McCue traveled across the country to attend our first-ever TBEX Conference in the Finger Lakes Wine Country, an idyllic destination located in upstate New York. 

We flew. We ate. We drank. We mingled. We laughed. We listened. And we learned.

Back up a minute… just what is TBEX? TBEX is the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and industry professionals. Each year, TBEX brings the travel industry’s most creative minds together to learn, network and do business together. It’s one big happy traveling family!  Each conference attracts 600-800 delegates from around the world, making it a golden opportunity for PR firms and their clients to engage with the most influential travel bloggers and leading digital content creators working today.

Connecting with travel media professionals and keeping up with the latest trends in tourism marketing is what we’re all about here at McCue, and we’re eager to share some valuable insights gleaned from our exciting experience.

Here are the top five things we learned from TBEX 2018:

1. Travel bloggers are professionals, and they are here to stay. – As tourism marketing consultants, we need to make our destination clients aware that the term “blogger” isn’t a dirty word anymore.  Blogging is no amateur sport. This generation of travel media is professional, diligent and hungry to turn their digital medium of choice into a profit-making travel brand.  Many travel influencers are trained journalists, editors, producers, performers, photographers and writers operating their own businesses. These are worthwhile partnerships for tourism associations to invest in long-term.

2. YouTube, Facebook Live and Instagram Stories are now considered legit broadcast news. – Don’t let your destination clients throw digital channels and streaming stations out with the trash.  Digital video is now considered a legitimate content platform, and it has audiences that are growing at a rate that may rival mainstream news outlets in the not-too-distant-future.  

3. Tourism marketing thinks growth is linear, but the reality is that growth is exponential. – Marketing strategies are often planned in a linear way.  We need to shake and break that paradigm going forward. In the near future, we’ll need to devise ways to measure growth and develop KPIs that measure exponential — not linear — success.

4. Virtual and augmented reality is here. – As content marketers for DMOs and tourism associations, we should start planning content, concepts and campaigns for the new VR and AR technology, which is fast-approaching.  Manual online search is declining and new generations of phones will be augmented with immediate content pop-ups. We’ll need to take control of content and steer this virtual reality ship.

5. Access to big data = hyper-personalized marketing strategy. – As marketing organizations get their hands on big data, they will provide us with hyper-specific information.  Gone are the generic, general content and ads; get rid of them now. For content to be helpful and visible to potential visitors, tourism marketing needs to speak to specific travelers about the specific things they want at the specific times they want them.

As one marketing presenter put it, it’s good to know that there are three critical marketing concepts that won’t change:

  1. Creativity
  2. Community
  3. Collaboration

And we’ve got those covered.  Until next time, TBEX!

Click here to access TBEX North America’s 2018 session decks.

Sienna Spencer Markles

About the Author, Sienna Spencer-Markles

Sienna Spencer-Markles leads Media Relations for the Travel Team, putting her “people skills” to work connecting journalists and influencers with the agency’s destination and hospitality clients. A 10-year media relations veteran, she has a good nose for a story and an eye for trends, making her an indispensable resource to clients seeking coverage in national, regional and local media outlets. Likewise, she brings logistical acumen, tireless enthusiasm and an innate sensitivity to “local politics” to every client program, offering on-point advice and ideas for overcoming challenges. She regularly develops and hosts media FAMs, represents clients at events, creates press materials, and coordinates media missions.

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