First Thoughts on TBEX 2012

I’ve just completed the annual TBEX conference, held this year in Keystone, Colorado. Here are a few of my thoughts on this year’s event:

  • This was by far the best TBEX ever. It was not only well run, the parties were top notch, the networking was great as was the attendance.
  • This was probably the best conference I’ve ever attended. This is no exaggeration. I’ve attended dozens of conferences in and outside the travel industry. In terms of a straight return on investment, it was easily the most productive conference I’ve ever attended. It was also one of the most fun.
  • The industry is warming up to bloggers. I don’t think anyone should get too excited, but things are starting to change. There were many great companies represented, but there were even more who weren’t there.
  • Big companies still haven’t figured it out. There were several big companies who spent a great deal of money sponsoring the show. Having talked directly to them, I still get the impression they still really don’t know what they are doing with bloggers yet. They know they should be doing something with bloggers and sponsoring shows is something they are used to doing. I still haven’t seen any projects with bloggers by big companies in the travel space that I’ve been impressed with.
  • Medium size companies do get it. Almost all of the medium size companies I met with did seem to have a much better strategy of how to work with bloggers. That includes some of my sponsors, some companies I didn’t meet with (but I got reports from other bloggers), and some companies I met with for the first time. I was very impressed with the direction some of them were heading. I am eagerly awaiting to see what projects get hatched by bloggers over the next few months.
  • There are a lot of bloggers. Nothing new here, but I was amazed at the number of people I met who had sites I had never heard of. I like to think I keep abreast of these things, but I clearly do not.
  • The closing keynote made no sense for a blogger conference. Having a guy who doesn’t blog tell bloggers how he makes money not blogging really wasn’t a good fit. I don’t disagree with some of his general points of working hard and having an expertise, but writing guidebooks and doing freelancing really isn’t the business plan for most bloggers.
  • I can’t really comment on the sessions. I only attended one session other than my own. My entire time was spent in meetings, which was a testament to quality of the networking opportunities.
  • There is enormous potential to grow. Prediction: TBEX is going to become HUGE. This is going to go well beyond blogging. I think this is poised to become the new media show for the whole travel industry. There is no reason why companies and destinations couldn’t attend for their own sake to learn about new media, beyond just going to meet with bloggers. If TBEX keeps its strategy of keeping costs low for content creators (which they intend to do) this is going to become more and more attractive for industry people. I think word of mouth is going to make TBEX very popular next year. I think there will be double the companies/destinations present and over 1,000 attendees.
  • TBEX is a must attend show for new media people in travel. If you are in the travel industry in any sort of marketing, public relations or content creation capacity, you need to come to TBEX. If there was only one conference I could attend each year, it would be TBEX.

I haven’t heard any serious complaints about TBEX this year. Even skeptics came away saying it was a great conference. I know I’m gushing, but this weekend was probably the most productive I’ve had in 6 years of running my blog.

Grade: A

By Gary

3 dimples. 7 continents. 130 countries.

36 replies on “First Thoughts on TBEX 2012”

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve probably been to about 15 travel conferences at this point I got more out of this one than any other one I’ve attended, especially when it comes to real business contacts and not just PR contacts. (Though there were plenty of great new meetings on that end too.)Great choice in speakers all around. I agree that Christopher—who has written for me before online I must mention—seemed like an odd choice, but the lessons about specializing and owning one destination/subject and turning that into multiple streams of income IS key for this crowd. That’s true whether it’s ink on paper or pixels on a screen.

Great job Kim, Rick, Vail Resorts, Denver, and the rest!

Thank you Gary. I just finished having dinner with the entire team who worked on the event. After two shows in 12 days we are all dead tired but the energy of the TBEX community kept all of us running on pure adrenaline.

I was going to write a much longer reply but I am just too tired to write coherently. So I will just say thank you again and thank you to every attendee, and sponsor who helped make this an amazing event. Travel blogging is about to take a giant leap forward in the next 12 months imho.

Thank you and good night.

Hi Gary,

Great to read your input. I heard bad feedback from last year’s TBEX but that was around the sessions given so good to hear you got good value from it. I attended BlogWorld a few years ago and loved that (thanks Rick;) so it would be great to go to TBEX since it’s totally focused on the travel niche.

With all these conferences meeting people face to face is the most important thing. Sounds like you made the most of it!

I agree with both Gary and Rick that travel blogging is on the verge of great things, and this weekend was both great fun and a very useful networking event – congratulations to everyone involved. I do think that there is still plenty of work to be done on the relationship between the industry and the blogging community, which I’ve just written about here:

Great wrapup and I pretty much agree with most of your points. I think TBEX is going to be huge, and it might get to the point where they’ll need to extend the conference. I did find there were several sessions I wanted to attend that were all running at the same time. If the conference was extended by another day sessions could be held more than once giving people an opportunity to go to all the sessions. It would also give more networking time for everyone, which is always important. Overall I thought this TBEX was great, and I hope the next TBEX I go to can live up to this one.

“This was probably the best conference I’ve ever attended.” I completely agree, and I just made the exact same comment to my wife before reading this. Your other points are spot-on, as well, though I don’t share your disappointment with the keynote speaker. I thought Chris’s talk was a fine, fun mix of anecdote, fact, and inspiration – he wasn’t saying to do guidebooks, he was showing us how he has diversified – books, apps, tours, talks, articles, etc. One of his blogs, btw, is:

I did not attend TBEX this year (BIG congrats on their success) but I was invited to attend ‘GoMedia12’ hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission attended by all the Canadian Tourism Boards and PR Companies. I led an industry workshop panel on Bloggers and Blogging. I’m writing to say that I, too, found a completely different attitude and openness to the concept of blogging and bloggers than ever before. I agree with Gary that we are on the cusp of huge change and it will be the small to medium companies that lead the charge. The big guys will be the last to join. It was exactly the same for ‘women’s travel writing’ back in the Nineties. My professional travel writers organization (TMAC) did not allow me to enter travel writing contests and Tourist Boards didn’t allow me on Press Trips because I was ONLY a bloggers. Thankfully the tide turned and the rest is history. Get ready for an interesting ride, everybody!

Sounds like an amazing event. I’d love to attend one in the future!

Gary, I agree that TBEX was an excellent conference. And, I agree with all of your points except the one about the closing keynote. Chris wasn’t encouraging us to all go out and write guidebooks or query magazines, he was showing how to take content and turn it into multiple revenue streams. The way we do that In the online world will most certainly take a different path, but it’s still an important consideration for bloggers.


I don’t think the keynote was a disaster and I can’t say I really disagreed with anything he had to say.

I think it would have been better if he had spoke more generally about writing or traveling than about moentization.

Despite my initial objections over what appeared to be making content creation (specifically, writing) an ugly red-headed stepchild at a conference that touted itself as being where “travel writers” connect, this was definitely an excellent conference and I agree with Gary on most points (some I can’t speak to).

I’ve been assured by Rick and most of his team that going forward, content creation (again, including, writing) will play a larger role in the professional development and I look forward to seeing that happen (and/or helping in any way I can to make that happen).

Thanks for the perspective, Gary.

Great recap Gary, but I disagree about Baker. Thought his closing was right on target, one of the best speeches of the conference. (Technically I do believe he blogs, but blogs for Moon Guides and I get your point that’s not at all his main business.) In 10 years of running an online/offline travel publishing business (albeit not a straight blog), I’ve learned many of the same lessons as Baker and they are valuable ones for anyone blogging: You must have a niche, or a differentiating factor. Repurposing content is key (yes, he talks about it more from a freelance writing perspective) but for bloggers that can mean slicing and dicing and turning blog post collections into ebooks. (BTW, I’ve also been asked about bloggers about freelance writing for bigger outlets – it isn’t like that is not part of the mix for many.) Plus, I’ve definitely noticed many bloggers/publishers, yourself included, starting to host and lead tours as another revenue stream – the fact that Baker touched on that was great.

I can’t tell you how much your praise of the conference and Keystone means to us. After a year of planning based on our experience of attending/sponsoring the past three TBEX conferences (we were there in Chicago from the start!), we really listened to feedback from bloggers with regard to the venue, organization and the events. We all had as much fun as you did and it was so great to meet so many new faces.

We also were thrilled to host a family travel bloggers informal breakfast meet-up on Saturday morning with two of our star bloggers, Jen Leo and Kara Williams. For the past year, we’ve been working on launching to provide expert advice (in an independent voice) on mountain vacations, winter and summer, at our resorts. We see so much potential for working with our bloggers and one of our biggest marketing initiatives for this coming year is to create a “Vail Resorts Media House” focusing on content creation. Check out EpicMoms and let us know what you think!

Thanks Gary!

I agree that this TBEX was exceptionally well-run (and I say that as a former meeting planner).

Requiring WiFi to be ubiquitous, having water available for drinking everywhere (yes, we were above 9000 feet) and providing microphones for questions are just a few of the things done right this year.

The sessions were meaty and focused. I, too, would like to see them offered more than once because with so many good options and only one choice…well, I would have liked to participate in more than I could.

The networking, as Gary said, was superb (both formal and informal).

My mind reels from all the info I learned — and the people I met.

Does anyone have any idea about TBEX in Spain this September? Since I’ve missed what seems to have been THE BEST CONFERENCE EVER, I’m considering Costa Brava, but am wondering if it will be anywhere close to the same scale with the same level of PD. I’m guessing not, although it will have sunshine …

Interesting predictions, Gary. Wish Darcie (my wife) and I could have been there, but we’re pushing through South America at the moment.

Keep up the good work – I’ve really enjoyed this blog!

I wholeheartedly agree. Actually, a lot of what you wrote here were the same things that I’ve been telling people for the last two days.

It will be said in years to come that TBEX 2012 was travel blogging’s coming out party. True, there is still a long ways to go. But, the increases in the professionalism of the conference and willingness of brands to work with bloggers over last year was absolutely astounding.

There has never been a time in my blogging career that I didn’t have reservations and think that I might be putting my efforts into an unsustainable pursuit. TBEX 12 changed that. I now consider travel blogging to be a sustainable long-term pursuit with a future.

Big props to the TBEX team, Vail Resorts, Keystone, Blogworld, and everyone else involved–and also to you Gary for the invaluable advice and help over the past months.

“Best conference ever” really sums it up well! I’m a new guy in this sphere, but have been to many business, marketing and outdoor industry conferences that where all run less profesionally, and not nearly as much fun! My notes from TBEX are going to take me at least a month just to sort, relate to my project and impliment phase 1. It was amazing to meet you all and in the end the networking was the true value of this conference. See you on the road or at the very least at TBEX’13.

TBEX 12 was my very first conference, so I really have nothing to compare it to. But I completely agree with Gary and am telling everyone that YES it is certainly worth attending. You will get a return on your investment.

I walked away from TBEX 12 with great new friends, promising business opportunities, and solid ideas on how to turn my passion for travel into a career.

Plus some fantastic tips about social media, working with brands, improving my writing & video skills, and optimizing travel blogs for SEO. I plan to attend TBEX every year from now on.

Thanks for sharing, Gary, it helps to read about TBEX from a veteran’s perspective! And it’s encouraging.

This was my first time attending and I was blown away. I absolutely agree that anyone who is new in travel media should attend! The value is in the connections you make.

The highlight for me were also the keynote speakers, CC Chapman and Chris Baker. I agree with Joshua that Chris’ message wasn’t really about writing guidebooks, it was in fact very smilar to what CC said – to make the most of your content, to diversify and think beyond just blogging – if you want to make that six-figure salary (as most of us won’t from just blogging).I also loved that Christopher threw in some travel stories (which really you don’t get to hear every day from a NatGeo photographer/Expeditions leader). It was all super inspiring.

Some of the sessions I found to be basic but I appreciated having the option to slip in and out of them. 🙂

Thanks to all who started and organized this conference!

As a newbie blogger, I don’t have much to compare this year’s TBEX with, but I found it absolutely fabulous and I am just itching to book my plane ticket to Costa Brava now. It’s interesting to see a blogging veteran provide their feedback. I hope you’re right about the potential growth of this conference! Thanks, Gary!

Well said Gary.. This was my first TBEX and while I had heard mixed reviews about previous ones, I wanted to take a chance. Best decision ever! We are looking forward to putting all the tools to the test over the next year as we develop a better community and blog presence.. GREAT efforts by the TBEX team, Keystone, Vail Resorts, and Blogworld!

We will see you again in 2013!

Thanks for breaking it down–I’m glad to hear that overall it was better. I’m slightly skeptical of your opinion of the conference since you only went to two sessions (and one was your own), but it sounds far better than the other ones in all other aspects. I really disliked the NYC one, so I didn’t go to Vancouver last year. I heard mixed things about that too, so I decided to hold off on this one, especially since I had just been to Keystone recently. But based on all of the positive feedback I keep hearing (especially yours), I definitely plan to go next year if I can. Sounds like it was a total blessing for BlogWorld to step in.

Thanks Gary for this post. I agree with your points. This is my first TBEX, and I was pleased with the conference. Ive Been to many seminars on different subjects and My only suggestion is that the breakout sessions are offered more than once so we have a chance to catch some that might be offered simoutaneously. My husband and I split up and each attended different sessions, but there were some we still wish we could’ve seen.
I agree that Chris Bakers closing speech seemed out of place. He prefaced his presentation saying he was going to merge the old and new media and give us tips moving forward in 2012. It seemed more like a travelogue of his adventures, with a few business tips trickled throughout. CC Chapman’s presentation was by far more helpful and relevant. Luckily the Costa Brava TBEX presentation ended the conference on a great note. We weren’t considering going until after watching that presentation. Now we are making arrangements to go.
Lastly, there hasnt been much mention of the fabulous pre-bex events that were arranged by Visit Denver. As a family travel blogger I have to give a shout out to everyone involved in arranging those events. We took advantage of the Water world, Denver Zoo, wildlife sanctuary, royal gorge and various museum admissions made available to us. We created a ton of content and had great family time the week before TBEX even started. Bravo and I hope the same level of exploration will be made available in Spain.
Thanks Gary for your insights in your session as well. I look forward to meeting you again at another TBEX!

This was my first TBEX experience, and it was a doozy. I can say with great confidence that this was the most productive conference I’ve ever been to. I achieved everything I’d hoped for there, and then some. Great networking opportunities all throughout the weekend, great food and drink, and good sessions. The location, though a bit tough to get to for a weekend conference, was gorgeous. I wish the sessions had been spread out a bit or duplicated or made available online later, because as a fairly new travel blogger I wanted to go to most of them.

I’m glad to hear that this conference was successful and a major improvement from previous years. When I started blogging last year there was a lot of negative opinions regarding the conference in Vancouver. I’m hoping to attend next year if at all possible.

Thanks so much for sharing this. I work with media and handle the social media for the CVB in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We have been actively seeking out bloggers to bring to our destination and while I wanted to attend TBEX, I instead attended BlogWorld in New York due to scheduling conflicts. I am excited to see this emphasis on the travel industry specifically, and due to the nature of the reactions surrounding this conference, I plan to attend TBEX next year. Thanks again for sharing, all of this insight helps when planning our yearly conference attendance.

Thank you Gary for this closing note on TBEX. I feel fortunate that I was able to attend the event before it gets too big. approx. 500 attendees was manageable for me.

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other travel bloggers and to see the diversity in what we are all accomplishing and, some of us, achieving in our goals I personally felt disappointed that there were not more industry professionals there. As for leading as an example of how to use Bloggers, I was very impressed with Expedia’s Find Yours campaign.

As for our hosts, Vail Resorts did a remarkable job hosting the event and interacting with all of the bloggers. They have thus far been the most impressive for follow up on opportunities.

Did I get a lot out of the sessions? I’ll have to say that I was a bit disappointed. I don’t work on broad concepts but would prefer direct means of approach on how to bring in sponsors, how to peak interest, how to develop an universal uniqueness, how to build clients (maybe this was spoken of and I attended the wrong sessions, but perhaps that is something to think about, scheduling). If I am attending a session about how to design my website I want tutorials, not cute vagaries on design. BlogHer 2009 did a far better job of giving us the tools to dive in with Social Media, SEO, website design, editing, Finding business in the industry etc…

Many of the sessions felt very self serving to me…in some I wanted to pass out a prescription for Prozac to the panel. The moderators could have done a better job of keeping the discussions to the point.

As for the closing? I felt empty when it was over. It was too long and once again, too self serving of what “I have done” and not “What you need to be doing to get yourself out there”.

How about giving us a TBEX platform to help us reach the industry?

This was my first TBEX, so I can’t compare it accurately, but I agree with you that it was great. The Colorado sponsors did an amazing job. For future conferences, I think it would be helpful to designate presentations according to experience level. There were some classes labeled “for beginners,” but no “intermediate” or “advanced” classes. A frequent complaint I heard was that there were no options for people interested in the same topics who were looking to expand their skillset. All in all, it was a really good conference.

I couldn’t attend TBEX for scheduling reasons, and I probably would have skipped it anyway because blogging is just one of the wrenches and hammers in my Web-publishing toolkit. But if Gary is right in his belief that TBEX could become the premier “new media” conference (not that online media are really new anymore), I may reconsider next year or the year after that.

There’s definitely a need for a professional travel writers’ and publishers’ conference that focuses on the online world, and it sounds like TBEX has the potential to expand beyond its current self-imposed boundaries.

Couldn’t attend this year. After reading your highlights feel sorry I didn’t go. Definitely, going next year! Knocking on the wood 😉 Thanks for sharing!

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