Several months ago while discussing the possibilities of conducting research for the development of a brand strategy we asked the executive director of a Chamber of Commerce, “Which nearby destinations and cities do you consider to be your main competitors?” She replied, “None of them, because we try to get along with all of them.”
This response revealed two unsettling things. First, though it is your customers who determine who your competitors are, this organization did not seem to have a customer focus or realize the power of the customer’s options or ability to choose. Second, the issue is not simply a matter of “getting along,” it is about generating and sustaining income, jobs, and prosperity for the community.
No corporation would think the way of this Chamber executive, yet many communities forget that their tourism and economic development programs are not operating in a vacuum. They are operating in a dynamic environment frequently dominated by larger players. It is the response to the city’s external competition that draws partners together. Many of them may also be competing against each other, e.g. hotels, but are unified in winning a larger market share for their destination.
No place can afford to feel that they are entitled to prosperity and don’t need to compete. A place that doesn’t compete, develop a distinctive and meaningful identity and have a laser-focus on customers will fade away and become irrelevant.