Walking up to the outside patio of the Kickapoo Tavern, I introduced myself to the woman standing with a clipboard in her hand. She was holding a list worth its weight in gold for anybody who is on the up and up in the new catchy phrase, new media.
My name was on the list and I was there for a pre-TBEX gathering put on by Liftopia, the largest seller of discounted ski lift tickets online. I threw myself into the crowd.
TBEX, short for Travel Blog Exchange, is known as the worlds largest gathering place for travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators. With the new acquisition of the conference by BlogWorld Expo, combined with forward thinking sponsors such as Vail Resorts, Expedia and Scottevest (for a complete list click here), the bar was raised to greater elevations, both figuratively and literally.
The conference, only a two-hour drive from where I live in Basalt, CO, was my opportunity to better educate myself on the travel blogging industry, and to gain insight and momentum from experts in the field.
After the Liftopia party I got on the gondola for the, A Taste of Vail Resorts Welcome Party. Vail Resorts, a Presenting Sponsor of TBEX, is fully aware of the mountain town secret that to form lasting relationships all it takes is a twenty-five minute gondola ride and an over the top party at 11,444 feet. Add exquisite mountain-infused elegant food from award-winning chefs with an entire dessert tent filled with chocolates created by Executive Pastry Chef, Ned Archibald, and throw in complimentary beer and wine provided by Anheuser-Busch and Moet-Hennessey, and things become warm and fuzzy pretty quickly.
It is not easy to always be on, to throw yourself into a crowd of some 800 people and reach great depths in a short two and a half day window but I did my best by attending breakout sessions, a Niche Networking Breakfast, expo hall mingling, side parties and speed dating.
The breakout sessions on Saturday and Sunday were packed with information on SEO, Social Media Strategies, Podcasting, Website Design, Branding, Monetization, Press Trips etcbut with four sessions going on at the same time, I was overwhelmed with the pressure to attend the most informative one to suit my needs.
Also, the lines to meet the attending industry professionals left me with a sense of despondency and wonder at the hoops one has to go through to procure a sponsorship like TBEXs Diamond Sponsor, Expedia.
Which brings me to the next event, How the West was Fun held at Keystones Soda Ridge Stables. The party presented by Expedia, the worlds largest online travel agency, together with Colorado beer, wine and spirits provided by the Colorado Tourism Office, was a smash hit.
The highlight of the party was when Expedia presented its Find Yours Campaign a campaign that sponsors projects like, Passports With Purpose, an?initiative?to raise money for global causes. It is impressive that Expedia is on the leading edge of the travel blogging industry by utilizing travel bloggers to effectively send the message that to travel is to explore your dreams, to live and to love. The rewards for embracing this concept are shown in the increase of generated sales for Expedia.
Another sponsor who gets the value of travel bloggers, Scottevest, doled out to all the attendees a lightweight, breathable travel vest designed with 22 pockets allowing for you to take everything with you without the need of a heavy carry along bag. I love that? concept, “give and you shall receive,” for what travel writer wouldn’t want to write about a free vest that they received that has so many pockets it eliminates the need to carry an extra bag while traveling?
It will take me weeks to slough off the exterior parties and socializing to reveal the meaty interior of what I gained from the conference. At the moment what resonates with me most is the concept of the rising stars introduced in The New Kind of Press Trip panel discussion where it was emphasized that the industry needs to realize that it is not all about blogger stats but on how well the blogger can write and engage his/her audience and that there are many rising stars out there that just need to be given the opportunity to shine.
Pursue your passion; follow your dream. There’s no guarantee where your journey will take you, but as I learned long ago on the Karakoram Highway, there’s only one way to get there: step by step. ~ Don George