Co-opetition: Good For Business

I am a huge believer in co-opetition – where perceived competitors cooperate and together create something bigger than they could do on their own. It is this type of collaboration that I think makes the biggest impact and the guests on my podcast Destination on the Left believe it too. I have been learning from my guests for over five years with countless stories of successful collaborations and best practices for what made them successful.

In 2020, I decided to test what I had learned by partnering with Susan Baier from Audience Audit to create, execute and compile a research study focused on the impacts of collaboration in the travel and tourism industry. The results proved that co-opetition is good for business. With 76% of respondents saying they have collaborated with direct competitors and 52% saying they have collaborated with indirect competitors.

Our next study, open for responses through August 31, 2022, focuses on ways to maximize collaboration by looking at how organizations approach collaborative projects.

If you aren’t collaborating with competitors, you may be missing out on tremendous opportunities that others are already tuned into.

Co-opetition: Good for Business

The History of Travel Collaboration

The art of co-opetition is not new. In fact, you could say the tourism industry is built on a world-changing collaboration from the mid-19th century. When one summer afternoon a man named Thomas Cook had an idea to use the power of the railway to help further the cause of his local temperance society. The group’s next meeting was taking place 12 miles from where they lived and Thomas offered to charter a train to take the group to the meeting and include lunch.

The members of the society loved the idea – it would make their lives easier because they didn’t have to figure out travel on their own. Thomas negotiated a deal with Midland Counties Railway. Each passenger in the group would be charged a fixed rate for the roundtrip rail ticket including lunch and Thomas Cook would receive a commission on each package sold.

The concept was simple. A collaboration between the railway, Thomas Cook and the local temperance society was born. Everyone was a winner. The railway company benefited with many seats filled up in one booking. Thomas Cook was happy because he received a share of the profits just for arranging the excursion. And the passengers were happy because they didn’t have to organize their own journey or worry about lunch. Everything was taken care of in one easy package.

Thomas Cook would not have known it, but the idea he had on that summer’s day in 1841 planted the seed for what is today the world’s fastest-growing industry. An industry that sees more than a billion people move across international borders every year, and one that is worth more than a trillion dollars to the global economy: tourism.

Taking a chance on collaboration proved to be a good business decision!

Benefits of Co-opetition

Our first study identified economic gains as one of the benefits of collaboration. Respondents listed many other benefits beyond economics involved in a successful collaboration. For example:

  • Increased levels of innovation or fresh thinking
  • Improved relevance to their customers and prospects
  • Improved brand identity or organizational reputation
  • Expanded skills in digital marketing
  • Increased trust in the organization on the part of stakeholders, customers or partners
  • Operational efficiencies and improved listening and communication skills

Use these benefits as a checklist for evaluating future collaborative opportunities. These benefits will also be helpful when you are trying to champion a collaboration to potential partners, your organization’s leadership or other stakeholders. Putting the collaboration in the frame of the benefits it will bring will likely bring you more success!

For more on this topic:

Explore the first study results: Collaboration Impact Study Results: Insights to help rebuild the travel, tourism & hospitality industry.

Subscribe to the Destination on the Left podcast

Read these case studies on successful collaborations in action:

 Connecting Africa’s Eden with Global Travel Trade to Foster Relationship Building and Future Economic Development

Creating Year-Round Demand with Storytelling & Strategy for the Haunted History Trail of NYS

Attracting Canadian Travelers to Upstate New York Destinations

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