Chrissie Parker, owner of Piglets Boutique B&B in Wimbish, explains why business owners should consider wellbeing retreats. She explains what’s available at Piglets and shares her advice on how you can create wellness retreats for your guests
These days, the stigma around mental and physical well-being is slowly disappearing, and rightly so.
Sadly, a global pandemic mixed with the ups and downs of everyday life has resulted in a variety of consequences; some good, some bad.
We’ve all become more aware of ourselves and our health, and one thing we can be sure of, is that everyone is making the most of their holidays.
So how can you, as a business owner, provide your guests with the perfect getaway for people to relax and focus on their wellbeing?
We spoke with Chrissie Parker, owner of Piglets Boutique B&B, to find out what we can learn from them.
Why do you think it’s important for hospitality businesses to offer activities that improve wellbeing or offer wellness retreats?
Chrissie: Despite the fact that restrictions have been lifted, I know from the guests that have been here, people are still looking for somewhere where they’ve got space to relax and feel safe.
I think this wellbeing trend is going to continue for a while as well.
We all got so used to being isolated and having our own personal space during the pandemic, and I think that actually some people have rather embraced it and don’t want to go back. Someone said to me that it was so nice that they didn’t have to hug people if they didn’t want to.
The environment that we have at Piglets is just the right size for this. People know there will only be a maximum of ten people staying here.
In off-peak seasons it’s often fewer than ten, but even when we’re at full capacity, you have to provide them with a lot of space, both inside and out.
We often get groups of four friends that come, or couples. We’ve even had a few people that have come here on their own for a bit of space and a couple of days of contemplation.
I think we’re very lucky that being in the countryside, we can provide for these groups here.
What facilities do you have at Piglets Boutique B&B that are useful for wellness and wellbeing?
Chrissie: First and foremost, we make the guests very welcome.
Actually, I think that having a number of touch points with people before they arrive is a good idea if you can do it. Not to the point of being irritating obviously, but always ring them the day of their arrival, or the day before, to check that they’re okay and find out what time they’re arriving. We’re always here to greet people, so there’s a lot of making sure they feel comfortable and letting them know what we have and so on.
Then of course, we’ve got our natural swimming pond, which I must admit is a little bit chilly in the earlier months of the year. But even if people don’t want to swim, they might do a couple of minutes of cold water immersion, because that’s very on trend at the moment.
We also have the gym and a new infrared sauna.
These are the sort of things we have at Piglets that are what you might think as immediately connected with wellness.
In our gym, we don’t just have weights. We also have yoga mats and stretching bands and we’ve had people do yoga outside on the decking or around the pond. There’s quite a lot of room so people don’t feel crowded and they don’t feel that they’re going to be in somebody’s way if they do that sort of thing.
We also try to help people relax as soon as they get here, so they get cake and tea or coffee when they arrive, and there’s biscuits in their room. The facilities are very good in the rooms, but we also don’t want people to feel like they’ve got to stay in their room.
We’ve got a beautiful guest lounge with plenty of books, a very big dining-breakfast area with seating, and a games room.
Guests also have the ability to play music of their choice in any of the rooms that they’re in, including the sauna.
The idea is that people can do as much or as little as they want.
Another thing is that people can walk straight out the door into the countryside. It’s beautiful, I mean, I’m just sitting here now in the office and there are blue tits and robins in the olive tree just outside my window. You don’t have to be a bird watcher, but there’s something very relaxing about just sitting, listening and watching.
We do get a lot of kites and buzzards around here, as well as deer and hare in the surrounding fields.
We’ve got a boot room and people are welcome to bring bikes and muddy boots. They can be cleaned off and I’ll happily dry them in the utility room.
On our website we’ve got a number of walks that they can download. They can even come for a walk with me if they want to! I take the dogs out for a walk every day so I don’t mind if people want to come with me.
Do you have any instructors that come in to run yoga sessions or other activities?
Chrissie: We don’t get anyone in specifically because once we start doing things that are outside of our control, you start to lose a bit of the personal touch. And the other thing is, if you start trying to bring instructors in, you’ve usually got to have a certain number of people doing the class and it isn’t always possible to do that.
Also, if you have an organised activity, I sometimes think it can make those who don’t want to do it feel perhaps a little bit like they aren’t allowed in certain spaces or whatever. I don’t want any space to be restricted for other guests. It’s important that everyone feels they can have their own space.
Can guests do online workouts instead?
Chrissie: I can lend them the iPad if they want to do some online sessions. We do get a couple of people that have online personal trainers and they usually use our gym for that.
But people don’t have to stick to the gym. They can take themselves out onto the decking if it’s sunny.
We’ve got the large yoga balls and things like that which they can take outside.
If I was a business owner who wanted to start offering a guest experience that focused on relaxation and wellbeing, where should I start?
Chrissie: It’s very important to know what your demographic group is. When you offer any sort of package, it’s only good if people are going to respond to it.
Our demographic group is very much the sort of 50 plus age range, so the sort of wellness they might be looking for will be slightly different.
Like with everything, you have to do your market research.
Marketing can be really easy these days, but also very difficult. You’ve got to rely on people looking at your Facebook page or your website.
Who should business owners contact if they want to offer wellness packages? Or should they create their own?
Chrissie: You could partner with somebody who has a natural group of contacts. So, for instance, last year we spoke to somebody who runs yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes. He was interested in doing a wellness package here, over about a day and a half.
It didn’t come to anything in the end, because to be honest, he was so expensive that there was really nothing in it for us other than to serve cups of tea, which was not really what I wanted. But you can partner with people like that.
You have to be careful because if you bring in expertise from outside, it can be difficult to make a profit.
Personally, I think owners should look at what they’ve already got on site that they can use.
Wellness isn’t always about getting into the lotus position. It can just simply be about having a quiet place to relax and giving people the tools that they don’t normally have. We’re all very good at saying “I’m going to sit down and read this afternoon” and then we never do. But if you’re away somewhere, you can do that.
However, I do think you can overthink it.
We talked about doing a wellness thing here and we realised that we were moving away from all the things we already had here.
If an owner did hire someone, do you think it would be worth the cost?
Chrissie: Again, it’s about knowing your demographic group. You have to think about how you’re going to market it.
Cost it out properly and see what your break even point is. Consider what the yoga teacher or whoever will do. What if they only take a minimum of ten people, but you’ve only got four people staying with you?
But if you want external resources, looking at what’s available locally is always a good idea. Some people are very happy to come and do stuff, sometimes even free of charge. Or sometimes they’re happy to do an online session.
But you’ve got to be sure that these are going to be popular with your guests.
If a business owner is looking to hire someone, for example, a yoga instructor, what should they look for?
Chrissie: I would go and visit one of their classes to see what they do.
Always look at their online presence as well, like how many followers they have and what they post about, because some people don’t always practice what they preach.
Consider the actual person that does it, too.
We’ve all been to a class where we thought it was a good class but we didn’t like the instructor very much. So I think they’ve got to have a broad base of appeal to people and have the right attitude.
They’ve also got to be insured and I would want them to have some experience.
It would be good if they’ve also done stuff away from their own classes, because people are often comfortable within their own little sphere and then when you take them out, they can’t even form a sentence and they’re not very good at adapting.
I’d also look for someone with more than one string to their bow. Someone who can do two things, perhaps yoga and meditation, is quite good, because not everybody wants to do two hours of yoga.
Personally, I would probably look at yoga and pilates. I might even try to go off piste a bit and do something like tai chi, because for our demographic, that’s quite a popular thing to do. It’s also something people might like to try but don’t know anyone locally who could help them. It’s just a bit different.
What other activities do you think would be good to offer for wellness retreats?
Chrissie: We did talk about getting someone in to do massages, but again, that’s difficult because you’ve got to have the privacy and the space to do that. But it is something that we sort of toyed with.
We all think about wellbeing as just relaxing by yourself, but actually, it could just be spending time with others. We’ve had guests play scrabble with other guests, people they’ve never met before, and they enjoy that. Some people go into the games room and have a game of table tennis or snooker or whatever.
We’ve also got Petanque here so people can get together and form friendships whilst playing that.
There’s lots of activities like that where guests can team up with other guests. There’s nothing like a good laugh to make you feel better.
Do you have any final top tips or advice for other hospitality business owners who want to provide wellness retreats or focus more on wellbeing?
Chrissie: Every year, we end up doing a sort of pow-wow at the end of the busy season, looking at what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong and what we can do better.
You have to listen to feedback. I also think you should answer feedback from people and give them what they want.
You can’t keep saying you’ll do what you want to do and that’s it. You’ve got to be adaptable and not be too sensitive about bad feedback.
We’re lucky that most of the feedback we get is positive, but you do get the odd thing where people say it would have been nice if you did this, that and the other.
But you have to consider whether that has merit. Would that be a good thing for your business to do?
Analyse the groups of people that stay with you.
Where are they coming from? How far did they travel? What do they want when they get here?
If you get a lot of returning guests, keep data on everyone, such as their food intolerances, or whether they prefer a certain room. You have to keep evolving and your guests are the most important part of your business. Nothing else, no matter what you do that’s great, if you don’t have guests coming, you haven’t got a business.
YouTube: Piglets Boutique B&B