President/CEO of Campground Owners of New York will focus on expanding other businesses.
Pittsford, New York — February 13, 2023 — Effective May 13, 2023 Don Bennett Jr. CPA will be leaving his position as President and CEO of Campground Owners of New York (CONY). Bennett made the announcement to CONY’s executive committee and board of directors during their regularly scheduled meeting on February 13th.
During Bennett’s seventeen-year tenure at CONY the association refined its mission statement, modernized its annual printed camping directory, developed and registered the CAMP NEW YORK consumer brand, and expanded its scope of marketing programs through acquisition of several Market NY grants. He also spearheaded upgrades to CONY’s websites, and integration of digital marketing platforms such as social media and a mobile app. Bennett, in partnership with various providers, developed several member benefit programs for the association including the creation of the innovative CONY Legal Hotline, access to group health insurance and mental health resources, and discounted brochure racking/distribution at high-volume New York roadside information centers.
With assistance from allied lobbyists, Bennett lead CONY in efforts to champion or defeat legislation impacting the outdoor hospitality industry. Most notably, during his leadership the New York State government has signed into law legislation affecting ejections and abandoned property. He has authored or signed on with numerous letters of opposition thwarting legislation that threatened the campground industry, and personally delivered testimony on key legislative issues at several committee hearings. During the initial COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, his diligence and effectiveness in communicating with the Governor’s office and various government agencies ensured that independently owned campgrounds in New York were defined as essential services and allowed to open and operate when many other businesses were forced to shut down. He has also been instrumental in working with other tourism partners such as the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association (NYSH&TA) and Ski Areas of NY (SANY) for the mutual benefit of the state’s tourism industry.
Bennett currently serves as a board member for NYSH&TA, as well as the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance. In the past he has served in many capacities for the following organizations: Livingston (NY) County Chamber of Commerce, the NYS Travel & Vacation Association, the association promoting the Great Lakes-Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway, the Society of the Genesee and the Lakes, the New York State Tourism Industry Association, the Tourism industry Coalition of NYS, The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, Campground Association Management Professionals, and the Finger Lakes Regional Workgroup for the Tourism and Arts of the Empire State Development Corporation.
Moving forward, Bennett plans to focus his efforts on expanding the scope and services of Merchantry Tourism, LLC, a marketing and consulting business he co-owns with his wife Lisa Bennett. With the bulk of their customer base located primarily on the eastern side of the US and Canada, they plan to do more outreach and develop offerings that appeal to customers across the nation and beyond.
Merchantry Tourism, LLC houses Anderson’s Brochure Distribution Service, a business well-known in the outdoor hospitality industry for its robust brochure distribution program helping travelers connect with their next adventure at RV and consumer travel shows in the US and Canada. Merchantry Tourism, LLC also includes Bonfire Media, which provides affordable creative design, copywriting, and printing services for promotional materials. More information can be found at www.merchantrytourism.com.
Bennett is adding his consulting services to the Merchantry Tourism, LLC toolkit. Specializing in business development in the outdoor sector, as well as being a Certified Public Accountant, he has a unique perspective on and history in association management, business development/ownership/operation, legislative affairs, and financial issues.
Part of Bennett’s professional expertise comes from owning two campgrounds - Conesus Lake Campground and Conesus Lake RV Park in Conesus, NY - on the westernmost edge of the Finger Lakes vacation region. Conesus Lake Campground has been in his family for over sixty years.
Bennett reflects on his time with CONY and the future ahead. “I am so proud of everything that CONY has accomplished and become in the past 17 years. I’m thrilled that I was involved in the process of making it one of the leading associations in the outdoor hospitality industry. CONY is in a good place moving forward, and I am extremely excited to begin this new chapter in my professional life partnering with my wife Lisa to promote outdoor activities, services and tourism to a larger audience.”
Don Bennett, Jr. lives in Pittsford, NY with his wife Lisa, a high school earth science teacher, and their younger son Mason, a sophomore construction management major at Alfred State College of Technology. Their older son, Winston, is a venture capital analyst based in Naples, Florida.
Campground Owners of New York, established in 1963, is the trade association that represents independent campgrounds and RV parks in New York. Based in Pittsford, CONY provides education, government affairs, and marketing services for campgrounds, including hosting www.CampNewYork.com, a travel planning website, and publishing a printed magazine of New York campgrounds.