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Published 2:40 am Monday, September 24, 2007

By Staff
Ride the wave
Co-opetition: Co-operating with a business competitor in an attempt to improve both your performances.
Never has a better example of co-opetition existed than the Saturday when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Tar Heels came to East Carolina University’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. In a sea of purple and gold, Carolina blue popped up in the minority. However, when the time came for the traditional wave, the sea of purple and gold included enthusiastic speckles of blue. Co-opetition occurs when rivals work together to make a success for both parties; in this case, to keep the wave from losing momentum.
Washington can learn from this example. Merchants, the N.C. Estuarium, dock attendants and lodging providers, just to name a few, have roles to play in growing and promoting Washington. Like the Tar Heels and the Pirates who were cheering for opposing teams on the next play, each worked collectively to make the wave go around the stadium a number of times.
When a busload of tourists arrives at the Estuarium, those tourists should be encouraged to spend more time, and ultimately, money, in the community by visiting other attractions and shopping and dining in Washington. These visitors may not purchase a cookbook from the Crab Pot Gift Shop, but they may purchase a piece of jewelry from a downtown merchant. Likewise, if a new patron or unfamiliar face enters a business on Main Street, merchants should recommend a restaurant, the latest exhibit at the Beaufort County Arts Council or another of the town’s unique merchants.
Local bed-and-breakfasts are doing a good job of promoting their competitors. Because each bed-and-breakfast has a limited amount of rooms, often an innkeeper finds himself recommending a competitor in order to keep the business in Washington. The local bed-and-breakfast owners know their competition and can easily suggest an alternative when they are full; thus lengthening the stay of a visitor while going the extra mile for a customer.
At the end of the day, each attraction or business has its own bottom line to fulfill. However, if each business takes up the challenge to increase a visitor’s stay, everyone wins. The visitor will remember the personal attention he or she received at that particular location and will share this information with others along their travels and when they return home.
Downtown Washington on the Waterfront and the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants’ Association have even put aside differences to join the Washington Tourism Development Authority to work cohesively to promote Washington. The trio of organizations, each with a different mission, has applied for grant funding to support the production of a brochure for the promotion of downtown Washington and the events that occur there.
Co-opetition can be a good thing for Washington. By improving a visitor’s stay, the potential for future visits increases. It is better for everyone if we all take the position of community promoters. With a little co-opetition, the wave can gain momentum and continue for years to come.