You are catching up with a friend, let’s call her Sarah. Sarah has just returned from a retreat in Bali. Oh My God…she is glowing! Sarah’s lost 5 kilos, she’s become a vegetarian and met the love her life since returning. It’s like this amazing transformation. You are sooo happy for her. She really needed this, and now look at her. Her skin is beautiful, she’s slimmed down, her eyes are so clear, she’s taken up yoga and meditation… wow..
All of a sudden, you want to be her. You want THAT experience. It’s time….You want to go now! Unfortunately the retreat Sarah went on is no longer offered for the rest of the year, so you google “Bali Retreats” and you find one that fits exactly what you want….
Hold up lady… before you go ahead and book your retreat. There are a few things you should know…
Story sound familiar?
I don’t know about you, but it seems that everyone I know is going on a retreat to Bali! I have yet to go to Bali, however as someone that organises holidays and retreats for my clients, it baffles me how many people out there are giving away thousands of $$$ to retreat holders without knowledge of where their money is going and whether it could be illegal.
So here are my 5 Must – Ask questions before you head off on your Eat Pray Love journey 🙂 (Specific to International Retreats)
1. Does the company organising international retreats have a Travel Agent licence?
This is super super important. Some companies that hold retreats, deal with a Travel Agent to book their accommodation and transfer arrangements. This is perfectly OK. For example, Esther Hicks, Law of Attraction Speaker and Author speaks on cruises all around the world. When you book one of their cruises, you deal direct with a travel agent.
Travel Agents have the following that other companies don’t:
- It means that you most likely get a better priced retreat as they receive industry rates not given to other companies.
- They have specialised business insurance cover which is mandatory and protects you at the end of the day.
- They are well connected and dealing with a travel company to organise travels make sense.
- Your money is held in a trust account (still belongs to you) till you travel and suppliers are paid.
If you are handing over your money to a company organising a retreat and they don’t have a licence or are not using a travel agent for their travel arrangements, it is illegal and you are not covered if something goes wrong! The travel industry in Australia is a heavily regulated industry, and taking money for travel arrangements without a licence can mean fines of ten of thousands of dollars.
If you are booking with a company that charges their fee and then advises you to book your accommodation direct with the hotel – this is no problem at all.
Note: The easiest way to check whether the company has a licence is by checking their marketing material and their website. The licence number must be visible on all marketing material including their website.
2. Have you carefully checked the inclusions?
Before you book, ensure you check what the inclusions are. What is the property rated as? Are there pictures? Are all meals included? What does the daily programme include? Will you be picked up at the airport? The company needs to outline all the specifications of the star rating, how many meals, daily programme, and additional extras not covered in the inclusions.
3. Can I book my accommodation direct with the property where the retreat is held?
You are entitled to ask this and can do this, and pay the retreat holder their required fee for their services. You may ask this question if the retreat holder is NOT using a travel agent or isn’t licensed to arrange travel and has accommodation and transfers included in their price.
4. Have I done my due diligence and checked the company out?
This is the normal part of the process before you book anything in general. Do they have testimonials? Are they an established company? If its a single person organising the retreat, are they working with a travel company/travel agent and doing it the right way?
5. What are the refund/cancellation conditions?
Cover yourself with the following:
- We recommend always getting travel insurance to cover any expenses due to unforeseen circumstances. As your money is in a trust account, you are legally able to recover your travel costs minus any cancellation fees the supplier has outlined.
- Check the terms and conditions of the property before going ahead to book.
- The airlines are completely different. Ensure you check the fare rules prior to booking. As a general rule, the cheaper the fare, the stricter the rules and the higher the cancellation costs.
So now you know!
We know there are amazing yoga teachers, natural therapists and healers out there holding the most amazing retreats around the world. Please go out there and experience them and the wonder of the places they are held in.
The awareness of the legalities are not so well known in Australia in the wellness community. As a community member, it’s important to know your rights and to cover yourself.
Personally, I have been in 2 major hurricanes (Katrina and Sandy!) and the world can be very unpredictable. It’s important to hand your money over to a trusted company so that if mother nature gets her groove on and things happen, you are in good hands.
I hope this post gives you something to think about before diving in head first.
Travel on Purpose,
Reena Tory is Founder and Director of Mantra Wild Adventures + Director at Well Connected Travel Pty Ltd. Both companies are licensed travel companies offering unique experiences and retreats to India and abroad.
Have you learnt something new from this post? Let us know, in the comments below and please SHARE this knowledge if it’s made a difference to you.2