The days of siloed community organizations and calloused competition are over. The 2020s are the decade of coopetition. 

According to Oxford, coopetition is defined as “a collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results.” The word is a literal combination of “cooperation” and “competition.” The tourism industry and other business sectors now understand that there are ways to play nice with their competitors. Just because you are opponents doesn’t mean you can’t work together for the same goal. 

Last week I attended the Tourism Industry Association of Colorado’s annual meeting, a legislative reception, and a media reception hosted by the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) in Denver. I was shocked by how welcoming the community was. I must say, it was definitely a different atmosphere than the tourism community I came from in California. 

With the overwhelming number of destinations in California, a spirit of competition reigns. Years ago, I was a finalist for a Visit California Poppy Award for the Best Cross-Regional Collaborative Campaign. I have always understood the long-term benefits of coopetition, even when my environment didn’t foster it.

Colorado is a smaller state and also a heavy drive market. As a result, destinations here treat each other as mutual assets rather than adversaries. At the events last week in Denver, other destinations like Telluride and Pagosa Springs shared insights, legislators spoke about their love of Durango, and members of the tourism industry welcomed me like a member of the family.

With its small-town and friendly atmosphere, Durango is already all-aboard the metaphorical and literal collaboration train. Visit Durango regularly partners with neighboring destinations like Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Mancos, Dolores, and Cortez to embrace the way travelers visit our region and explore Southwest Colorado. For example, in 2017 and 2018 Visit Durango spearheaded the Crafted Beverages of SWCO campaign. As a result, Visit Durango was awarded a $20,000 matching marketing grant from the CTO to promote Southwest Colorado’s producers of coffee, beer, tea, gourmet sodas, and more. In 2018, Visit Durango also added a Mesa Verde National Park kiosk at the Durango Welcome Center, which sold over 30,000 tickets in 2019. 

One of Visit Durango’s strategic goals for 2020 is to foster and build partnerships within and outside of the community. There are obvious entities to partner with, like the City of Durango and La Plata County. However, there are several other working groups being born, like the newly formed Durango Industry Consortium, which has members of groups like the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, the Durango Creative District, Local First, and the Chamber of Commerce. Visit Durango is kicking off the year with a Tourism Stakeholder Survey. The results of the survey will inform the Board of Directors going into a strategic planning session which will consummate with a 5-year strategic destination plan. So far, over 150 stakeholders from a wide cross-section of the arts, retail, lodging, hospitality, and other tourism-related industries have completed the survey. Visit Durango hopes to gather as many responses as possible before Friday, February 14. 

Coopetition is not just a trend amongst destination management organizations. The prevalence of collaborative workspaces like Durango Space and R Space is a nod to this trend. Last Sunday we saw it in the Procter & Gamble Super Bowl commercial featuring Sofia Vergara and a variety of brand products including Old Spice, Bounty, and Febreze. We also see the trend in pop culture and music, where the majority of the songs on the Top 40 Charts these days are a collaboration between two or more artists So why has this trend come about now? It’s hard to say. Maybe the extreme political division in society has us craving closer human connection. Or maybe the clichés of yesteryear are finally sinking in. A rising tide lifts all boats. There’s no “I” in the team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Whatever the reason for the trend, Visit Durango is going to ride this train as far as it will take us.