TBEX- 7 things I learned at my first travel blogger conference

We have recently returned home from a 8 days in Colorado, and as I’m wading through the mounds of laundry to wash and videos to edit, I thought I’d share some insights on what I learned at my first travel blog conference.

My first impressions were:

1. People in the travel industry are super nice.

Bloggers are a friendly group. Even though 800 people were there, and most were vying for the attention of company sponsors or tourism boards, there wasn’t a feeling of competition or jockeying for position. Everyone I met was genuinely open and approachable. Often people would come over and introduce themselves and be interested in  who I was and what I was up to. The vendors and speakers were just as friendly and social as the attendees, and I feel like I made some real connections and friendships with fellow colleagues. Whether sitting next to Taylor in a session, or eating ribs with Craig and Erin, it would inevitably be a great conversation with an intriguing person.  Perhaps the nature of the biz we are in, traveling the world, makes for a happier people than the general population. Either way, it makes me eager to go to another travel blog exchange.

2. There’s a Wide, Wide World out there-  

Man, there are a whole lot of niche groups under the travel umbrella! By saying that I’m probably revealing my newbie status as a travel blogger, but I didn’t realize the scope of what people wrote about, or how specialized it could get. There were bloggers dedicated to writing just about RV retirees, backpackers, budget, luxury, traveling as a single or a family. I met a woman whose whole business is just creating a paid newsletter about Italy for hard core fans that have traveled there 6 or more times in their life. A travel writer made his living primarily on writing multiple guide books about the small island of Cuba. Those topics have a pretty narrow focus, and it’s great to see that you can create value by addressing a small segment of people.

3. Uniqueness + Creativity = Success

People often quote that “Content is King”, but I’d have to say that “Creativity is king”. You can have amazing content, but not make any money by creating it. I know, I’ve done that before.  In order to capitalize on the opportunities of blogging, sponsorship, press trips, etc. there needs to be creativity in what you are putting together. Some of collaborations I heard about seemed out of the box, and that’s what made it awesome. For example, Intrepid Travel- an Australian travel company, hiring food bloggers- Perennial Plate, to shoot a video of Vietnamese food for their travel site. Sounds weird doesn’t it? There wasn’t a linear connection, yet it yielded an amazing 3 minute video that won awards and got the traffic and exposure that Intrepid was looking for. Which means, I need to think bigger. Out of the box. Use the right side of my brain to create ideas that bring value to me, my audience, and 3rd party participants.

4. Most travel bloggers aren’t making money doing it.

Sadly, most travel bloggers do this as a side project in addition to a full time job. I was shocked when the majority of the room rose their hand and said they make $1,000 or less per month from their blogs. Coming from the seminar/public speaking/information marketing world, that is unacceptable to me. There’s so many ways to monetize the efforts of a world traveler, that it pains me to see this industry lagging behind. My perception is that mosts writers are so focused on getting their blogs to make money that they are missing out on others revenue opportunities.  My hope is to change that within the next 1-2 years.

5. Cross channel marketing & exposure is crucial-  

You can’t copy the leading bloggers and expect the same results. Their ascent to popularity was uncharted territory at the time, and therefore unique. That uniqueness was part of the appeal that lead to their rise. Hundreds have tried to mimic their methods and failed because it’s not new anymore. We’ve got to keep upleveling the game each year, even each blog post. Besides keeping the content and context fresh, I realized the importance of multiple channels for getting my message out. I already knew that a blog post on my website isn’t enough, using Twitter and Facebook helps, but I was astounded (insert: overwhelmed) at the depth of other tools like Viddy, Stumble, Digg It, Redd It, etc. that bloggers use. I have a lot to learn in this area, but it’ll come in layers. Breathe.

6. Video Killed the Radio Star-  

This song makes me wonder if it applies to written blogs vs. video blogs as well. Video is the hot commodity in other areas of information marketing, but I was surprised to see that most of the travel industry hasn’t fully embraced the power of video. Travel writers seem to be reluctant to leave their main  communication channel and branch out. Yet my prediction is that the “Adapt or Die” philosophy applies here as well. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next 18 months, but I’m more eager than ever to use this medium to put Watts in the World on the map.

7. Travel blogging, as a career, is in it’s infancy-

Even the oldest, most established, popular blogs are only 5-6 years. old. So when I looked around the room at 700 other bloggers and  momentarily felt like “I’d missed the boat”, I immediately reminded myself that blogging is in it’s infancy. There’s still opportunity to be an industry leader, just like there’s room for quality people in the personal development world, health & fitness world, MLM world, etc. Travel is a worldwide past time, and had a global audience that’s no where near saturated. As more companies warm up to working with travel bloggers, more opportunities will open up and keep us busy well into the next decade. Overall I feel optimistic that there’s room at the top for those willing to pay their dues.









TBEX was a well done conference, and I look forward to going again next year!


You must be logged in to post a comment.