Relax, Recharge & Reboot with Plan B Escapes
We chat to former advertising executive Laurent Baldoni about Plan B Escapes, a fitness ‘bootcamp’ with a difference, where clients choose exactly what they want to do in a fun, relaxing and also stimulating environment.
What was the original concept behind Plan B Escapes?
The original idea was to put together something I enjoyed myself! It was very much a lifestyle choice rather than a money spinner. I couldn’t find any breaks that offered a variety of activities for my own holidays, so I started doing them myself. This has the obvious benefit of making the event great fun for me personally and allows me to be very honest in my outlook, rather than a businessman looking to earn money. I feel the personal touch brings a great vibe to each break. I’ve always been into doing many different activities and that’s what I wanted for Plan B Escapes, namely an all round wellness experience rather than, for example, a specific activity such as a yoga retreat of which there are plenty already.
You worked for many years in film, TV and commercials. How did this fairly dramatic career change come about?
I think anyone who has worked in production knows how draining it can be. I’d worked on many big international projects and there just wasn’t much of a challenge anymore. And truthfully my heart wasn’t in it and I needed something a little more rewarding on a personal level. Anyone who can do what they love as a living would jump at the chance, and that is exactly what Plan B Escapes is to me. I love relaxing in beautiful places and eating great food – who wouldn’t?! I like all forms of exercise and, most importantly, I like spending time with wonderful like-minded people. To be able to do that and call it work is a no-brainer. And the icing on the cake is seeing how happy the clients are. Seeing the positive changes during those few days together is really special. And ultimately my skills as a producer have served me well in terms of the logistics of putting together high quality events.
Can you give us an idea of what someone can experience on one of your Escapes?
On the one hand there are all the activities. There are always different daily fitness classes (boxfit, circuits, beach workouts etc) as well as yoga classes suited to all levels. We will always have a daily trip either to the beach, a hike to beautiful location or a visit to a local medieval village for example, in order to enrich the experience and allow clients to see more than just the villas. On site we have a physio and a massage therapist offering different types of treatments for both aching muscles and stress relief, not to mention the on-site chef providing hearty healthy meals all day. In addition to all this, I’d like to think we bring a little extra in terms of the personal touch and attention to detail. All our staff are such lovely people and genuinely care about the client experience and that does make a difference. Certainly the clients seem to think so.
How much planning goes into organisding an Escape?
More than I’d like! As with most things it takes a huge amount of work to ensure a great break where everything runs smoothly. It would be wonderful if it were just like a holiday for me too but we all work incredibly hard to make the experience everything it should be for our clients. That said, you’ll always see a smile on our faces!
Who do you think an Escape is most suited to?
It is genuinely suited to anyone. The great thing about the variety of the activities is that the breaks can appeal to a wide range of people with different interests. And the key thing with Plan B Escapes is that there is never any pressure to take part in anything so if you’re someone who likes to relax by the pool and read a book then that’s all good too. We obviously get yoga lovers and people who like to keep fit, but we’ve also had plenty of people who don’t follow any type of healthy lifestyle and it’s great to see people trying new things. One of the advantages of having varied activities is that some who might come for yoga get to try new fitness classes and sometimes get hooked, and vice versa. More than one fitness fanatic has been shocked at how dynamic a yoga class can be for example. And for those who aren’t into exercising it’s a big eye opener to see how training can be done in such a way as to be great fun rather than a chore. I would say most clients are from their mid 30s to 50ish but we’ve had clients from early 20s to pushing 60 and the great thing is they all mix perfectly. Age doesn’t really exist at Plan B!
How do you decide on a location?
This is actually surprisingly hard. As we like to add in lots of little extras to each Escape, choosing a convenient location takes a lot of time and investigation. Of course the main factor is that it be stunning, with comfortable accommodation. Then we need outdoor space for the yoga and fitness, as well as indoor space in the unlikely event of a downpour. The massage therapist needs a place to work in peace and then one needs to factor in the additional activities we include, so it needs to be close to a beach, have a beautiful hike in the vicinity as well as one special place to visit where I usually take the clients for a slap-up dinner off-site. It also needs to be conveniently located to Barcelona or an airport depending on where we stage it, and finally, the price needs to be attractive too as I like to try to keep each break as affordable as possible given we offer so many different activities and include transport and/or airport transfers too.
How do you choose your staff and what are their main specialities?
Again, this is something that might appear easy but it is actually quite tough to get the right fit. Yoga teachers and trainers are not hard to find, but we really like to offer that personal touch and so it has taken time to get to a point where I can now count on various top people for each position. Not only must they be excellent in their specific field but they also need that ‘Plan B’ character. They love what they do but they also really care about the clients and giving them the best break possible. Outside of the classes all the staff are available for advice and one-on-one informative talks. Our fitness trainer for the upcoming May event is also a nutritionist and physiotherapist and so, for example, we also have little seminars to dispel the myths about healthy eating and how to look after our bodies.
How hands-on are you during an Escape?
Very! I explained earlier how I set these breaks up very much in my own style so there’s no way I would miss out. I’m around all day every day ensuring that everything goes swimmingly and if any clients have any doubts or queries I’m there to help, although the whole team serves that same purpose. Most of the hard work happens prior to the event so I can also find time to join the classes and take a little ‘me’ time too with the clients. Should anything need addressing I’m there to make sure it gets sorted out quickly with minimal fuss. I think any business, especially in this field, has an energy that permeates down from the top and I like to see that the Escapes really are as enjoyable as I want them to be.
Aside from improving their fitness, what else do you feel ‘escapers’ benefit from?
The fitness is really just one element of our breaks, it’s not all about getting in shape or practising yoga. We aim to help the clients relax, recharge and reboot, and although the classes and activities serve a purpose the key thing is to provide an environment where each client can get exactly what they need from their Escape. That’s why we don’t pressurise people to take part in anything, each client is free to do as he or she pleases, and if they want a chill day that is totally fine. The staff and I like to create an atmosphere in which each person feels comfortable and that in itself allows them to unwind and take a break from whatever they need to hit pause on, be it work, family or anything else. The idea is allow people to clear their heads for a few days and we take care of everything. I think that allows our clients to truly disconnect and seeing them change over the few days they are with us is hugely gratifying. We even had a client arrive stressed about a job that was getting on top of him and by the end he’d decided to quit and start his own project. He was over the moon!
What is the general reaction of ‘escapers’ after their break?
It really is heartwarming to hear people’s genuine gratitude after each break. We also hand out anonymous feedback forms so anyone can say what they want without judgement and the reviews are always top notch. Time and again clients refer to the energy and the general vibe during the breaks and that’s what I always wanted to be a key factor with Plan B. As someone who goes on these types of holidays it is so important to me to feel like my enjoyment really matters to those who organise them. Unfortunately, all too often I find them a little blasé and laid back. Here we really make an effort to make the client happy and it’s nice when they notice.
What is the most unusual request you’ve seen for a bespoke Escape?
As it stands I’ve had nothing I’d consider outlandish but then nothing compares to the demands of high level clients on a film shoot! I can name dozens of ridiculous requests that were sorted on the spot in that field so there really there is nothing we can’t do. Most requests centre around fun or fitness, the usual adventure/adrenaline type of team-building events, sometimes blended with a little tourism when the clients come from abroad. They range from single day events suitable to small budgets or high-end requests for long weekends or week-long events.
What do you think sets Plan B Escapes apart from others?
It’s hard to answer this question for the simple reason that I set this up as I couldn’t find any similar breaks in Spain, so a direct comparison isn’t easy. I’d refer back to the personal touch. We’re not a huge company looking to take over the world nor churn clients through for quick, easy cash. We do a few events each year and I make sure they maintain a high standard. I’m always present at each event ensuring that everything goes to plan for an optimum client experience. Other than that I always keep the events affordable, certainly taking into account everything we include. Comparable events in UK health and lifestyle magazines where I’ve advertised the breaks are often at least 50% more expensive.
Have you got plans to expand in the future?
Yes, very much so. Not only will we be putting on events, we will also branch out to locations in Morocco, Mallorca, the Canaries and also the Alps in the summer. I’m currently looking at places in Indonesia too so not only will our own Plan B Escapes become more varied but also the bespoke Escapes can be done in numerous beautiful locations. We will also be providing specifically-designed high-end Escapes for the luxury 5* star market, while maintaining the affordable breaks for those on a tighter budget.
Places are still available for the next Plan B Escapes in Tarragona in May and September 2017. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Places are still available for the next Plan B Escapes in Tarragona in May and September 2017.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.