The Keys to Successful Collaborations

In our 2021 Rising Tide study, we revealed three different attitudinal segments among travel, tourism and hospitality professionals — three groups that feel very differently about the benefits and challenges of collaboration with other industry organizations.

Promoters are enthusiastic supporters of organizational collaboration, pursue it actively and with a range of organization types. Doubters are collaborators with a more measured view of the challenges and opportunities and expect results to take longer. Protectors collaborate but feel they have a substantial risk of losing competitive advantage by revealing proprietary expertise and processes.

Regardless of these differences, 99% of respondents in our study said their organizations have collaborated with others in the industry.

The research confirmed the opportunities inherent in collaboration, and the kinds of challenges that can get in the way. And based on the research, it’s critical for organizations in this industry to initiate collaborative efforts if they haven’t already. Not only that, but the research provides some clear direction as to how to do that.

The Keys to Successful Collaborations

Collaborate to Survive and Thrive

Survey respondents shared a widespread belief that collaboration can not only help individual organizations, but that it can also help the entire industry survive and thrive.

81% of Promoters and more than half of respondents in the other segments say that it definitely can.

“Identifying partnerships is one of the most delicate and important factors right now. ‘We are in this together’ is something we hear constantly, this is true, but then we must act on it. We need to collaborate, support and promote each other. “ – Promoter

Even the majority of Doubters believe this to be the case, despite their concerns about collaboration gaining equal work and equal benefits for all parties involved.

“The only way we all make it through this time is to work together and help each other, promote each other and not be afraid to talk/communicate. We are not alone, but we are in a large sea, and we know there are boats out there … we just need a life jacket or a ladder or helping hand to get into the boat!” – Doubter

You can learn more by checking out our research Executive Summary.

Challenges in Reopening, Answered

As the country comes out of pandemic lockdown, we are already seeing surging demand for hospitality, travel and tourism opportunities.

Many organizations may feel a sense of whiplash compared to 2020, when visitors were hard to come by.

But the boom in potential visitors will also bring with it significant challenges for our industry. A few examples that may add strain on your organization and employees:

Accommodating the onslaught of newfound interest

On episode 170 of Destination on the Left, Scott Hutchinson shared lessons and best practices from hosting a major sporting event. Warren County hosted the World Flying Disc Championship in 2018, and faced the challenge of having thousands of visitors from around the world come to their region all at once. It turned into a community-wide collaboration to welcome the visitors, and communicate together to give them the best experience.

Ensuring that your organization is visible to your ideal prospects

Getting in front of the right audience through collaboration is part of commonality, one of the three Cs of collaboration. (The three Cs of collaboration are communication, commonality and commitment.) Recently, I shared how successful collaborations start with commonality. In episode 215 of Destination on the Left, Kerri Green told us about a few collaborations that drive visitor traffic in Commerce Chenango.

Adapting your offering and messaging to address new attitudes and interests

Adapting and evolving is something we’ve been doing for a long time. I am thinking of my conversation with Loren Penman in episode 221 of Destination on the Left, and our work with the Autism Nature Trail and Letchworth State Park. This project is public-private collaboration to build a nature trail designed specifically for visitors with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities — located in Letchworth State Park.

Collaboration is not only a way to survive in lean times, but a way to address these new challenges as well.

Partners for Successful Collaborations

How do you identify collaboration opportunities? Our respondents had a number of suggestions:

1. Don’t focus too much on balancing the work equally.

Of the factors important for successful collaborations, “All participating organizations doing an equal amount of the work required” was rated least important by all segments.

“The collaboration is designed to benefit all participating organizations equally” was also rated much less important than nearly all other factors.

These are both viewed as far less important than participants fully agreeing on the goals of the effort and establishing and tracking key milestones.

“The region we worked in benefited in general from greater awareness and brand identity. Some partners received a bigger share of financial benefit, but all increased their market share.” – Promoter

2. Find partners you have something in common with.

Having something in common was rated as very important to successful collaboration. And with 76% of respondents collaborating with direct competitors, nearly all are working with organizations playing in the same sandbox. However, respondents were enthusiastic about the belief that even direct competitors have things they do better and are interested in prospects somewhat different from ones their own organization is pursuing.

“Find similarities with other organizations that customers might look for, but then find a way to highlight these while still keeping your unique value proposition.” – Doubter

“Find those that fill your service gaps, develop trust, communicate more than necessary and expand accordingly.” – Protector

Interested in assessing potential partners? We have a handy filter.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Aspects of communication consistently bubble up to the top of the list when it comes to factors making collaborations successful — but they also come up often when respondents identified challenges that can get in the way.

Collaborators need to commit to honest and transparent communications, feel comfortable talking with and leaning on each other and accurately represent their organization’s abilities and limits.

“It doesn’t have to be combative, competitive or scary – if communication is clear and honest and the objectives are clear and shared, it can be very, very impactful and rewarding.” – Promoter

“Collaboration and communication are extremely important in these relationships. Stewarding sponsors and sharing is important. The more communication there is, the more effective we are operationally.” – Doubter

“Outline specific goals and tasks, stay committed and constantly communicate.” – Protector

4. Use tools to make communication easier.

Collaborators are using a range of tools to communicate with team members. 82% are using email, but the most successful are far more likely to also be using file-sharing platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive, virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and even project management and group messaging tools.

“Just do it. Utilize virtual meetings, Zoom meetings, email and phone communication.” – Promoter

Reopening is already underway. Restrictions are lifting worldwide and your neighboring destinations, attractions, accommodations and partners are just as excited as you are to welcome visitors again. And those same neighbors are ready to work together with you. You are all collaborators. Your neighbors are ready to sit down, maybe “in real life” or maybe still on Zoom, and come up with new and special ways to attract visitors, adapt to change and enter the post-pandemic travel world. Together we can rise to the new challenges. Together we will reimagine and revitalize our industry. Stronger together!

Unsure how to really get started on your next (or first) collaboration? I bet we could help.