tool called Tableau. Each little blue dot represents an event. Interestingly the highest overall density can be found in Europe, along with popular favourites including Bali, Costa Rica, India Sri-Lanka, Nepal.

Apart from Africa, the equatorial region is most popular, and it looks like organisers tend to favour the warmer climates. This might open the opportunity for yoga in some of the cooler climates, and I suspect Scandinavia would be a particularly good opportunity.

Key learning points:

  • If you're planning a retreat in the popular countries mentioned above, expect plenty of competition!
  • Potential opportunity for growth in Scandinavia, Southern Africa, west-coast Australia and Indonesia outside of Bali.

Average pricing by country

India and Nepal are the cheapest country for retreats - this is because they offer a large number of teacher training schools which can last for up to 80 days for the 500-hour qualification - accommodation is usually shared or bunk style rooms. This is bringing the average price down, and there are a smaller number of more luxurious offerings on the more premium end of the scale.

Botswana and Namibia are among the most expensive, and here the retreats can be in exotic hotels or luxury tented accommodation and may include safaris or other premium activities. Chile is another costly destination, and here you can combine yoga with other outdoor activities such as hiking in the mountains.

Starting price variation

Retreat starting prices vary dramatically. This graph plots the average price per day of retreats around the world in US dollars.

As you can see, the most premium offerings can approach $1000 per day, but there are only a few at this end of the scale.

The largest cluster of prices is between 15 and 300 dollars per day - the lower end of this bracket is dominated by teacher training. The most common price per day is exactly $50. There is a smaller cluster of pricing in the 300 to 500 dollar region, which suggests there is a market for a more premium offering too, especially in more exotic or upmarket locations.

For more detailed information on pricing, please view our dedicated retreat pricing analysis article.

Duration of stay

The most commonly occurring stay length is eight days (7 nights) with a significant cluster which ranges between three and eight. There are also peaks at 15 days / 14 nights and 28 days. The pattern of small stays, one week, two weeks and one month are visible in the data. The most extended durations are explained by the length of the teacher training courses which are prevalent, especially in India.

Food

Now for my favourite graph, food. Here you can see the relative popularity of different dietary requirements provided at retreats. Vegetarian meals are the most popular preference, followed by vegan, gluten-free, organic and finally raw.

Analysis of retreat descriptions

The word cloud below shows occurrences of words which are used in marketing materials or online. It's hard to provide concrete advice from this analysis, but it's interesting to see the popularity of teacher training. The most common word used is 'experience', so it might be worth avoiding this if you want to be original. This list could also provide useful if you're developing a search engine strategy for your website.

Yoga retreat description word cloud
Yoga retreat description word cloud - click to view full image

Secondary research

I've also managed to get hold of some secondary research from various sources, as shown below.

  • In 2016, the wellness industry was said to have been valued at $438.6 billion and grew 55% from 2012 to 2017
  • 34 percent of Americans practise yoga
  • 72 percent of American yogis are women

All pretty encouraging stuff!

Questions?

Hope you found this article useful - it took quite a while to pull together. If you're planning a retreat and have questions which haven't been discussed in this article, please feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to answer them.

Finally, here's our introductory article on yoga retreat digital marketing which you might find useful.