Case Study: Canmore Cave Tours Doubles Customers With Checkfront

By Erick Tomaliwan

Operator HighlightsOperator Highlights

Caving is an experience unlike anything else; it’s an underground journey that leads to parts unknown. In dark and confined spaces, it involves wriggling, climbing, and crawling, which is why most associate this sport with adventure enthusiasts. That is except for Canmore Cave Tours — they don’t see caving as exclusive to explorers.

On top of offering adventure-centric tours, they also inspire musicians, movie buffs, and meditators to experience the wonder of Rat’s Nest Cave. Located in the Canadian Rockies, there’s so much to see in this cave system — like calcite chandeliers, ancient pictographs, and 7,000-year-old bones. While it’s a rewarding challenge to make it through the tunnels, the surroundings provide excellent acoustics, a dark backdrop for horror films, and a place to disconnect for a while.

Just as there isn’t only one way to go caving, Canmore Cave Tours recognized that guests might not book the same way either. Although some might prefer to call ahead, there are many who’d rather make a reservation online. Essentially, they were then missing out on those specific cavers by not presenting that option, too.

“The cave experience is such a powerful experience for people. And to share that is so worthwhile. Going to work is pretty easy for me to do. Trying to figure out how to share that environment and make their experiences as good as possible is a lot of fun.”

Adam Walker
Owner, Canmore Cave Tours

In 2014, Canmore Cave Tours discovered online bookings with Checkfront. We talked with the owner, Adam Walker, to find out what led to that decision and how it helped them grow in the last few years. Let’s explore that:

Missing out on bookings

First established in 1992, Adam Walker started guiding with Canmore Cave Tours in 2007 and then took over ownership in 2013. With a background education in outdoor pursuits, geology, and cave science, Walker knew a career in cave tours was a perfect mix of the three.

At the time he became owner, they were operating out of a small shed, meeting guests in a public location, and had an outdated website. Phone lines were hectic — especially in the summertime. Guides would get tied up with one guest on a call and miss out on others trying to get through.

Guests exploring a cave with Canmore Cave Tours after making an online booking.

Similarly, phone communication made it challenging to connect with other businesses. Walker wanted to give their guests the ultimate Canmore experience by quickly recommending them to other experience providers in the area. That was near impossible to do when the phones were busy, and everyone was out guiding.

“So when I took over, we moved into an office space, we got online bookings, updated our website, which was really important for being mobile-friendly, having a mobile-friendly website, and just generally updated our technology communication-wise. All of those steps together meant we could grow quite quickly and we did.”

Adam Walker
Owner, Canmore Cave Tours

Searching for the right booking system

At first, Canmore Cave Tours was a little scared of navigating online bookings — despite being brave cave explorers. Yes, they wanted to appeal to a broader audience, but the reality is that caving isn’t for everyone, and they knew it was still important to convey this information to their guests. The last thing they wanted was for someone to show up unprepared and unable to enjoy the experience.

Of course, they were already comfortable with telling guests everything they need to know about caving over the phone. So that was the primary concern — how would guides deliver the same personalized and helpful responses with online bookings?

Guest using ice picks while exploring cave with Canmore Cave Tours.

After months of investigating various online booking systems, Walker said they decided on Checkfront because of Custom Email Notifications. “I love the ability to customize the notifications on status, on availability, on an item — really gives me a lot of control in terms of how I communicate with customers,” Walker says.

When a guest makes a booking, they could still let them know what to bring, remind them of the tour date, and encourage them to leave a review after the experience. Regardless of whether a guide is already on the phone or out of office, automated and custom email notifications kept the lines of communication and engagement open.

Want to give Custom Email Notifications a try? Request a demo of Checkfront.

There were plenty of other factors that contributed to this decision — which included a price point Canmore Cave Tours could grow with, and an easy to use dashboard for guides and partners. But knowing they could maintain that human presence using automation played a considerable part.

“When we do get an online booking, we still follow up with a “hey, don’t forget to bring this and this and this.” So they can still feel that human presence. But we also do reminder emails, “hey, don’t forget, you have a booking with us coming up.” And follow up emails, “thanks for coming out with us, don’t forget to leave a review.”

Adam Walker
Owner, Canmore Cave Tours

Connecting to more customers and partners

Since using Checkfront, Canmore Cave Tours has doubled their customer base. “When I took over the business in 2013, we hosted about 3,500 visitors to the cave. Last year, in 2017, we were close to 7,000, and I attribute a lot of that to technology, just the ease of booking, and ease of communication.” Walker continues, “It’s generally easier for people to reach us, and the Checkfront platform, overnight, affected that absolutely.”

With a self-booking option, it doesn’t matter the time of day; guests can make a reservation when it suits them and receive instant confirmation. That means Canmore Cave Tours can accept bookings in the middle of the night without communicating directly with the guest. Guides also have more time to talk with other guests on the phone without worrying about missing a reservation.

Guest rapelling while exploring cave with Canmore Cave Tours.

On top of that, Canmore Cave Tours found it easier to work closely with other experience providers in the Canadian Rockies. Using Checkfront as a common platform, a group of adventure hosts could now cross-promote each other online and help create unforgettable travel moments for their guests. That’s how Adventure HUB came to be.

With other businesses on board, Walker loves that he can refer them to Checkfront’s fantastic support team for any help they may need. Similar to how Canmore Cave Tours prioritizes personal interactions, he says that it’s great to be able to talk to a team member right away and receive human and helpful responses.

“I’m pretty happy with Checkfront. I’m probably the biggest fan because I keep telling people to use it.”

Adam Walker
Owner, Canmore Cave Tours

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