Upcoming travel blogger conferences for 2012

travel bloggers conferenceIf the word “conference” immediately conjures images of tipsy, poly-suit clad conventioneers, comic book geeks, or coma-inducing workshops, you obviously haven’t attended a travel blogger gathering.

‘Tis the season for some of the year’s biggest travel industry blowouts. Each has a different focus–some are for accredited travel writers, others hone in on the burgeoning travel blogging industry or events tailored for the public. What they all share is an emphasis on networking with industry professionals, travel trends, and continuing education in the form of field trips, workshops, seminars, panel discussions, and yes, a fair bit of partying.

Below, our picks for the best in travel industry camaraderie and information exchange:

Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX)

The year’s most anticipated travel scribe gathering will be held June 15-17 in Keystone, Colorado. Expect a mix of over 350 fledgling and veteran writers, PR and travel industry experts, guest speakers, and workshops. In your downtime, take advantage of Keystone resort and environs by hiking, mountain biking, paddling, fly-fishing, or riding. Psst. Europe TBEX will be held in Lausanne, Switzerland, October 11-13.

New York Times Travel Show (NYT)
Held March 2-4 at Manhattan’s Jacob C. Javits Convention Center, this is a great event if you’re an accredited writer with a specific niche (Industry Professional Sessions include topics like “Focus on Africa,” and “Focus on Travel Media”); there’s also a “trade-only” day. The public and and newbie writers can explore the Exhibition Hall, check out a variety of cultural events to be held on five stages, and let the kids run amok in the Family Fun Pavilion. Bonus: Accredited travel professionals can attend the Friday Exhibition Hall and travel industry welcome reception, and Saturday and Sunday seminars and Exhibition Hall free of charge.

Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU)
Feel like a tax write-off trip to Umbria, Italy (did I just say that)? From April 20-22, this UK-organized conference unites travel writers and bloggers with travel PR experts, tourism boards, and travel companies. Seminars include photo walks and workshops, and using social media. Best of all, delegates will be able take free post-conference tours of Umbria.

Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference

Lonely Planet guru/Gadling editor Don George co-founded this renown industry event with Book Passage owner Elaine Petrocelli in 1991. Held annually at Petrocelli’s Marin County bookstore (located 15 minutes north of San Franciso; the other Book Passage is a tiny shop in San Francisco’s Ferry Building). The event has attracted in the past luminaries such as Tim Cahill, Larry Habegger, and Gadling’s David Farley. This year, esteemed writer Susan Orlean will be in attendance, and the schedule includes four days of seminars, workshops, panel discussions, and optional evening field trips. If you’re serious about travel writing–and few places provide as much topical diversity as the Bay Area–sign up, stat.

Be sure to check out Don’s article on “Top tips for TBEX and other writers’ conferences” before you sign up or get on a plane (they say advice doesn’t come cheap, but this is free, baby).

[Photo credit: Flickr user Dia™]

Presenting Xtranormal’s “I want to be a travel writer


Conference and Meeting Travel: How the packing list is different

meeting travelMy bag looks different from usual on this trip. Convention travel, though not usually as productive as other forms of business travel, does bring with it the benefit of a lighter bag.

When I go on a regular business jaunt, I usually wind up having to overpack. The problem is that there is just too much happening, and none of it is related. On a normal business trip, usually to visit the IR magazine team in London, I have to be ready for:

• Meetings with my team
• Meetings with my boss
• The sort of work that I do every day
• Special events that have a dress code
• Casual dinners with former colleagues
• Recreational travel, which I usually like to tack on to the back end of a business trip

Conventions and conferences are totally different. I go for one reason, not many. Conference events dominate the agenda, so there really isn’t much time to build in recreational meetings or visits with friends or colleagues – and needless to say, I won’t be seeing much of Vancouver when I’m in town for the RIMS 2011 event. And, I don’t build in leisure travel when I’m on a conference trip, mostly because I’m so busy at the event that I can’t put off returning to the office to catch up.

So, what’s the upside? Well, a lighter bag …Unlike my last few trips – to Palo Alto, Toronto and London – this run up to Vancouver has the benefit of a lighter bag. I won’t need a suit on this trip, just a bit of attire on the upper end of business casual. This also means that I can make the trip with the shoes I’m wearing, which saves lots of space. Since the suit and shoes are usually in addition to a day’s attire, they wind up consuming a disproportionate amount of space. On this trip, everything I need, from socks to cigars, fits in a small carry-on.

Because of the single purpose and straightforward attire, packing for a convention/conference trip is pretty easy. So, what’s in my bag right now?

• Two pairs of pants (for two and a half days on the ground in Vancouver)
• Four shirts – just in case I spill something or have an unexpected night out
• Socks, toiletries, etc. (the basics you’ll need to pack for any trip, regardless of purpose)
• I’m wearing the jeans and shoes that I’ll wear on the flight home

Just to play it safe, most of my shirts can be worn with either pair of pants packed, so if I spill something on a pair of pants, I won’t wind up in a weird stripes-on-pinstripes predicament. Also, I’m short on gadgets for this trip. Since I probably won’t be doing anything other than working the RIMS 2011 event, I don’t need my camera (which takes up far too much space); my BlackBerry camera will get the job done if necessary. My Flip is small enough not to be a bother, and my laptop is tiny. Anything else doesn’t make the cut.

Convention and conference travel can lead to heavier bags if you’re on an event management team, and you get stuck toting marketing materials, brochures and other equipment for a booth or other presence at the event. If you can ship as much of that as possible ahead of time, though, you’ll find yourself with easier shoulders, free hands and the fresh look that comes with not having to check a bag!

Conference and Meeting Travel: Five ways it differs from other business travel

business travelAs I write this, I’m en route to Chicago from New York, the first leg of a trip that will bring me to Vancouver where I’ll be when this story runs. For the first time in a few years, I’m headed to a professional conference, and the preparation process, it has occurred to me, is different from other forms of business travel. From the packing list to the mindset, it’s unlike the other business trips I’ve taken this year.

So, how is conference and meeting travel different? Here are five ways that came to mind pretty quickly:

1. The packing list: my bag is a lot lighter than it usually is (I’ll write more about this later in the week). Convention and meeting travel usually translates to a lighter load (unless you’re stuck toting last-minute items that weren’t shipped in advance)2. The intent is focused: when I go to a conference or event, I usually don’t have a lot of ancillary business scheduled … unlike a routine trip to see my team in London, in which case I try to lump in both business and travel stuff with friends, contacts and former colleagues. On a conference trip, I’m only thinking about the conference – nothing else.

3. The schedule and priorities shift: on a normal business trip, I try to have a return flight later on my final day in town. This gives me the maximum amount of time on the ground relative to cost, ultimately making my trip more productive (better return on investment). On a convention/conference trip, you can wind up stuck in town for a final morning, in order to maximize the value of the last night of the event – and the day after becomes a total flush.

4. The pace and agenda are wacky: client visits, regular visits with my team and even sales calls tend to be predictable. Even if I can tack on recreational travel or additional business, I tend to know what’s going on before I hit the ground, and not much changes once I arrive. Sure, crazy stuff arises from time to time, but most trips are predictable. One conference trips, you wind up hoping to score meetings, drum up some new contacts and just “see what’s out there.” This means that a lot can change quickly, and you have to be ready for anything!

5. The end is much more welcome: at the end of a convention, I usually just want to get home. I’m tired from walking around, making contacts, meeting people I know and generally being “on.” Even trips to meet with clients aren’t this exhausting, because the agenda is usually set and the objectives are so specific. On the last day of a conference, I actually find myself looking forward to getting on a plane … for a change.

Will the iPad kill business travel?

iPadThe business travel market comeback has been going on for quite some time, but it looks like the corporate folks may be losing interest in getting on planes. I can relate to that: back when I lived the road warrior life, there was a certain amount of dread that came to be associated with the alarm clock, the town car and the boarding process. So, it’s hardly surprising that online events are starting to chip away at business travel.

VentureBeat reports that marketing folks are leaning more toward “virtual happenings” in 2011 and are cutting back on physical events. In a survey by virtual events company Unisfair, 62 percent of respondents say they’re pouring more money into online events this year … and that 42 percent are spending less on the physical alternative.

What’s interesting is that it isn’t an aversion to boarding a plane that’s driving this trend. Rather, there are a variety of reasons, all of them customer-driven. Sixty-two percent of respondents indicated that they preferred being able to attend a virtual event via a mobile device or smartphone (e.g., an iPad), and 58 percent like virtual over physical events because they can multitask.

So, how does this affect the future of business travel? Well, VentureBeat notes:

The numbers confirm what much of the business world is already experiencing: That physical attendance at conferences and tradeshows is becoming less frequent as companies switch to cheaper, easier-to-access virtual events.

In fact, the situation is poised to worsen: 87 percent of the survey’s respondents “predict hybrid (part physical, part virtual) events will represent at least half of all events in the next five years.”

In the next half-decade or so, checking in will have more to do with location-based services than hotel rooms, it seems.

Five signs that the hotel meeting business is recovering

Business meetings are back in style. Group customer is on the rise for the hotel business, signaling that the corporate crowd Is getting back out on the road. Joining the party are other groups, such as associations, sports teams, religious groups, social organizations and the military, according to USA Today.

The U.S. Travel Association is predicting a 7 percent increase in meeting and convention spending this year, with a forecast of $90.7 billion. Last year, this measure fell 15 percent, as the effects of the financial crisis and subsequent recession led to cancelations.

To get the big bucks back in the door, hotels and convention bureaus have been rolling out favorable pricing and sweetheart deals, and it’s starting to work.

So, how do we know this sector’s coming back? Here are five hints:

1. The meeting planners say so: A June survey by Meeting Professionals International showed 61 percent of respondents saying “that they’re seeing more favorable business conditions, including attendance, budgets and number of meetings,” according to a USA Today report. Only 15 percent responded this way in August 2009.

2. Hotel groups say so: InterContinental Hotels Group has announced that its group and corporate revenue climbed 10 percent in the first half of 2010 relative to the same period in 2009. Denihan Hospitality Group’s eight New York City hotels are showing an increase in group revenue of 26 percent year-over-year.
3. Even Grand Rapids has good news: The JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan has sold more than 1,500 group room-nights so far this year, up 20 percent from last year.

4. So does Fort Lauderdale:
In this Florida town, group revenue is up 30 percent at the Harbor Beach Marriott. Corporate deals are still down from last year, but other groups are more than making up the difference.

5. Hotels understand what’s going on: Even though the market is coming back, hotels realize that they still need to price aggressively. Notes George Aquino, general manager of the Grand Rapids JW Marriott Everyone’s felt the turmoil of 2009. We don’t want that to happen again.”

[photo by msprague via Flickr]