I am writing this having just recently returned from the Athens TBEX travel bloggers conference. I've already made a couple of posts about some of the things I did whilst there, and so this is about what I thought to the actual Athens TBEX convention itself.
Athens TBEX – The Good
One of the great things about these TBEX conferences, is that you get to meet some really interesting people. I must have met dozens, all with their own unique stories to tell. I caught up with old friends such as Maria from www.horsensandbeyond.com, and made many more new ones besides. Perhaps the story that stands out the most to me however, was of Billie from www.barmen2bozeman.com. I originally thought this was going to be some sort of drinking blog (I can relate to that!). There was a far more interesting story to tell though. Basically, the blog is going to be about her plans to retrace an ancestors journey from Germany through to the USA. Along the way, she will visit ghost towns, see how the landscapes have changed, and look at German culture in the US. It's a fascinating project, and to me, sounds like there is a good book in it! The blog is still in development at the moment, but I will be a regular visitor as she prepares to bring it all to fruition.
Athens TBEX – The Bad
From my point of view, the really bad thing about the Athens TBEX, was that there were no bicycle related tours or excursions. It was quite annoying, because I know for a fact that several companies offer cycling tours of the city, as I bumped into some of their representatives at the conference! They were as surprised and/or as annoyed as me that they hadn't been chosen.
Now, I fully appreciate that I don't know the processes involved in choosing which local tour operators work with TBEX. Neither do I know how much financial commitment is needed by ether side to get these tours onto the agenda. What I do know though, is that we should be promoting healthy, environmentally friendly methods of travel and tourism as much a possible. Cycling is number one among these, having the least environmental impact of any form of travel bar walking. Almost every major city in the world offers cycling tours that enable people to see the main sights, and Athens is no exception. So, why weren't they included at the Athens TBEX? Obviously, cycling is my thing, so it would stand out to me, but come on TBEX ! There was a massive opportunity missed here.
Athens TBEX – The Ugly
And now we get to the bit that may get under the skin of a certain class of travel blogger. The ugly side of Athens TBEX, was the focus that so many people had on solely making money from their blogs. Indeed, travel itself was so secondary to a lot of them, I'm not even sure that they even liked it! In any case, most of their travelling seems to come in the form of organised press trips. Then all that happens, is you see the same 20 or so bloggers all writing about the same destinations at the same time. To me, it makes peoples blogs seem quite disjointed. There may be this thing of creating a niche and having a general underlying theme, but their blogs jump around from country to country so much, there is no real design behind what they are doing. They are just going with the next free thing. I'm all for enterprise and entrepreneurship, even spontaneity (at a push!). There has to be an underlying passion for travel underneath that though, along with a bit of individuality and adventure. To me, many people just seemed to lack it.
This type of person normally comes out with a statement like ‘We don't work for free', or ‘What's in it for me'. And that's fine, but I lost a lot of respect for some people during this conference because of it. Of course, one of the functions of TBEX is to help bloggers become more professional, I get that. Indeed, that's why I was attending myself!. But, (and its a big but!), there is a fine line between being professional and mercenary. Monetise your blogs sure (I am!!), but it would be nice to see a little passion alongside it. You could also tell that this sort of blogger wasn't doing themselves many favours among some of the sponsors. My overall feeling, is that this type of travel blogging is going to have a relatively short shelf life. The ‘pros' know this, and have a vested interest in keeping their position for as long as possible. Ok, small rant over!
Athens TBEX – Conclusion
If I was to compare this event to the previous year's in Dublin, I would have to say that Dublin was actually better. One of the reasons for this, is that I thought some of the breakout sessions this time were rehashing old material. That said, I still took away something new from each of the ones I attended. Another reason, was that I felt the Dublin one ran a lot smoother.
Which city did I enjoy the most though? The answer to that is simple – Athens. I had a great time there, and it was a place I wish I could have spent far longer in, getting to know both the city and its people. I will be back!