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Travel Bloggers Unite – the travel bloggers conference in Porto

3 October 2012 events 5 comments

Travel bloggers conference: TBU Porto

Maybe this article is “too much for insiders”, it isn’t one of those articles where I write about destinations or experiences with tips and information… It’s an article about travel blogging. This article wants to share with you what I learned from the “Travel Bloggers Unite” conference held in Porto a few weeks ago.

First of all a bit about TBU. The travel blogging firstly appeared probably in the beginning of the previous decade, but truly became a phenomenon during the last 3-4 years in the Anglophone part of the world. Therefore, as countless travel bloggers started their blogs, it was natural someone to have idea to organize conferences that gathers the most successful bloggers but also the beginners, including some potentially interested brands in communicating through the blogs. One of these conferences is the TBU – Travel Bloggers Unite, organized twice a year, the edition I took part of in Porto being the fourth one.

Let me state it clearly from the start. The travel blogging is not a hobby, a passion, but a business. It’s true, there are numerous bloggers that write out of passion, without thinking of the money side, some write for family and friends, but the ones that took part at the TBU, next to passion, they see and think the travel blogging like a business and the conference there was actually a business conference of an industry. Why is the travel blogging a business? Simple, because there are quite a lot people that wish to live their lives traveling and not standing in an office from 9 to 5, enjoying the one or two weeks of vacation (in the case of the European countries some more). And if you haven’t won the lottery or you didn’t heir some fortune from a childless aunt, you might need to earn a living. Some teach English in exotic countries, others work for projects in IT (a job that you can practice all over where you have a decent internet connection), but some thought of writing about their trips, ending in being read by tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of readers every month. And the industry of tourism caught on to the idea that in the fall of the television era, blogging is one of the most efficient and effective communicating channels (according to some PR agencies in UK, possibly the most effective one in this moment).

So there came budgets to be spent in blogging – either under the form of trips or experiences offered to bloggers, either under the form of money. You don’t waste money on TV, you invest in online, in social media, in blogging. Or, maybe, partially in TV but also in blogging. So, the travel blogging became a business…don’t you believe though that somebody became a millionaire out of this, I guess not, but a lot live pretty decently in cheaper countries.

The first lesson is that generally speaking it isn’t the blog that earns money, or well, let’s say big money for a comfortable living. The blog earns experience and the make you a brand. Yes, there are some advertorials, banners, paid posts, links and other forms, but it doesn’t get you a lot of money. The blog brings you travels around the world, luxurious safaris, sky diving, but money comes pretty hard…what brings money in the industry is especially what you do except the blog – and this can be a pretty large range of products – e-books about travel, but also about blogging (the internet is full of books about how to become a successful travel blogger), guides, free lancing journalism (a famous blogger can receive more money than a regular journalist for “special” articles) or by becoming brand ambassadors (and some travel bloggers become associated for a longer time period with one brand or another). More than that, a successful blogger must also be an expert in social networks, some operating the Facebook accounts, Twitter or God knows what for various industry brands. Some may get specialized on the niche networks – yTravel blog  has no less than 1,9 millions of followers on Pinterest! Who would I believe is better acquainted with Pinterest – some social media agency or Caz & Craig?

The second lesson is that you can have success especially if you collaborate. At the TBU Porto, five bloggers launched a collection of e-books called “The Traveler’s handbook” . Blogtrips are also a form of collaboration between bloggers. Why were the blogtrips invented? Simply, because if you bring more bloggers on a trip they, writing simultaneously, will flood the blogosphere and social media channels with photos, stories, movies and reports …and we know from the history of the TV advertising when you want to have an impact you need a punctual “explosion” (her length being, obviously, determined by the budget). Last year, Jordan invested huge amounts of money in bloggers, bigger or smaller, thousands of bloggers wandered through Jordan… it was no day from Allah without me being bombed with articles, photos and stories about Jordan. And apparently the local authorities of the Jordanian tourism report the increase of the number of tourists despite the troubles in the region (Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Libya or Yemen). Investments in the travel blogosphere was judged as decisive in this success.

It is much more efficient and more successful for a blogger to associate with a company for a specific project in the long term that can have an impact. I have heard about a project of Kash of Budget Traveller in collaboration with several sponsors including EasyJet or InterRail called “The luxurious hostels of Europe” . For this project, Kash visited numerous hostels around Europe and presented them to his public.

What else was discussed at the TBU? Oh well, it was not a course about “how to” become a blogger. There were also few speeches of this type, but mainly there were examples or pretty motivational speeches that made you think about what you can do with your blog. Yes, I learned some tips and tricks like it is more efficient to add the link to your article to a big photo on Facebook (I tried this for few weeks, I have to analyze results), no more than two hashtags on Twitter, portrait photos on Pinterest or other specific advices.

Obviously, the biggest hits were the presentations on how you can get and exploit a blog trip – so much in the interest of your blog as also in the interest of the one that invites you. Here, Kate from“Adventurous Kate”, the uncrowned queen of blog trips in the most weird places really shined. Her presentation was attended by full room, with people literally standing due to lack of chairs (everybody loves the free trips :)). And there weren’t some unheard-of ideas, but they were just simply presented in a logical and encompassing order. How many of the invited bloggers wrote a trip rapport afterwards? How many likes, tweets, visitors, comments, visualizations?  I wrote such a report about twice and that’s all.

A strong point – there were few potential clients for bloggers – tourism offices (Portugal, North Portugal, Colorado, Flanders, Berlin and Finland), PR agencies specialized in traveling (from the UK and Germany), hotel booking agencies/ online flight tickets, travel agencies. There was also a session of “speed-dating” between the bloggers and the companies – in a room, each company had a desk and bloggers had 10-15 minutes time to present themselves. Obviously, there were no contracts signed but it was a first contact from which contracts might come up, eventually. The director of an UK PR agency had a helpful presentation about how to work with a PR agency, you as a blogger…but there were also “the other way around” presentations for companies on how to work with bloggers…for example, the blog trips shouldn’t take place from 7 in the morning to 2 o’clock in the night because bloggers need time to engage with their readers while on trip. The most efficient communications take place while they are “there” – their community being much more active when the bloggers to some kind of live reporting… I can confirm…I receive much more likes for a picture on Facebook as long as I am still in that certain place than if I had posted this picture two weeks later! More than that if you are abroad one of the great ideas of I think, the South African Tourism Board was that every participant from abroad to receive an unlimited internet access SIM card …the data roaming costs a lot and the wifi isn’t at any street corner!

Talking about tourism boards. Obviously, TBU type conferences are a gift from heaven for a city or a region, like Porto was in my case. Just think about the fact that there were 180 bloggers that posted thousands of tweets, uploaded pictures, wrote articles, Porto having an international media boom , unequalled probably – only if they had spent millions on CNN and Euronews. I have no idea how much they paid to TBU organizers and for events, but I do believe it returned to them considerably.

Are there any other events of this kind? Obviously. TBU is held twice a year, TBEX just had its first conference in Europe in Girona, Catalunya. There are also the tourism fairs like WTM (World Trade Market) London and ITB Berlin (the biggest tourist expo in the world). At the TBU, the representative of WTM were also present. They talked about the bloggers program which will take place during WTM London, but I guess there, the focus is somewhere else. Exhibitors from all the countries in the world come here, it is a cool show, but the travel blogging is a secondary subject…obviously bloggers attend the WTM, but no, I do not think it is as efficient as a TBU-type of event where travel blogging is the main subject. Or I might be wrong, I don’t really know. The folks from WTM told there was a special session of networking with bloggers, but mainly it is one of I don’t know how many events of the WTM. Instead, the TBEX – ITB project from Berlin expo seems a lot more interesting. Anyway, the attendance at any of these fairs is a huge show, because each country and tourist operator will bring dancers, singers etc. etc….and more than that, for a blogger the entrance is free. You can register just like any other journalist :)

I think there could be a lot more to write about this. Is TBU a worth while event? For a travel blogger yes, and honestly I was very pleased that I attended the TBU as a Romanian travel blogger – I think I was the first one present at such an event and I could find out that there are countries that seem big and full of travelers where the travel blogosphere is insignificant… A participant from Austria told me that in her country there aren’t more than three travel blogs. Yes, there are more in Germany, but not from Austria. Also, while talking to someone from Hungary I was about to find out that there aren’t many in Hungary either Hungary either…while here, in Romania we have some couple of hundreds (390 after the latest census).

So, what do you think of the travel blogosphere?


TBU Porto cruise

Crazy sexy traveler from Slovakia :)

Luxury hotels in Portugal: Pousada de Porto

TBU Porto

Inspirational speech of Planet D

Travel bloggers conference: TBU Porto

Sights of Porto: Custom house

With Adventurous Kate

Travel Bloggers Unite: with Blonde Gypsy

Travel Bloggers Unite: Budget traveler and Nomadbiba

Travel Bloggers Unite: Bloggy Awards 2012

Travel Bloggers Unite: Bloggy Awards winners

Chicks band in Porto

Travel Bloggers Unite: Uncornered market

Travel Bloggers Unite: speed dating hall

Travel Bloggers Unite: Alexandra Kovacova speed dating

Travel Bloggers Unite: social media tools

Adventurous Kate speech on blog trips

About travel blogging

Where to sleep in Portugal: Gallery Hostel Porto

Până acum există "5 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. andreea says:

    interesant! o sa postez si eu in curand despre porto – momentan inca postez despre lisabona si imprejurimi. :)

  2. I would really like to attend one of the main travel blogging conferences next year. It would be great for networking and to meet up with on-line friends I’ve been interacting with for months.

    • Imperator says:

      There is also a smaller scale meeting at London World Trade Market beginning of November. I know there are lots of bloggers planning to go there… although, as I said the spotlight it would be definitely off-blogging area :)

  3. I am in fact delighted to glance at this website posts
    which includes tons of helpful information, thanks for providing such statistics.

  4. Neo says:

    Thanks for this nice post. …

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