Case Study: Gananoque Boat Line Triples Online Sales with Checkfront

Visitors come from all over the world to explore the 1000 Islands in Gananoque, Ontario. From kayaking to scuba diving, there is plenty to do and see — but the best way to experience the heart of the islands is by cruising along the St. Lawrence River.

For sixty-seven years, Gananoque Boat Line has offered a variety of sightseeing cruises with five triple-decker vessels. Starting out building their own all-aluminum ships — which are still in use today— this family-owned business takes up to 500 passengers at a time on a breathtaking voyage.

On the open top deck, passengers enjoy stunning views of the historic islands, Boldt Castle, “Millionaire Row”, and the occasional freighter passing along the channel. Beyond sightseeing, there are other cruises available for a unique experience — like romantic dining at sunset or a fun-filled night with live music.

We had a chance to visit Gananoque Boat Line and meet Ross McCarney, Assistant Operations Manager and John Sparks, Director of Marketing and Information Technology.

Both McCarney and Sparks grew up in Gananoque, so they’re passionate about showing others the beauty of the river and their hometown. Wanting everyone to have a chance to discover the 1000 Islands, they shared how Checkfront helps passengers book tickets in advance.

Open season tickets not guaranteed

With open tickets, customers could come at any point in the season. However, without a specific date and time, the boat’s daily seating was left to whoever showed up. No one was guaranteed a spot.

When visitors arrived, eager to board the adventure, they’d be disappointed to learn the boat was already full. Anyone making a long journey out would be frustrated having to change up their trip itinerary because they couldn’t go on at the time they planned.

Crowded tour on Gananoque Boat Line tour of Boldt Castle

At the same time, a central booking attendant handled all of the reservations. Responding to customer messages wasn’t done promptly and bookings weren’t updated accurately. Everything was written up manually — a surefire way for a human error to take place.

And with two locations, customers would call one and have to be directed to the main office because only one place could take bookings.

Gananoque Boat Line needed the ticket booking process to be more streamlined if they wanted to maintain a high level of customer service. So, they set out on a voyage of their own to find an ideal partnership in an online booking system.

A match made by a Google search

From a simple Google search, Checkfront was the first platform they found. They liked the monthly payment plan, and so, when they came across other platforms, they were turned off by commissions.

GBL wasn’t willing to say yes to any charges — whether it was 1% or 6%. And a fee passed along to the customer wouldn’t align with their goal to support customer relations. If commissions left a wrong impression on them, why wouldn’t a customer feel the same way?

Aerial view of the Thousand Islands and a bridge

With Checkfront, they knew a better pricing option was available. It was essential for them to charge a fair price to their customers and a monthly payment plan would allow for that.

After a month-long search, they circled back to the platform they liked from the start. Checkfront was not only the best payment solution for their needs but the best software one as well.

Optimized ticket purchasing and lower wait times

Checkfront revolutionized the ticket purchasing process for Gananoque Boat Line. Customers now book online by choosing a specific date, time slot and departure point. And with designated tickets, the GBL team can anticipate and prepare for busy days because they know how many customers will arrive daily.

Upon arrival, there is a kiosk outside that allows online ticket holders to skip the line-up  — which used to be long enough to go out the door and around the main building. With quick check-ins, wait times have been reduced and anyone showing up with an online ticket is guaranteed to get on board.

“Checkfront has optimized our customer’s ability to purchase tickets in advance and remove the need for our customers after purchasing online tickets to come into the ticket office — thus alleviating the pressure on the ticket office.” 

John Sparks

Director of Marketing and Information Technology, Gananoque Boat Lines

Everyone on the GBL team enjoys the benefits of using the Checkfront software. In marketing, Sparks loves the ability to see where customers are coming from. He can better allocate marketing dollars to areas where advertising is most effective.

As for McCarney, he says “one of my favourite parts of Checkfront is pretty simple. It’s the inventory section, where at any given point, you can take inventory away, or add inventory on the fly. We have different times where we need to do that — and do it quickly — and it works fairly well.”

By enhancing the customer experience and streamlining the booking process, Gananoque Boat Line states Checkfront has been life-changing in regards to efficiency and sales.

Increase in online sales

For Gananoque Boat Line, switching to Checkfront resulted in significant growth — which they expect to continue. In the last year, online ticket sales have tripled. And it’s because customers can book themselves.

With Checkfront being online, reservations are taken in multiple locations by multiple employees — they never miss out on a ticket sale. Also, fewer refunds are issued because no one is showing up frustrated about not getting on board.

From pricing structure to technology, Checkfront has simplified the ticket purchasing process, allowing Gananoque Boat Line to fill up their boats without leaving anyone on shore.

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