Case Study: How Spirit Bear Lodge powers multi-day tours with Checkfront

By Erick Tomaliwan

Operator HighlightsOperator Highlights

Among remote wilderness, unspoiled shorelines, and diverse landscapes, Spirit Bear Lodge is a destination that attracts avid adventurers and nature-lovers alike.

Nestled in the Great Bear Rainforest, this resort offers unparalleled access to wildlife viewing areas and cultural sites within the Kitasoo Xai’xais traditional territory.

Established in 2001 and Indigenous-owned, Spirit Bear Lodge is a fixture in the community of Klemtu, B.C. The Lodge invites guests to experience BC’s majestic and rugged West Coast through sustainable tourism practices. Accessible by boat or plane, visitors can visit from May through October.

Once on-site, guests can choose to go hiking, kayaking and canoeing. There are plenty of opportunities to spot both marine and wildlife along the way. Visitors may even spot the elusive Spirit (Kermode) Bear chowing down on the local salmon. 

Bear climbing a tree

Community-owned and operated

The lodge itself offers wood beams and hand-carved features, with rooms equipped to accommodate groups of two to six at a time. Guests appreciate the opportunity to see wildlife and gain a better understanding of the local Indigenous culture.

For the cheerful, dynamic duo who run the Sales and Marketing team, there’s no shortage of work that goes into getting guests to the lodge.

We connected with Bridget Orsetti and Michelle Brown to hear more about their experience setting up Checkfront for their online bookings. As Bridget says, “we do everything but drive a boat.”

“At the Lodge, you’re actually part of the solution to help protect the Great Bear Rainforest, preserve a culture, and enhance it. We’re hiring younger people that come into the lodge and learn from the elders or their family members that work for the lodge of their cultures.”

— Bridget Orsetti, Spirit Bear Lodge

community at Spirit Bear Lodge

The challenge with tracking bookings on a spreadsheet

When faced with the option to set up online bookings, there was some initial hesitation. Originally, bookings were managed in a spreadsheet, which Michelle recalls adding a lot of pressure on her to ensure they were on top of everything.

Between organizing logistics for guests travelling to Klemtu, securing rooms, tracking payments and sending balance reminders, it was a lot for the team to juggle. Bridget recounts how “they were nervous to change the system that they knew and needed something that would be easy-to-use.”

Adopting a new system inevitably comes with a learning curve. The challenge came in migrating bookings from a spreadsheet to an entirely new approach for both guests and staff with online bookings.

And this is where Checkfront support helped guide the staff at Spirit Bear Lodge.

Bear in the rain forest

Empowering a small yet mighty marketing team

Before setting up Checkfront as their online reservation software, staff at Spirit Bear Lodge didn’t have a convenient online payment option for guests.

And time was being spent attaching templates to individual emails that were sent out to customers. They also had no easy way of following up with guests without sending manual email reminders.

Working collaboratively, Bridget and Michelle invested time into growing familiar with the software, overcoming any hurdles along the way. Checkfront’s Support Team provided personalized videos of their Spirit Bear Lodge dashboard so they could get up and running faster.

Not only did this alleviate some of the more tedious tasks, but having a way for guests to book and pay online allowed them to simplify the booking process for guests around the globe.

“The payments, emails and notifications are really labour-intensive steps that [with Checkfront] we have become so much more efficient in.”

— Bridget Orsetti, Spirit Bear Lodge

Exploring with Spirit Beach Lodge guide

The solution with online bookings

When looking at different programs, one sticking point was that the website reservation software Bridget and Michelle chose would have to be “easy to use and train staff on”.

Having a simplified booking experience for guests has freed up their time to dedicate towards targeted marketing efforts.

Not only has the team migrated from using just a spreadsheet to keep track of online bookings, they now have a streamlined booking process for guests.

Using the bulk email notifications feature automates touchpoints along their customer journey. From logistics to payment reminders to a survey asking guests for feedback — it’s a win-win for everyone.

And, after growing increasingly confident and familiar with the platform, Bridget and Michelle even spearheaded a mentorship program within their local community.

“Having one system [where we] give people access to our waiver and send the flight details through, along with our automated responses after somebody pays a deposit — it’s consolidated all of this into one place.”

— Bridget Orsetti, Spirit Bear Lodge

Establishing a mentorship program 

Bridget and Michelle are especially passionate about allocating their newfound time and resources towards building relationships, trust and rapport within their community.

Michelle mentions how “having Checkfront in place is allowing us to go, okay, this is all running smoothly. We can focus on the people, we can focus on putting time in doing things [that are] well thought out.”

As a result, Spirit Bear Lodge is now building confidence among staff through training programs. Plus, Bridget and Michelle have developed the capacity to connect with fellow tour operators to share the benefits of adding an online reservation system.

spirit bear lodge

Seeing results with Checkfront

Michelle has seen the positive shift from the old to the new system. She believes that investing in setting up Checkfront online bookings has come back tenfold.

Guests can research, book and pay online with all email communication going through Checkfront. It makes the experience more direct and simple for both staff and guests visiting Spirit Bear Lodge.

With an increased effort in marketing towards Canadians, Bridget and Michelle are excited to see what kind of growth the future holds for the Lodge.

They feel honoured to see the impact an experience has on guests, especially when they hear what guests have to share.

“[Guests come here] expecting to have this amazing wildlife experience, but when they’re leaving, they’re talking about the experience they had learning about the culture, learning about the area and the people they’ve met that are working there and that’s home for them.”

— Michelle Brown, Spirit Bear Lodge

Final Thoughts

Over the last two decades, Spirit Bear Lodge has become known on a global scale, becoming a leader in community-based tourism within Canada. The Lodge employs nearly 10% of the local population, creating new employment opportunities, especially for youth.

Spirit Bear Lodge is recognized for revitalizing the Kitasoo Xai’xais culture and strengthening environmental stewardship in their community.

And Checkfront has provided the team at the Lodge with a powerful tool to focus their efforts and more effectively manage their online bookings.

Bridget says, “the remoteness is pretty special and [Spirit Bear Lodge] is owned by the community of Klemtu. You’re in a culture that is obviously really special, but also it’s real. You’re in the community with the people of Klemtu.”

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