What happens when you cross co-operation with competition?

The simple answer: “co-opetition”. But is it just a catchy neologism, or a concept that really lends itself to our industry?

Co-opetition says that rather than hard-nosed competitors playing ‘winner takes all’, a little co-operation within your market can actually advance the game for the benefit of all players. In other words, co-operation makes the cake bigger, whereas competition means you’re fighting for a smaller slice. So, can you have your cake and eat it?

Perhaps. It’s not hard to see why co-operation is critical in tourism, regionally and especially locally. It’s an industry dominated by micro or small enterprises, and Bournemouth’s no exception. MSEs account for nearly 90% of the local and sub-regional visitor economy. And when you’re small, collaboration can mean the ability to punch above your weight. You may be proudly independent, but you’re also interdependent of your competitors at destination level. Scoping to build valuable links with other service providers in a destination means you’re part of a ‘virtual chain’ the customer never has to see. You have the collective ability to test new ideas with reduced risk. You can exchange useful information and meaningfully compare data without giving too much away. You can collectively predict market changes. And most importantly, you can establish a common vision for a destination.

The visitor doesn’t see the joins between the sectors and sub-sectors that make up our industry – or even geographical boundaries. Co-opetition could help us provide a more “joined-up” experience - every part of which works in unison with a common purpose – to bring the visitor back.

It’s an approach that could reap rewards for Bournemouth, and it’s a theory that underpins some of our action research. Consider for example the potential of stakeholders collaborating to develop and trial a portfolio of short break packages for specific target markets in the off-season.

“Always together. Always collaborative” is one of the NCTA’s core values. We’re looking forward to working with Bournemouth’s businesses to make it work at destination level too.

By Alex Moss