Cleanliness really matters. This isn’t limited just to the guest room or cabin — for us this also means the landscaping and general state of the resort. If the place feels run-down now, it’s not going to be better next time.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tessa McCrackin.

Tessa McCrackin is the Chief Marketing Officer of Northgate Resorts, overseeing strategic marketing initiatives for the company’s portfolio of top campgrounds across the country. In addition to her current role, Tessa previously served as the Head of Marketplace Marketing at Campspot. With a background in both marketing and operations, Tessa has been instrumental in the development of several camp-resorts, including leading the creation of Northgate’s award-winning camp-resort brand, Camp Fimfo. Tessa graduated from the University of Michigan and is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Honestly, it’s completely by chance. Though I grew up camping a little here and there, it wasn’t an industry I was seeking out. A series of chance opportunities led me to a marketing internship in college that steered me down the marketing career path. I’m a very “say yes and see what happens” kind of person.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Interesting is definitely relative, but I started as the CEO’s executive assistant at Northgate Resorts, so to now be the CMO closing in on 8 years later is certainly not something I would have expected back in the day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh there are so many! This memory just resurfaced on a trip this week. Back when we were a smaller company, I wore many hats and was also the de facto interior designer. I was in charge of opening a new ice cream and sweets shop and I decided it would be a really good idea to sew curtains and create some of my own shabby chic decor — old-timey “Sweet Shoppe” vibes you know… I think I ended up needing to buy curtains on Etsy after spending several days with fabric laid out all over my cabin (I was staying at the resort) before throwing in the towel (curtain). I ended up hanging up some of my additional home-made decor, but when I was at that same resort this week several years later I was happy to see someone had kindly disposed of my handiwork. I learned some things are better left to professionals and sometimes you actually won’t save money doing it yourself. Now we have full-time interior designers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve been really lucky that leadership at our company saw potential in me when I was just a twenty-something coming out of college. They’ve always given me big responsibilities even if they knew I wasn’t necessarily ready and trusted me to do the best I can. I think I worked here less than three or four months full-time when they first promoted me… I think I had night sweats for a year from the stress but there is no better learning experience than being thrown into something. From the start, they were very open to letting me get involved with what I was interested in. At one point, they told me that I could work in accounting if I really wanted to (I really, really, didn’t want to).

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Specifically in the camping industry, our Camp Fimfo brand and properties are striving to set the standard for family camping. The amenities and branding are a step above what we are seeing in the market. For example, at our Camp Fimfo Texas Hill Country property, we opened the first Alpine coaster in the state of Texas — not something you see every day, let alone while camping.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

We decided to open Camp Fimfo, a new concept from Northgate Resorts, because we noticed that older children, and sometimes even parents, felt a bit left out at our existing camp-resorts and family-focused brands. There are campgrounds out there for families with young kids, for retired couples and snowbirds, and, of course, many shades in between, but not many that feel like a place the whole family can go and have fun without getting bored. The family camping trip is a sacred experience and a classic vacation — we want everyone to enjoy the family camping experience for as long as possible. Our amenities, activities, and even our facilities reflect this desire to cater to everyone in your party, no matter the age.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

As many know, camping boomed during the pandemic, and now we’re seeing the demand normalize across our industry post-Covid. While we are certainly seeing more families take traditional vacations both internationally and domestically, I think some things are here to stay, and that includes nature-based and outdoor experiences. Outdoor hospitality is and will continue to be innovative in order to offer new experiences in the outdoors in order to keep vacationers (beyond your average camper) engaged.

We are also seeing more “roadschooling” than pre-pandemic. It’s not uncommon to see families who have traded in the rat race for a simpler life on the road, even if just for a year. The greater work flexibility that remains post-pandemic allows families to give this a try.

Lastly, I think road trips and car travel will continue to be a growing trend. Covid exacerbated the already poor airport experience and I think regional travel that doesn’t require you to hop on a plane will be a top choice.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My perfect vacation experience starts with me NOT having to go to the airport with my toddler. But in all seriousness, in this stage of life, I am looking for travel experiences that don’t make my life harder — I want room to stretch out, go at my own pace, and feel low stress.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Based on our surveys, the number one reason people are camping is to create lasting family memories and to bond with loved ones. A core value at Northgate Resorts is creating unforgettable experiences and we really reinforce this idea from top to bottom. Relaxation is the second reason people are camping, so we try to alleviate the stress on the planning side of the vacation by offering activities that will keep the kids busy all day long.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Cleanliness really matters. This isn’t limited just to the guest room or cabin — for us this also means the landscaping and general state of the resort. If the place feels run-down now, it’s not going to be better next time.

2. People are willing to pay for an experience that delivers value for their money. People have limited money and vacation time, and they are spending precious resources with you. If you don’t deliver on your promises and they feel like they paid for something they didn’t get, it’s unlikely they’ll return.

3. Stay top of mind and keep people informed of what’s happening. This isn’t groundbreaking, but your marketing basics are really important here. Let people know what’s happening, regularly communicate and post, and stay top of mind. For example, some of our social media posts with the most engagement are about construction updates!

4. Continually invest in destination-level amenities. If people are coming to you because of your amenities, this same guest is going to be seeking out an even better experience the next time. We strive to offer our campers something new to look forward to each year so if they choose us again they have something new to experience.

5. Create an emotional connection. We are all about creating memories with us. When a picture shows up in your Facebook memories or your iPhone decides to make you an unprompted sentimental photo collage of your family camping trip, we want you to remember the great memories you made with us. We’re currently running a coloring contest for some of our resorts and had kids mail their submissions to the home office. For the kids that chose to write us notes with their submission, we are writing them back — even if, no — especially if — their submission has zero chance of winning. What a special memory for a child to get a personal note back! Our culture around creating unforgettable experiences permeates every department and level of our organization — it’s so important.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This might not be quite the right answer, but there have been a lot of people who have taken chances on me my whole life and I’m very lucky. And, in my case, I think my luck is that people see something in me and give me a chance when they don’t need to. My test scores were average at best for the college I went to and my high school was terrible, but someone let me in. I majored in the wrong thing, but they gave me the internship anyway. I had zero experience, but someone let me try. You get the idea. Anyway, in my role, I have hired a lot of people, and I always try to remember that just because they don’t have the right degree or whatever it is, I should go with my gut and give them a chance if it feels right like so many have for me.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I don’t have a concrete idea, but I would spearhead a movement on affordable, outdoor-centric childcare with a strong emphasis on play. This type of movement would offer children the opportunity to learn, grow, and explore in natural environments, fostering physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Emphasizing play in these settings not only encourages creativity and problem-solving skills, but also promotes a deeper connection with nature from an early age. I think we worry about kids learning the “right things” when they are way too young and play should be the focus until kids start school. Instilling a love of nature in children would have a lasting impact in our world. Ensuring affordability and access would also be paramount. As a working parent, I know how difficult it is to find quality child care, not to mention the investment it costs.

How can our readers follow you on social media?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.