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SoulCycle back in 2015 filed paperwork to go public — business was booming for the spin company, and it had cultivated just the right mix of fitness, self-help, and positivity to hook customers and keep them coming back for more classes.
But then something changed. The company in 2018 withdrew its long-delayed plans, citing “market conditions.” Maybe studio competitors like Flywheel, CycleBar, Ryde, and Cyc were slowing the company’s growth. Or perhaps investors saw little potential for SoulCycle to expand outside of affluent neighborhoods — because you can only have so much geographical reach when you charge over $30 per class.
Another explanation: An internet-connected stationary bike start-up called Peloton, founded in 2012, was starting to develop buzz, and investors knew its potential. Not only could it also create a cultlike following with its likeable instructors, but the company wouldn’t have to pay for studio space and could meet customers wherever they are — even if that’s suburban or rural America.
So to keep pace with Peloton, which went public last month — though with a less-than-stellar performance thus far — SoulCycle has had to start getting creative in order to generate extra revenue and hold on to its devoted fan base, which, after the recent Hamptons Trump fundraiser, could be in jeopardy. One of those ways is the recent announcement of Retreats by SoulCycle, in partnership with luxury travel company Black Tomato.
It may sound a little odd that SoulCycle would host wellness retreats. After all, wellness retreats typically involve escaping to quiet, remote places for yoga and contemplation, rather than descending on big cities where SoulCycle studios are often located.
Wellness Tourism on the Rise
Yet the first retreat, taking place in 2020, will likely be in Las Vegas — again, not synonymous with wellness, even though some properties are trying to change that reputation.
That said, the definition of the wellness retreat is currently expanding. “The newest trend is the rise of premium urban wellness retreats that make retreats more accessible to those who can’t get away from it all,” said Dervla Louli Musgrave, founder of Compare Retreats, a booking site for retreats.
“Aman New York and Six Senses New York are two integrated wellness centers that will be offering this type of retreat package, Equinox already does, and trainer Taryn Toomey has Global Immersion, a three-day experience in Four Seasons Downtown NYC,” added Musgrave.
To balance out the Sin City side of the trip, retreat guests will also likely make a stopover in Sedona to get a fix of fresh air and Instagam-worthy red-rock views.
Considering wellness tourism is a $639 billion dollar industry and projected to reach $919 billion by 2022, according to the Global Wellness Institute, it’s not a bad idea for the spin company to dabble in wellness retreats. Not to mention, wellness tourism is also growing twice as fast as tourism overall, the Global Wellness Institute has found.
“I believe that this (Global Wellness Institute data) and other research into the wellness travel sector have created a lot of interest in the category,” said Musgrave.
SoulCycle, moreover, can use its devoted following to its booking advantage. The appeal of customers choosing a brand they’re already connected to? “Familiarity, trust — and you know what to expect,” said Musgrave. “When I’m loyal, I’ll fly 15 hours to go to the perfect retreat with a teacher I connect with — SoulCycle’s class and quality consistency will be a big draw, plus they have managed to create an incredible sense of community which is priceless,” Musgrave added.
“With Retreats by SoulCycle, we’re giving our community another opportunity to devote attention to themselves and deepen their ties to one another over the span of multiple days in a beautiful setting, outside of the day-to-day hustle,” said Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle.
A recent test retreat to Austin, Texas, was targeted at loyal customers at a discount price of $2,000. It included SoulCycle classes, breathwork, meditation sessions, and a brewery tour in Hill Country.
“Each retreat offers participants the opportunity to find their center through one-of-a-kind experiences in amazing destinations — while also connecting with a like-minded community,” she added.
The move, she explained, was a way to “not only to listen to but to anticipate our riders’ needs.”
Plus, it’s wise of SoulCycle to partner with Black Tomato — which knows how to operate retreats — rather than try to put the trips together on its own.
“When SoulCycle expressed interest in early 2019 in developing retreats for their riders, it was a natural fit for Black Tomato, as many of our clients are intrepid, adventurous, and active travelers, to power the trip,” said Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato.
The trips will probably deliver on what loyalists want, especially if their favorite trainers are involved. But it’s unclear how many devotees SoulCycle has lost after the recent Hamptons Trump fundraiser backlash.
There’s also bound to be competition in the space. You can expect more fitness and athleisure companies entering the retreat game, especially after SoulCycle’s announcement. Ccurrently, Lululemon, Free People, and ClassPass have all tested the wellness retreat concept in various forms.
There is big money to be made in wellness tourism, but its retreats likely won’t be enough for SoulCycle to make up ground with Peloton. Still, it’s a step, or a pedal, in the right direction.
The only caveat — Peloton can easily decide to launch retreats of its own. Coming soon in 2020?
UPDATED: This story was updated to include pricing for a recent retreat in Austin, Texas.