Skip to main content

Example of a luxury cottage used by Retreatify. The two-sided platform pairs business groups with owners of cottages and chalets within 200 kilometres of the Greater Toronto Area, offering add-ons such as transportation, catering and entertainment.

On-site yoga, limos and private chefs at cottage country homes are not just for vacationers with a luxury holiday in mind. Those options and more are now available to companies planning team getaways.

Retreatify, a Toronto-based tech startup, personalizes corporate trips by helping businesses “build their own retreats.” Launched in May by brothers Nir and Ron Zahavi, Retreatify simplifies the planning process for retreats of up to 25 people. The two-sided platform pairs business groups with homeowners’ empty cottages and chalets within 200 kilometres of the Greater Toronto Area, offering add-ons such as transportation, catering and entertainment.

The concept caters to a new corporate travel movement that swaps dull hotel boardrooms and tired resorts for local, authentic retreats that reward employees, bond teams and improve company morale through memorable experiences.

Story continues below advertisement

“Corporate retreats should be something employees look forward to. They should be a perk,” said Nir Zahavi, Retreatify’s CEO, who has worked at other startups for more than 10 years. “We give people the tools so that they can tell us what their perfect experience is.”

Co-founders of Retreatify: Ron Zahavi, left, COO, and his brother Nir Zahavi, CEO.

The first step involves a phone call. After a business speaks with Retreatify, a team member will recommend one or more of their 12 all-season homes in Muskoka, Orillia or Barrie. From there, employers use an online retreat planner to review pricing and browse optional add-ons that range in extravagance from van to limo bus, groceries to private chef and projector setup to in-home massages and boat rentals.

The breadth of choice allows Retreatify to accommodate companies with a range of budgets. The homes, which all sleep between 12 and 25 people, range in price from $800 to $1,925 per night with discounts for additional nights booked. Activity add-ons can be as inexpensive as $20 per person for an hour-long, in-home yoga class.

The concept has already proved popular with both small and large businesses. In six months, the company has played host to more than 250 retreats, attracting high-profile clients such as Shopify, Bell and CIBC.

“Companies have to figure out how to incentivize and retain great employees,” Mr. Zahavi said. “Our generation [millennials] expects a certain level of personalization and customization."

As a two-way platform, Retreatify also serves upscale recreational homeowners who want to list their properties as retreat homes. The service helps owners offset their costs and earn income during low-demand periods, such as the winter or the middle of the week. Retreatify also vets clients and uses safeguards, such as damage deposits, to increase owners’ peace of mind. Coupled with professional cleaners, Retreatify provides advantages compared with a catchall accommodation-sharing platform such as Airbnb.

Companies such as Retreatify may play an increasingly important role in Canada’s economy. An estimated 2.7-million Canadian adults participated in the sharing economy between November of 2015 and October of 2016, spending $1.31-billion, according to Statistics Canada. Use was also linked to youth. Sharing-economy participants were heavily concentrated among millennials aged 18-34, and although the survey found only one in 10 Canadian adults used sharing-economy services, such as the ride-sharing app Uber or Airbnb, the number of participants is expected to grow.

Story continues below advertisement

However, growth could mean more competition for Retreatify. Chris Gibbs, associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, expects to see more diversification.

“There’s a big pie, and let’s say Airbnb has 85 per cent of it, everyone else is going to try and chip away at it,” he said. “You’ll continue to see more highly targeted and segmented services.”

For now, Retreatify has cornered a niche market. While other accommodation-sharing platforms, such as British-based Onefinestay, offer luxury vacation homes and a concierge service, it isn’t available in Canada. And although other Canadian companies, such as Moniker, provide corporate retreat planning, Retreatify instead is targeting only small to mid-sized retreats.

But there are still challenges. Dr. Gibbs said there are inherent risks built into any two-way market.

“Their biggest challenge will be attracting enough homeowners and attracting enough clients,” he said. “They both have to come at equal paces.”

Retreatify can stock the cottage with groceries, supply catering or provide a private chef.

But Retreatify does have some built-in flexibility. Its business model allows any business group to order its add-ons, even if they are staying in a property that is not among those offered by Retreatify.

Story continues below advertisement

“They just need to have the property owner contact us and then we quickly get them all set up,” he said. “We also pay the homeowner a 5-per-cent commission on all sales.”

Mr. Zahavi said Retreatify is concentrated now on booking fall retreats, Christmas events and end-of-the-year employee appreciation programs. But to keep up with the growing demand, Mr. Zahavi said Retreatify will hire 10 employees over the next year, increasing its five-person team. In three to six months, the startup will also explore raising an initial round of seed funding.

He said the company plans to focus on Toronto for at least the next year. Its next move will be to expand to Prince Edward County in Ontario in early 2019. Eventually, Mr. Zahavi said the company may explore other areas in Canada.

The Retreatify experience taps into the natural way people bond at home around a breakfast table or in the kitchen – a feeling that’s hard to replicate in a traditional retreat location, such as a hotel or resort, Dr. Gibbs said.

“You’re going to continue to see new platforms that solve existing consumer challenges. Retreatify is servicing a unique need in the marketplace.”

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.