Booking Requests case study: self-service paddle sports registration

There’s been an explosion in the popularity of paddle sports such as canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) in the last couple of years. The equipment is relatively inexpensive and widely available, it’s portable and there are few barriers to having a go. Paddle sports look fun, and they are fun.

Paddle sports have opened up the marine environment for a whole new cohort; often people who have never been afloat before. The combination of inexperienced paddlers and our variable weather has raised safety concerns for many harbour and waterways authorities, especially after well-publicised tragedies in Cornwall and Wales.

Fowey Harbour

Fowey Harbour in Cornwall is a honeypot destination, welcoming thousands of visitors by land and sea. Over the last two summers, the volume of paddle activities has increased dramatically, sometimes with rafts of paddle boarders traversing the harbour. 

“We want to encourage people to access and enjoy the water, but we also have a responsibility to help all paddlers and harbour users stay safe”, said Captain Paul Thomas, Fowey Harbour Master.

“We have concerns about the experience of some paddlers, particularly around understanding weather, tides and personal safety, but also awareness of the hazards posed by ships, ferries and harbour structures. It is very concerning when piloting a large commercial vessel and a paddleboard strays into the fairway!” he adds.


For Fowey, the key concern for managing paddle sports was being able to identify and communicate with participants. They decided to put paddle sports on par with other leisure craft, by requiring registration and payment of harbour dues.

Registering users means the harbour can provide them with safety advice and harbour information and send push notifications on safety issues. If equipment is identified with a sticker, the owners of boards or canoes found drifting or abandoned can be contacted to ensure the owner is safe. 

“We want to encourage rather than enforce registration”, said Captain Thomas, “It has to be easy for paddlers to comply”. Expecting paddlers to come to the harbour office is unrealistic. They’ve parked the car, got changed and launched their board – they’re ready to go and don’t want to be held back. “Harbour Assist gives us a more interactive way of doing it, through online self-service” he explained.

The Harbour Commission has added a paddle sports page to their website, with a registration form that feeds direct into Harbour Assist. Paddlers will be directed to the form by QR codes on signs at public launching sites. The process for new registrants is:

  1. Go to or scan the QR code with a smart phone
  2. Complete the registration form
  3. Pay the registration invoice by entering their card details
  4. Receive a ‘thank you’ message with a link to safety information – the paddler is free to get afloat 
  5. Receive a receipt as proof of payment
  6. The paddle sports licence sticker arrives in the post

This means harbour patrol team will be able to quickly identify who is registered and who needs some encouragement, with recalcitrant paddlers even able to register while afloat. The team hope that by requiring kayaks, canoes and SUPs to display a sticker, an element of self-regulation will develop within the paddling community.

Behind the scenes

The technology driving Fowey’s online registration system is Harbour Assist’s Booking Request feature. The feature is set up as an embedded form on the Harbour’s website, linked directly to their Harbour Assist database.

When the paddler completes the form and pays online, the information is populated straight into the HA database, and they automatically receive a notification confirming their registration. To maintain the focus on paddler safety, all notifications contain a link to the online paddle sports code of conduct. 

At the same time, the feature alerts the office team to the new registration so they can sense-check the data and send the license sticker

Local paddlers can opt-in to renew their registration each year – saving them, and the Fowey team, time. Adding a renewal group to the customer’s account ensures that they’re automatically included in the batch renewal the following year.

The future

“Booking Requests has provided us with a customer-friendly solution to paddler registration”, said Captain Thomas. “We can see the opportunity for using the feature for other self-service activities in the future, particularly for speeding-up our on-water processes”.

There are multiple ways to use the Booking Request feature. It doesn’t just have to be about reserving a visitor berth. As Fowey has shown, having a slick and convenient way to capture customer information can increase compliance by removing barriers. Self-service is all about taking your business to the customer, and making it easy for them to say ‘yes’.

For more information about Fowey Harbour, visit

Header photo courtesy of Paddle Cornwall SUP, visit

How can we help your business?

If you’d like to talk about how Harbour Assist can help you to register customers or connect with them in different ways, email Nick Gill to start a conversation.