TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) is known as the world’s largest event to connect with travel bloggers, writers, and social media editors across the global travel industry. Every year, TBEX collaborates with amazing destinations in Asia Pacific, North America and Europe to amplify the travel industry’s brightest and most enthusiastic people to learn, network and do business. Halfway through my first year of blogging, one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was whether I should attend TBEX. I couldn’t find any reasons why I should not, I’ve blogged a little over half an year and Philippines is a mesmerizing country and I barely scratched the surface in 2013. So, five long months ago I pulled out my credit card, registered for TBEX and purchased a one-way ticket to Manila to attend my very first travel blogging conference, TBEX Asia Pacific 2016.
And then panic began dominating my comfort zones, making me feel that there was no way I could go through it. There were a lot of factors to consider about attending TBEX that made me feel anxious and disturbed — accounting the political turbulences in the Philippines then, finding a safe place to stay in the drug war zone of Manila, networking with travel bloggers and pitching travel companies. I wasn’t confident with my blog, whether it was too small or if others would recognize me or if I was too old or even young to be participating at TBEX. The more I visualized about the conference the more nervous it made me and all I could think was how uneasy and difficult the experience would be for me. I even felt that registering for the event was one huge mistake. But after two days of non-stop breakout session, keynotes, speed networking, parties and tours — my entire perception of TBEX was the other way around, attending it was an outstanding experience. I learnt much more than I expected, met awesome people and returned home with a renewed enthusiasm and focus for this amazing industry.
Two of the main reasons for gathering travel bloggers and industry professionals are to expand the TBEX community and to promote the tourism of the host country. As a participant, I applied to join the Tagaytay city tour, unfortunately I missed it and took part in a tour where I rode around the historic walled city of Manila on a bamboo bike. Before the conference began, everyone was able to apply to join one Pre-BEX tour to learn the insights of the destination and some of the local businesses involved in the development of the Philippines tourism.
Opening Night Party (14 October 2016)
The TBEX Asia Pacific 2016 “Opening Night Party” was at the Blue Leaf at the City of Dreams in Manila. It featured many colorful cultural performances from different regions of the Philippines, with a Festive Philippines themed banquet including a diverse variety of Filipino cuisines from the buffet, live cooking stations, sushi and salad bar, as well as a scrumptious desserts.
TBEX Asia 2016 Welcome Happy Hour Party (14 October 2016)
Travel Massive hosted and kicked off the second night party at the LONG BAR at Raffles Makati with an extended happy hour treat for all TBEX attendees. The party also offered an all-you-can-drink special for USD 18 from 5pm till midnight. The Chef’s Sampler of pica-pica were served throughout with lots of finger food.
Breakout sessions (15th and 16th October)
The conference had breakout sessions on 15th and 16th October during the day with 45 minutes for each session where bloggers and industry professionals shared some of their tips and tricks. Some of the topics included crafting travel stories, capturing the right audience, maximizing videos and Snapchat, and tips to boost Facebook presence.
Speed Networking (15th and 16th October)
The speed networking sessions were held late afternoon on 15th and 16th October. All TBEX attendees that requested for speed networking sessions with the prospective clients and partners had 15 minutes to pitch for potential sponsorships and collaborations. I had four appointments, the first appointment on 15th and next three on 16th, whenever I saw an empty chair, I ran and asked for a quick chat and exchanged business cards and actually managed to meet everyone of them and maximize my TBEX experience.
Farewell Night Party (16 October 2016)
The farewell and final party was held at Chaos Nightclub with an Oktoberfest theme. I missed it because I was at the airport to catch my flight to Kuala Lumpur. But, I have heard everyone had a good time, dancing through the night to the sound of Manila with great music by local bands, while other TBEX attendees participated in the Oktoberfest beer-chugging competitions.
Post-TBEX fam tours
With the conclusion of the conference, 3- to 4-day FAM trips were organized by the Tourism Promotions Board of Philippines in conjunction with tour operators, travel agents, restaurants and hotels to provide the opportunity for TBEX attendees to explore different regions of Philippines with lots of fun activities. During mid-September, I tried to register for the Post-BEX/fam trips, but the TBEX website showed no available slots.
As a participant at TBEX Asia Pacific 2016 and it being my first travel blogging conference and experience, I recommend new bloggers to participate at future TBEX events. Not only the conference has been valuable, but from the Pre-Bex tours to the breakout sessions, the speed networking and the party nights has been opportunities where I have met some incredible people and made great relationships. I may have missed the farewell party and the Post-BEX tours, but I left with motivation and renewed enthusiasm for travel blogging with so much ideas and inspiration and exactly know how and where to take my blog to its next level.