Each year, TBEX is held in a host country in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions, bringing the travel industry’s most creative minds together to learn, network, and do business.
What is TBEX? I asked myself after stumbling upon it over a Google search for best practices in blogging. I was the curious cat, looking at its website and after discovering more and more details about the event, it turns out that the largest gathering of travel bloggers in this planet is happening in a week! And for the first time ever, it will be held in Manila, the Philippines, my hometown! Meaning I don’t need to buy plane tickets just to get to the event!
All i know is that the awesomest creatures in this planet are attending and I should be there, too.
I’m attending it for sure! I mean, I have to! Talk about a timely discovery. It was a good thing that Mr. Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet (& speaker at the event) helped me out with the discount codes to the event. Not sure if I can mention how much discount I got in here, but yeah I found out about the event too late so it was already so damn expensive I needed a discount code – everything was worth it, though.
Travel Blog Exchange, more known in the travel blogging world as TBEX, is the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, new media content creators, social media stars, and travel industry professionals.
In my own words, TBEX is where you discover and tour the host destination via pre-tours and FAM (familiarity) tours, attend various talks from big time travel professionals and learn about the latest trends in travel blogging, meet and party with new travel blogger friends, and also with new (and valuable) network and connections in this billion dollar travel industry. Not to mention the great local food options served at the event. Yeah! So this is how TBEX-ers roll! I’ll talk more about the specifics
later in this post right about… now.
So how was my experience popping my TBEX cherry? (Pun intended)
It was my first and it was AWE-SOME!!! I’m so glad right now that I didn’t hesitate to buy TBEX tickets and attend it for the first time.
At first I was a bit nervous going inside the opening party at Blue Leaf Filipinas (I think most were, according to our Facebook group exclusive to attendees) – c’mon, all the big names in the travel blogging industry are out and about, not to mention the big sponsors!
But once I was there and after I met a few of my fellow Pinoy travel bloggers, everything just felt natural and all of a sudden I was already so into it, partying and chatting with my new found travel blogger friends like we knew each other for so long – it must be the common denominator that we are travel bloggers and that we understand the challenges this budding industry present.
It was definitely all about the experience. I am now writing about the TBEX event that happened a few days ago, but I’m still thinking about the unbelievable experience that was. All the amazing people I’ve met that I’m still talking with on social media and planning future events with. Talk about #sepanx (separation anxiety)!
What the hell am I talking about? I don’t know, I’m still crazy over the event I think I’m just gonna list down my remarkable experiences below. But before anything else, pardon the poor quality of photos – promise I’ll invest in a better camera soon!
During the registration at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), I was already thrilled since the organizers gave me this bag filled with goodies from the Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board, and event sponsors…
And when I arrived at Blue Leaf Filipinas for the opening ceremony I immediately got comfortable, having met with these awesome bloggers!
They served us a sumptuous feast of Filipino food and delicacies. They even had balut (steamed duck embryo) for those who have an adventurous appetite!
And then came the amazing traditional Filipino performances.
The Philippine Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) did an outstanding job getting all the most popular Philippine festivals performed in about an hour, being so entertaining all the while. I recall my Polish blogger friend mention that they looked so proud of what they were doing!
I especially liked the Tinikling dance, where in the end they did it so fast it felt like somebody’s gonna fall off the stage anytime soon. And yes, they invited travel bloggers to take a try at it! Talk about interactive entertainment…
And yes, I met even more blogger friends after the dinner and performances. Everybody was so nice, and I liked it!
Some of us spontaneously decided that we should party the night away at the nearby Chaos Club at City of Dreams Manila. And it was a great way to cap the night off, ready for the actual conferences in the coming two days!
Due to excessive partying the night before, I came in late and missed the keynote speech. :( Arrrrgghhh somebody throw a punch at me! It was already the morning coffee break when I arrived. Newbie tip: during coffee breaks, turns out you can visit speed-networking booths even though you do not have a scheduled session with them.
And of course, the most talked about TBEX talks are held throughout the day. Talks are held simultaneously so better plan ahead and see which session you are most interested in. Yes, TBEX is not only about food party, we also mean business at TBEX!
And of course, endless food in between talks! The only challenge for me is, that I don’t have the time to try them all ‘coz I was so busy talking to amazing people!
And this is where business gets real. Speed networking at TBEX is really intense, and you might walk away with a generous partnership if you’re lucky! For first-times, don’t get intimidated. They are nice people, I promise!
After the day-long shenanigans, it’s again party time! These lovely ladies guided us from PICC mains to our shuttles going to Travel Massive’s event at Raffles Hotel.
We partied the night away at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Makati. This was hosted by Travel Massive. Sweet!
And it didn’t stop there, I along with some TBEX-ers went for a nearby Karaoke and some more drinks… And that was the end to our night!
It was the morning of the third day, and it was busy because of the inspiring keynote and awesome talks held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
One of the most memorable food surprises I had in this event was the boodle fight for our lunch. We had to eat Filipino style, which was by using our hands to pick up rice and viands that were all set up on top of banana leaves!
I also had the chance to pig out on my long time craving, the garlic longganisa from the north. And as usual, the Filipino style of hospitable service didn’t fail us – the service was impeccable and flawless, really.
It was a fun and interactive experience, and each time food was served during the whole event it was the Filipino taste that was showcased. Of course it’s a good thing too that the organizers considered serving halal and vegetarian food during the course of the whole event, given the diversity of the delegate population.
The speed networking sessions on the second day were more productive for me, I don’t know. I think I just naturally maximized all the sessions I had since it was the last day for speed networking with sponsors.
And during speed networking, the guys at Philippine Airlines gave me this model aircraft and told me to follow-up. Sweet! I know they might have given this to many others (if not all) but this is my first time interacting with a brand and this got me excited for sure.
Yes, food and more food during the coffee break!
You’ll never go hungry at TBEX. But tell you what, even with all those food (I have a huge appetite), I wasn’t really able to try them all since I was so busy networking and learning that I forget to eat!
And just as we were all so into it and having so much fun, it all had to end and it was already the Closing Party at Chaos in City of Dreams Manila.
The theme of the closing party was Oktoberfest, so that explains all the sausages and endless beer. There was a band playing… I think the videos below says it all. By the way, I asked one fellow blogger who has been to 5 TBEX events already, and he says the Manila TBEX was the best TBEX he had experienced. It was indeed and awesome night!
Separation anxiety (#sepanx): that was how we felt during the last few hours of the three-day event.
During those three days, I met the most awesome creatures in this planet. I learned from them and had a great time with them. We shared our experiences, talked about our culture, and agree on most of the challenges a blogger faces. And that’s our common denominator. We understand each other because we share the same ideals and goals of becoming successful bloggers. We had so much awesome time together, we’re now planning our own meet-up sessions (talk about expanding your network in an instant)!
Amazing experience that was! Attending the event inspired me to write more and see more of the Philippines, and also the rest of the world. Everything was so worth it, including the preparation on my end and the fee to join the event.
Whew! Now, with my experience as a TBEX newbie out of the way, I wanted to share with you as well my takeaways during the event.
Here are my 8 key takeaways that I learned from TBEX Manila 2016
While I (and many of us) may have already known these and read about these somewhere online, hearing these from the TBEX talks somehow reaffirmed or validated all that we’ve known. And it’s not all about that, there were realizations I’ve had during the event as well that led me to identify action points for this blog.
1. Video is an essential platform to grow my blog with. Video is the current King!
Internet users are now more than ever reliant on video experiences and reviews. And that just means that the times are ever changing and us bloggers must be nimble and adapt to new technologies to grow our blog in. The “oldlennials” (30 to 45-ish years of age) prefer reading through blogs when researching about their travel destinations while the younger population prefer watching videos instead. Do the math and that only means that I have to grow my YouTube channel, too, if I want to “keep up with the successful bloggers”. Notice that I’ve uploaded my Instagram vids in YouTube in my videos above? That’s me trying to keep up and yes (I heard ya), I will need more that raw Instagram vids and focus more on actual vlogs if I want a following on YouTube.
2. I need to be serious in growing my social media accounts, too.
I suck at social media. Although brands I spoke with told me they wouldn’t mind working with bloggers who suck at it, I still felt that, in a sea of travel bloggers at the event whose followings I couldn’t even think of happening on my own accounts, I needed to grow my social media following in order for my blog to be more competitive and more marketable.
3. I need to have multiple income streams
For now I am serving ads and I do have affiliate partnerships on this blog (I talked about this in my blog post about the 5 effective ways to make money from your blog), but I needed to find more income streams if I wanted to have sustainable income from my blog. Like, for example, growing my YouTube channel so I could also earn income from my videos (which I already am, but I need more quality videos to call it an income).
4. I need to invest in a new (and better) camera
Looking at my photos and videos above, I think you’ll agree when I say this. Any suggestions? Looking for a point-and-shoot camera that produces cinematic results, if there is such a thing. :)
5. Network, network, network
Having been blogging for four years now (since 2012) and TBEX 2016 being my first time attending a networking event for bloggers, I felt that I’ve been living under a rock for a long time. There is so much that I have missed all these years (although I didn’t know that there is such a thing as TBEX way before) and now that I’m hooked, I now have so many events to attend to in my calendar.
Networking is key, and this is the quickest way you can connect with like-minded people that you otherwise would’ve never known if you didn’t attend such event. Aside from meeting with like-minded people, this is also where you’ll meet possible sponsors that can land you valuable partnerships for your blog.
6. I’ve learned about the challenges marketing managers have with bloggers and some action points for a more productive partnership
Marketing managers of valuable companies that connect with bloggers deal with hundreds (if not thousands) of proposals and pitches on a daily basis. If us bloggers want to make it easy for the marketing manager we’re pitching to, PLEASE, they ask that we also show examples of our work that we’re most proud of and most relevant to their product. They don’t want to see just the stats and following, an example of a work in action (your blog post) they will appreciate so much!
7. Don’t ever give up, consistency is key.
As I’ve already mentioned in my blog post about finding out if blogging is really for you, beginning your blogging career is no easy feat, and you have to expect that you will never receive significant pageviews (and earnings) in the first few months, if not years, of your blogging journey.
So don’t ever give up, expect less (or nothing) at first, and be consistent in crafting your work.
Even Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See Before You Die” and keynote speaker at the event, mentioned that she struggled for 8 very long years before finally smelling success from her published book.
8. “Always follow your heart, but bring your brain with you”
Patricia Schultz’s mentioned this phrase at her keynote speech, and it came down to me like a stone was thrown at me. Every word of it actually makes sense. In reality, travel blogging is no easy business. And that means you have to use your head sometimes and not just let your heart do the thinking, for you might find yourself lost by having jumped into the unknown. This might be a little bit vague, but I leave the interpretation to you.
Tips for newbies from a newbie
Having read through my experiences and learnings from my first TBEX event above, I think you already got valuable tips in case you’re planning to attend one. However, I’d like to add-in some more, things that I wish I knew way before and things that I feel you MUST do as a newbie.
- Register early! Just so you know, you can also attend free Pre-TBEX and Post-TBEX familiarization tours provided for by the host destination (in this case, the Philippines). I wish I registered earlier, because applying for these tours were already closed by the time I registered. The only thing I can do by now is envy at the Instagram posts of my blogger friends who were able to attend the tours. Head on over to the TBEX website to find out and register for upcoming events.
- Stock up on lots of sleep and vitamins before the TBEX shenanigans. Trust me. Even if you swear by leaving for bed really early and getting ready for the next day, you’ll suddenly find yourself partying with bloggers from all over the world ’til the wee hours. This doesn’t happen often, right? So invest in some sleep way before, and pop up some vitamins – you don’t want to get cough and bark your way into TBEX, do you?
- Prepare your own TBEX kit! You MUST bring your business cards, print out your Media Kit (some quick info and stats for your blog so sponsors can easily know you and your blog), and bring with you a GREAT BIG SMILE and a dose of friendliness, if you want to make the most out of your TBEX event.
Attention TBEX-ers, do you have some tips to share to first timers? And first-timers, have some questions that’s been bugging you? Ask anything and comment below! Please feel free to share this with your friends, and also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Thanks!