Case Study: How The Wilds took their adventure tourism business to new heights

By Brieanne Biblow

Operator HighlightsOperator Highlights

Picture yourself in an open-air Jeep, roaming through 10,000 acres of protected land alongside herds of exotic and endangered animals – like rhinos, giraffes, and cheetahs. Or strapped into a harness and ziplining above sprawling animal pastures. Did you picture yourself flying halfway across the globe to Africa? Surprise! You’re in Ohio at The Wilds. (Phew, what a savings on airfare!)

Checkfront customer The Wilds is a conservation facility nestled in Southeastern Ohio with a mission of empowering people and saving wildlife. For 30 years, they’ve become globally recognized for conserving endangered animal species and protecting their local ecology. Now, with nearly 100,000 yearly visitors, they’ve started to transform their business into a year-round travel destination offering.

As the team at The Wilds started welcoming tens of thousands of visitors, they discovered managing their daily operations and bookings was a beast of an undertaking. The solution? Finding booking and reservation software that could support them today and grow with them as they reach new heights.

“It’s been really positive. It’s extremely easy to use. It’s easy for our guests to book things. Checkfront has allowed us to really expand our level of service.”

– Cayla, Group Sales & Events Coordinator

Dive in as we explore more about sustainable tourism and hear from some of the team at The Wilds on how they’ve expanded their business.

What is sustainable tourism?

Sustainable tourism is about crafting experiences that exhilarate travellers and safeguard the delicate ecosystems and species they encounter. By prioritizing sustainability in their operations, businesses are not just offering unforgettable wildlife adventures; they’re contributing to preserving natural wonders for generations to come. From wildlife safaris to snorkelling with sea turtles, sustainable tourism ensures that every adventure leaves a positive footprint on the world. 

The Wilds: outdoor adventure tourism experts

The Wilds opened in the 90s, offering a visitor’s center, public tours of the land, and day and overnight education camps. They’ve now expanded into a world-renowned wildlife and outdoor adventure tourism business. 

“We were incorporated in 1984 and sit atop reclaimed strip mining land. So, it used to look like the surface of the moon. Then, the Reclamation Act came through and made perfect prairie grass for our animals. Ten years later, in 1994, we opened to the public, and tours launched.” said Nick, Zipline Course Manager

Growing their seasonal adventure tourism company was possible thanks to their dedicated team and unforgettable open-air safaris, ziplines, horseback tours, and more. Now, with the success of those experiences, they’ve expanded to include educational programs, events & rental spaces, and overnight experiences.

Image of two men doing a fishing tour at The Wilds. They are in a small boat fishing together on a calm lake surrounding by green trees and long grass
Image of a man in a white shirt, dark shorts and a blue helmet doing a zipline tour at The Wilds.
Image of a group of people on horseback trail tour with The Wilds, riding through a green rolling fields of wheat, grass

The Wilds before Checkfront | The challenge

Like most tour businesses or experience operators, the team at The Wilds found their old systems were getting in the way of growing their business. Using a booking software that couldn’t keep up with their present meant planning their future was put on hold.

  • Before | Their previous tour booking software couldn’t support all the aspects of their business and limited their growth.
    • 👎 Adding tours to an overnight stay was difficult.
  • Before | Their customers were constantly frustrated by a complicated online booking experience.
    • 👎 Revenue was often lost because multiple-night stays were difficult for customers to navigate and book.
  • Before | Changing their seasonal products in their software was overly complicated.
    • 👎 They couldn’t bulk edit or turn off products with specific seasonal start and end dates.
  • Before | Limited admin seats mean constant workflow bottlenecks.
    • 👎 Front desk staff or tour guides would need to find a manager to make changes in their software.

“We were looking for an online booking system that would just make the whole process easier for us and our guests.”

Cayla, Group Sales & Events Coordinator

How The Wilds put Checkfront’s tourism booking software to work

With Checkfront, The Wilds have been able to set up all their experiences on one booking platform – exactly how they want them. “I love how flexible the program is. […] I would rather have too many options than not enough. It’s night and day compared to our previous software.” – Cayla

  • After | They now have the most flexible online booking software that allows them to accommodate multiple offerings.
    • 👍: They can set up, organize, sell, and manage tours, rentals, event spaces, accommodations, and more. 
  • After | Their online booking flow is simple and seamless.
    • 👍: Customers can easily view, book, and pay for their experiences. The Wilds can combine and sell their experiences, which increases their revenue.
  • After | Multiple users can access their booking and reservation software. Each staff member has the level of access they need to do their job, reducing bottlenecks and improving efficiency.
    • 👍: Front desk staff can check bookings, send notifications in the case of weather events, ensure waivers are signed, and more without needing to call their manager.
  • After| They can dream up new experiences or revenue streams and have a booking system that supports their growth.
    • 👍: The Wilds are opening a campground in 2025, which will be bookable through Checkfront, along with the rest of their products.
  • After | They can onboard seasonal staff easily & quickly.
    • 👍: Checkfront’s Customer Success team offers training for year-round and seasonal staff to ensure your whole team is ready to hit the ground running.

“The bulk of our staff are seasonal workers. It’s been really easy for seasonal staff to train & learn the software quickly”

Andrew, Director of Operations

Diversifying The Wilds through data  

Transforming their seasonal outdoor tour adventure business into a year-round endeavour meant The Wilds dove into strategic planning and creativity. By harnessing their peak season visitors and slowly expanding their core tour offerings, they could reinvest in new infrastructure and amenities. “We’re in a growth phase […] where we envision ourselves by 2040 and beyond. A lot of that is increased offerings, new tours, new lodging experiences, a campground, a new event center with new interpretive experiences,” said Nick.

With Checkfront’s reporting tools, The Wilds can pull detailed information to get clear, reliable insights from their booking engine. Now, they can pinpoint underperforming products or key into popular experiences and booking upswings.   

Making data-driven decisions has allowed them to expand into a diversified range of tours, nature experiences, event rental spaces, overnight accommodations, and more.

Image of a wildlife conservation staff member from The Wilds in a camo shirt and blue jeans. He's standing in front of a group of white and caramel coloured antelope.

More action, less admin 

Before Checkfront, The Wilds found themselves doubling up on their booking admin processes. With their previous tourism booking software, they needed manual workflows to fill the gaps. Nick explained, “our lodging options in our old system were really clunky. We were forcing something to work that [just] did not work. And so trying to find a booking software that supported all aspects of our park was important.”

Now, they have a tool they trust that tackles their booking logistics and supports their customer-facing staff in delivering a 5-star guest experience. Some of the key ways Checkfront helps The Wilds manage their booking logistics and reduce admin overwhelm:

✍️ Online waivers: Checking in dozens of guests for an open-air safari tour? No problem. With online waivers built into their booking flow and scheduled notifications, guests of The Wilds arrive ready to see the sights. 

👩‍💻 Daily Manifest: Seasonal front desk staff, tour guides, and the operations team all need to see the day’s bookings for different reasons. With the Daily Manifest, each team member can access bookings, check guest details, edit bookings, assign assets, run reports, and more. 

📨 Notifications: Whether via email or text message, The Wilds can keep their guests updated with crucial booking information, from confirmation emails to requests for Google Reviews and everything in between.

📆 Inventory Calendar: As The Wilds expands its revenue streams, it expands its inventory. Thankfully, with Checkfront, they can easily update and manage their inventory. Now, keeping track of jeeps, rooms, harnesses, and helmets doesn’t cause headaches.

✏️ Bulk editing products & items: The Wilds shift their offerings to match the seasons. So now, when peak season ends they can bulk edit products/items in only a few clicks.

“In our off-season, I enjoy the flexibility that our operation has. Once October 31st hits, we’re able to mass edit a lot of our items. I know a lot of operations don’t have that luxury.”

Nick, Zipline Course Manager

How guests get a Wild 5-star experience

Most guests’ first interaction with any adventure experience company is through their website. There’s nothing that dampens excitement quite like a complicated checkout or booking experience. The Wilds shared they often experienced lost bookings due to customers getting frustrated “[customers kept saying to us] This is really hard to make reservations.” Now, Cayla says feedback from their guests has shifted. “It’s been really positive. It’s extremely easy to use. It’s easy for our guests to book things. Checkfront has allowed us to really expand our level of service.”

But, a standout booking flow is only the beginning of your relationship with their guests. Nick shares that The Wilds now have a tool that supports their staff in providing truly great customer service. “During our busy season, you’re going to see frontline staff using it way more. [It’s great to] see them better serve the guests. They have the invoice pulled up and can see, “Oh, Dina, you’re scheduled for an open-air this morning at 11:00, and then you’re checking in for Nomad at 3:00.”

Final Thoughts

The Wilds’ journey over the last 30 years to become a thriving year-round tourism destination is a result of strategic planning, innovation, and a commitment to guest satisfaction. Their story is one of how sustainable tourism practices and cutting-edge technology can work hand in hand to create a brighter future for both businesses and the environment. Their journey for the next 30 years?  Nick said they’re excited to deliver even more. “Being able to shift our operations from a six-month seasonal to a 12-month, we can do all these things and more.”

Using Checkfront as their booking and reservation software, The Wilds has streamlined its operations, empowered its staff, and elevated the guest experience. This means it can now focus on what matters most: providing unforgettable wildlife adventures while preserving the delicate ecosystems it inhabits. 

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