t was 1999, and Parks Canada had a problem: The previous owners of the marina in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park had walked away from the business—leaving nature lovers who wanted to rent boats essentially “up the river without a paddle!” Enter Morris McLachlan, who began renting out a small fleet of 10 boats and 10 canoes. He describes those early years as “chaotic” but family came to the rescue—daughters, nephews, nieces, a brother-in-law, you name it—all pitching in and lending a ”mom and pop” vibe that Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre has become known for. Morris’s wife, Sue joined him to help run the business after retiring from Parks Canada in 2015. Sue describes how implementing the latest technology has allowed them to scale the business and share the great outdoors with more people than ever before—including the influx of what she and Morris refer to as “new Canadians.”

BookingCentral: Congratulations on running such a strong, thriving business for twenty-five years! What would you say is the secret to your longevity?  

Sue McLachlan: Well, we view our employees as the biggest asset we have. We hire a lot of university students—the Marina operates from May 1 to September30, a timeframe that works perfectly for us and for them. On May 1, there's still ice on the lake, so that gives us time to get the canoes and kayaks out and make sure everything is in running order. And it gives us time to train our employees. We look for people who have really good communication skills. They have to show a lot of initiative, show some decision-making ability. They have to be able to think on their own. All the people we hire have that eagerness to learn. Many of them tell us it was the best summer job they ever had—they learn skills and make friends that will last a lifetime.  

Morris and Sue McLachlan have run Waskesiu Marina AdventureCentre
in Canada’s Prince Albert National Park for more than 20 years.


BC: What’s the boat rental experience like for your customers?

Sue: We spend a good amount of time making sure they understand proper operation of the equipment—how to put the motor down, how to tie up the boat, and where the rocks are so they can avoid them. We want to make sure they use the equipment safely so they can have a great time.  


BC: How did customers book with you in the early days? What system did you use?

Sue: Our system was a spreadsheet on the computer. It was very time consuming and there was lots of room for error. And we found that, as we got busier and busier, the phone would be ringing and by the time we checked the messages, we’d have another 10 messages. So we were losing money by not being able to book everyone who called. Then a few years ago, a boat rental operator in Manitoba suggested we look at BookingCentral.  


BC: Besides capturing the customers who were looking to rent your boats, was there anything else you were looking for in a system?

Sue: Well, we’re a little unique in the sense that we do more than just rent watercraft. We also have moorage slips and storage, and we have three locations—the main Marina, Hanging Heart Lakes Marina, and The Narrows Marina. We needed a system that had the flexibility to help us manage all the different aspects of the business.


BC: What was the business impact you saw after you implemented BookingCentral?

Sue: The first year, 30% of our bookings were online. That means we had a 30% increase in revenue! I think back to how we took our reservations in person. Now I'll still be at home in the morning, and I see the reservations rolling in, two minutes apart. There's no way we’d be able to book that many reservations every two minutes.


BC: So, what are your favorite features of the platform?

Sue: BookingCentral lets me log in and see all my reservations at all my locations. I can see how busy we are. I can adjust staffing levels to the reservation levels depending on location. We have our employees’ schedules online too, and they can log in from their phones and see when they’re scheduled to come in. Everything is easy to do remotely so I don’t have to be on-site all the time. Back in the beginning, we actually lived at the Marina during the summer. Now we don’t have to, and the university kids who work for us can live there for free instead.

"I can see the reservations rolling in, two minutes apart. There's no way we would have been able to book that many reservations every two minutes using our old system."

BC: Is there anything else you’d tell another rental company about BookingCentral, about why it works so well for you?

Sue: The thing I have to say I like most about BookingCentral is the customer support. If I send an email with a question, I get an answer. We know that BookingCentral is not going to leave us stranded. That's important. Because there are some other platforms where their support people don’t even work on the weekends. That doesn't work for a company like this, where we do so much business on the weekends. You have to have a support team in place for the technology you use so you get can your problems solved.

BC: Last question: What do you love most about what you do?  

Sue: Well, first of all, the business is inside a national park and it's absolutely beautiful. For both my husband and myself, we have history with the park, so we're in a place we love. That’s why we want every customer who comes through our door to leave with that same impression. If we can give people a memorable experience, we know we're going to see them coming back time and time again. And what we’re noticing these past few years is we get a lot of bookings from what we call new Canadians. We wonder, is this what they think Canadians do, that we’re just on the water all the time? Because we get a lot of bookings from new Canadians and they can't wait to get out on that water!


Learn more about how BookingCentral can help you increase your revenue this year. Speak to one of our experts today!

Mar 12, 2024
No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Keep an eye out for our next newsletter in your email inbox.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.