Vancouver’s Largest Guided Tour Company Implements NetSuite

Case Study - HBI Office Plus

Working with ERP Success Partners, West Coast Sightseeing implements NetSuite Cloud ERP as a way to bring all of its business entities together on a single, modern platform.   

What started as a small, family business focused on providing guided tours of Vancouver by minibus has since grown into the city’s only sightseeing company to offer hop-on/hop-off, guided, charter, and electric harbor tours. Since being founded in 1984, Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing has given more than 250,000 guests from all over the world a remarkable Vancouver experience.

After acquiring a major, local competitor in 2017—and having its only other competitor stop operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak—Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing effectively positioned itself in the top spot in its market. Today, the company is proudly working towards a greener and more sustainable future. To get there, it’s adding electric buses and boats as a first step to achieving its goal of becoming the first sightseeing company in Canada with 100% electric vehicles.

Riding the Storm Out

Highly seasonal, Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing generates most of its revenues in the April through October time frame, during which time it usually employs about 250 people. It drops down to a skeleton staff during the winter months, when it manages a few different, smaller winter tours. The company has experienced consistent growth over the years but was heavily impacted by the pandemic and the resultant shutdowns and travel restrictions.

“Our owner is constantly looking for new opportunities, so he has plans to continue growing,” said Tracey Wagner, Accounting Manager. “Tourism has taken a big hit, and we’re just trying to wait it out until the cruise ships reinstate their operations and the border to the U.S. reopens. Needless to say, it’s been a challenging year-and-a-half.”

“We’ve Been Really Lucky”

In 2018, Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing’s CFO decided that the growing company needed a more robust business system. The firm had grown by acquisition and was now facing a situation where its various entities were all using their own software. “We needed an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that could handle more than one company,” said Wagner, “and manage reporting, consolidated reporting, and other functions.”

Working with Deloitte on a contracted basis, the company put out a request for proposal (RFP) and received three bids, one of which was from NetSuite. After seeing live demos of each system, Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing decided to implement NetSuite’s cloud ERP. The implementation is currently in progress, with ERP Success Partners taking over the existing effort last year.

“We were originally working with another implementor that had been helping us for over a year. It wasn’t going anywhere, so our VP of Finance decided it was time to find someone else to take over,” Wagner explained. “We were working about a year behind, but things have been progressing since the ERP Success Partners team took over.”

Through the transition period, Wagner said ERP Success Partners has been “super supportive,” and that they provided relief, support, and assistance through an extremely difficult year in 2020. “Serghino and the development team have been extremely patient with us,” said Wagner.

“Every time we change something, or come up with a different scenario, we know that ERP Success Partners will spend the time needed to get us to where we want to be,” she continued. “We’ve been really lucky.”

Integrating Guest Reservations

For Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing, one major implementation goal has been the integration of its reservation system into its new ERP. That way, all of the data (e.g., passenger, sales, and payment information) flowing through the reservation system on a daily basis will be fed directly into NetSuite.

This has been a complicated process for the company, which has fairly complex backend requirements. “You would think that putting people on a bus and taking them places isn’t that complicated,” Wagner explained. “Behind the scenes, however, it’s much harder than what most people would assume.”

With the U.S. being slightly ahead of Canada in terms of opening back up post-COVID, the company recently worked to get the reservation system at its Niagara Falls location integrated with NetSuite. “We sort of ‘moved’ Vancouver down there with the goal of having some ‘real’ data for 2021,” said Wagner. “That location has also started using NetSuite for all of its other accounting functions.”

Supporting Good Decision-Making

Looking ahead, Wagner said the company’s CEO wants to be able to add any newly acquired companies to both NetSuite and the firm’s reservation system. That way, everyone will be working from the same playbook and management won’t have to access myriad different systems to get the data and reports it needs for good decision-making.

“As we continue to grow, we want everyone to be doing the same things, managing their daily reporting, and knowing where the sales are coming,” said Wagner. “We’ll also be able to get consolidated statements pretty quickly, and without spending days trying to generate them in Excel.”

As it wraps up its current NetSuite implementation, Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing also wants to explore more of NetSuite’s functionalities, including its real-time inventory tracking (for the company’s onsite bus repair shop) and expense management.

“Ultimately, we want to have a system that will grow with us, and we hope that the ERP Success Partners team will be there to help us along the way.”