It has been a week since I’ve attended TBEX Huntsville and I finally have digested everything I saw, heard, and experienced. TBEX is one of the largest travel conferences out there and a great experience for newbie and veteran travel bloggers. Why should you go to TBEX? These travel conference showcase the vastness of the travel world in locations, sponsors, and bloggers. They are held in North America, Europe, Asia and next year the first one in Africa will be held. Huntsville, Alabama which is also known as Rocket City, certainly pulled out all the stops for us.Here are the nuggets I gathered while attending TBEX for the first time:
- Purchase your ticket early – this is a great way to ensure you will have your choice of the Pre & Post Tours. There are usually two days of pre-tours to choose from and the post tours range from being local to 4-day FAM trips to other areas around the conference. The FAM trips are by invite so, definitely sign up for those early. Most of these tours do fill up fast.
- Stay at the hotel by the conference – It is convenient and you can hang out with most of the other attendees there. Plus, you can have friends to eat breakfast with or have drinks. The Embassy Suites was connected to the Von Braun Center which was terribly convenient during the Huntsville, TBEX especially when it rained. The other great thing is that you can run to your room to drop off all your swag you collect from the fabulous sponsors. Make sure you have enough space in your suitcase for all the travel brochures from companies and goodies you will accumulate over this conference.
- Bring business cards – give one out to everyone you meet. This is a great networking opportunity to meet bloggers with a similar niche to yours. Plus, this will also set you up for continuing to develop those relationships after the conference. You will have something to remind you of all the social media handles that you connected with while you were there.
- Participate in everything – tours, sessions, evening parties, and speed networking. I went on the tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center. This was an incredible experience that I will write up in another post. Amazing smart people here and they graciously gave us a tour that they give Senators. We were feeling the Love! For speed networking, I wouldn’t worry about the state of your followers if this is your first time. Everyone told me that the key is knowing inside and out your brand and who you are targeting. If you are confident in that when you meet prospective clients, that will shine through. The important thing to remember is that this is a journey and you never know how your first connections will translate to jobs in the future.
- Meet new people every day – Make a plan to sit next to a new person in every session. And especially sitting down for the meals and even waiting in lines. You will never expect all the connections you will make. Some could be quite lasting! Travel Buddies Galore!
- Talk to Speakers & Sponsors – During breaks and in the speed networking event, spend time interacting with them. You are setting up future opportunities and to what that leads to is up to you. I chatted with an editor during one of the closing evening parties talking about Michigan and my trips and at the end, he said write your story while handing me his business card. You betcha I will be following up on that!
Call to Action
Each conference has a call to action and the 2017 TBEX Huntsville, Alabama is no exception. This year’s focus seemed to be on sustainable travel and being authentic. Did you know that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Travel? Bruce Poon Tip from G Adventures was one of our keynote speakers. He gave a very moving speech on what we can do by traveling responsibly. Making sure that you focus on the small local business’ and that is where you can make the most impact. His purpose through G Adventures is that “Travel could be the greatest wealth distribution in the world.” Here are some travel statistics from 2016:
- 69% of global travelers – of all age groups – are planning to try something new in 2016 (TripBarometer, 2015)
- 17% will try solo travel for the first time in 2016, and 15% will try adventure travel for the first time (TripBarometer, 2015)
- Tourists in 2016 are looking for opportunities to explore lesser-known destinations, especially those that are untouched or unique (Virtuoso, 2016)
Seeing these stats show that Bruce is on to something with his company G Adventures for Good. They have helped women in India become more independent with ‘Women in Wheels’. And provided bikes for kids in Belize with ‘Bikes for Purpose’ to keep them in school. What a great company and great philosophy!’
Another keynote speaker, Samantha Brown, a previous Travel Channel media darling gave a great speech on traveling to search for the authentic. If you want a truly real vacation, don’t spend all of your time in the must-see sites, search out intimate local experiences. Visit the local coffee shops and small diners where you can talk to the locals. Don’t spend all of your time visiting the past, step into the present and experience the soul of the destination.
Was it worth it?
TBEX Huntsville was an awesome experience that I can’t help to recommend for all travel bloggers out there. Newbies and veteran travel bloggers will come out of this conference motivated and excited. From traveling to new destinations or giving back the possibilities are endless. And I am excited to be a part of this community!