The Illinois Campground Association (ICA) has engaged Merchantry Tourism, LLC as its new management team. This strategic partnership is set to bring a fresh perspective and expertise to the association, which represents nearly 50 privately owned campgrounds in Illinois.
The decision, made by the ICA board of directors, positions Merchantry Tourism as the “front office” staff and association management provider.
Based in Pittsford, New York, Merchantry Tourism is a boutique agency known for its specialized services in association management, event management, strategic planning consultation, and providing speakers for meetings and conventions.
Additionally, operating as Anderson’s Brochure Distribution Service, the company extends its expertise to the design, printing, and distribution of marketing literature.
B.J. Davis, president of the ICA board and owner of Rustic Acres Jellystone Park in New Douglas, IL, played a pivotal role in this collaboration. Davis highlighted the growth of the ICA and the increasing workload on the board, underscoring the need for expansion to better support the membership. This move is seen as a proactive step to enhance the association’s capabilities in serving its members.
Jamie Rogers, Vice President of the ICA board and owner of Mendota Hills Campground in Amboy, IL, reflected on the years of hard work by various board members that laid the groundwork for this transition.
The need for an executive director to maintain continuity and foster growth was emphasized, especially in light of the association’s expanding membership and involvement in state legislation.
Donald Bennett, Jr. and Lisa Bennett, the driving forces behind Merchantry Tourism, are set to play crucial roles in the ICA.
Don Bennett, Jr. will serve as the executive director, bringing his extensive experience in managing campground associations and destination marketing organizations to the forefront. In his communication with the ICA membership, Bennett expressed confidence in continuing to assist the association in its mission to help Illinois campgrounds thrive.
“I am confident we will continue to assist the Association in working toward its mission to help Illinois campgrounds thrive,” Bennett said.
Merchantry Tourism will officially commence its management role with the ICA on February 1st. The team is currently working closely with the association leadership to integrate into the day-to-day operations and upcoming projects, ensuring a smooth transition.
Don Bennett, Jr.’s background in the industry is notable. He served as the President & CEO of Campground Owners of New York State, Inc. (CONY) until May 2023 and was inducted into CONY’s Hall of Fame in November 2023. His experience and recognition in the sector are expected to bring valuable insights to the ICA.
Suzanne Hopkins, vice president of Client Services and Marketing at Merchantry Tourism, will assist Bennett in the ICA’s daily operations. Hopkins has a rich history in the tourism industry, holding several leadership roles since 1998, including her tenure at Madison County Tourism, Inc. and CONY.
This partnership is a testament to the evolving landscape of the campground and outdoor hospitality industry. It underscores the importance of strategic management and the need for specialized expertise to navigate the challenges and opportunities in this sector.
For campground and outdoor hospitality operators, this development signals a positive shift towards more structured and professional management within the industry. It highlights the potential for growth and the importance of strategic partnerships in enhancing the overall quality and effectiveness of association management.