This past weekend saw the 4th annual Travel Bloggers Exchange conference take place in Keystone Colorado. As the headline media partner for the event, Travelllll.com covered the conference live as well as capturing video content and interviews with as many of the speakers and attendees as we could find.
TBEX, originally founded by Kim Mance, was acquired this year by BlogWorld. With a reputation of somewhat lacklustre organisation in the past, expectations were perhaps at an all time high following the takeover and new management team. What’s really impressive, is just how far those expectations were exceeded.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences. I’ve been attending, covering, and speaking at web design, digital marketing, and travel conferences for the better part of 5 years. I’ve been to conferences which were free, I’ve been to conferences which charge $1,400 per ticket. TBEX this year blew all of them out of the water – by a mile.
Gary Arndt tweeted shortly after the event concluded:
I declare the 2012 #TBEX to be the best one yet. I will go so far as to say it is the best conference I’ve ever attended!
— Gary Arndt (@EverywhereTrip) June 17, 2012
A sentiment which was immediately retweeted and echoed amongst the overwhelming majority of attendees.
The Juicy Details: Unparalleled Quality
This year the conference was hosted in Keystone, Colorado – situated in the Colorado Rockies. TBEX pretty much took over the entire area from Friday to Saturady as the scenic countryside was inundated by close to 800 semi-inebriated travel geeks.
What was really impressive wasn’t just the conference itself, which went off without a hitch, but level of organisation and infrastructure surrounding the entire event. Shuttles were provided from hotels to venue to bar to after party. Lunch was fully catered, and top quality. The scale of the night-events too, was ridiculous – in the best way possible. Attendees were spoiled with incredible food, music, and drinks every single night by TBEX themselves, as well as by sponsors Expedia, Keystone, Vail Resorts and The Matador Network.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Fun and games aside – the focus of the conference has to be on the quality of the content and the value given to attendees. Here too, TBEX delivered.
The team at BlogWorld obviously have a long and extremely successful history of organising events for bloggers, and it showed. While many of the speakers (myself included) were selected prior to the acquisition – the keynote speakers were brought in by the BlogWorld team to push the event to a new high. Feedback on all sessions was generally positive, and bloggers who we spoke to felt that they had plenty of takeaways from the content provided.
New this year at TBEX was the concept of “speed dating”. The new TBEX website allowed attendees to pre-arrange 10 minute meetings with each other in order to facilitate networking on Sunday afternoon. New TBEX CEO Rick Calvert told us that the speed dating platform received over 100,000 page views within a couple of days of going live. Clearly it was a concept which resonated both with the industry as well as travel bloggers – both of whom are trying to find ways to work with each other – and, again, the feedback on the value of the speed dating sessions was unanimously positive. Some of the larger bloggers were closing big deals with brands as a result of meetings which took place on Sunday.
We picked a rather apt moment to launch our new Travelllll.com Job Board the day before, as we have now pretty much taken this entire concept of speed dating between bloggers and travel brands – and put it online. The Job Board received over 200 signups in under 24 hours, and is now growing fast every day. Before long, we’re going to have an extremely vibrant community of both travel brands and bloggers who now have a place to get in touch and find ways of working with each other. We’re very excited about this. If you haven’t signed up already – go check it out.
So What Next?
TBEX was already the largest travel blogging conference in the world. It is now unquestionably also the best. So where can they possibly go from here?
My only disappointment during the entire event was closing keynote speaker Christopher Baker. A veteran journalist he may be but his presentation consisted of, and was based entirely on his experience and work in traditional media. At a conference focused entirely on new media and technology – it just didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the event.
TBEX heads to Costa Brava next in September, where I have little doubt the bar will be raised once again. If I had one request? It would be to have a few more speakers who are new media specialists outside the travel niche. There is a lot to be learned from other industries who have been doing this for longer. Hopefully the new TBEX management will tap into some of the incredible speakers who have featured at BlogWorld in past years and convince them to impart some of their wisdom upon the travel sector.
Overall, I was absolutely blown away by TBEX’12. The entire BlogWorld team deserve an incredible amount of respect and gratitude from all of us for creating an event which moves us towards a viable and sustainable commercial industry. It’s events like this that make rest of the tourism industry look up and start taking blogging seriously – and the value of that, is priceless.