We often tell prospective destinations that hosting TBEX is like offering the world’s biggest press trip. It’s a chance for a destination to showcase its tourism product, the attractions that make up the backbone of the destination’s tourism economy.

rickcalvert_blogworldPart of this amazing opportunity is the ability to host a variety of tours and excursions that will give attendees a small sampling of what the destination has to offer visitors, a sampling that they, in turn, can share with their readers. Each destination creates a wide range of itineraries to offer TBEX attendees. For example, these may include food and shopping experiences, historical tours, ecological tours, adventure tours, cultural experiences, museums, even wildlife and zoological experiences.

When we were in Cancun for our site visit, there were three dolphin related tour companies that came to meet us. They subsequently provided itineraries for Cancun to offer to TBEX attendees. This has the TBEX community talking. Talking about issues is good. Talking about issues where everyone has a chance to get full information and respond is even better.

So let’s talk.

First let me share the Mission of TBEX.

TBEX exists to provide educational content and networking opportunities that benefit both bloggers and the travel industry, and in doing so, raising the standards of professionalism on both sides. This creates more opportunities for content creators and delivers measureable value to the travel industry.

We are passionately committed to this mission, and to the belief that new media has empowered all of us in a way never before seen in human history. New media gives everyone the opportunity to share their opinion no matter what his or her views are.

Our goal is to give you everything we can to help you chart your own success, leaving it up to you to pick and choose what best fits your personal preferences and business plan. We know you may not like everything on the program, but we hope the diversity of information helps you connect with what will be most useful to YOU.

We are not a political event. We are a professional development event. We are an advocacy organization. We advocate for you, the travel content creator. It is not in keeping with our mission to advocate on one side or the other of a political debate.

The same is true for any tourist board. Their job is to bring visitors to the destination and to represent their private industry partners who make up their local travel industry.  There is a saying in the travel industry:  the job of the tourist board is to put “heads on beds”.

Even though TBEX isn’t political, and tourism boards as a whole are not political in nature, it still begs the question – is there a line, and if so where is it?

The honest answer is yes. There is a line. But there is a very high threshold to crossing that line.

We know that some of you are offended by these dolphin programs. Some even find the concept abhorrent and consider it animal cruelty.  You have been very vocal about your beliefs and convictions.  Some have asked, or even demanded, that we remove these experiences from the program.  We respect you and your beliefs. We have heard you. And we understand you. But at the same time, numerous others members of our community have excitedly signed up for those same experiences and have emailed us to ask that we do not cancel them.

There are numerous advocates for these programs who believe they offer valuable research and that their practice is humane. There is obviously an active debate both outside and within the TBEX Community. It would not be ethical for us to choose a side in this debate. Doing so would be doing a disservice to some part of our community and violating our mission to advocate on behalf of ALL content creators.

We believe the TBEX community is made up of professionals who can accept people with differing views, never allowing a healthy debate to turn into personal attacks or insidious conversation aimed at any attendee. In fact, encouraging constructive discussion is exactly in line with TBEX’s mission.

I know some of you may be upset with this decision, but I sincerely hope you can respect the reasoning behind it.

You have only seen the tip of the iceberg in the trips and excursions that will be offered by Cancun and their partners. There will be diversity in the opportunities, including cultural and local experiences, and we believe that there will be something that will pique the interest of all our attendees.

This is a good debate to have. Change can come out of debate, so feel free to sound off in the comment section below, on your own blogs, and the social channels.

We value you. We hope you will find many other excursions that you are passionate about exploring and blogging about when you join us in Cancun this September for TBEX North America.

Thank you for understanding and respecting our mission here at TBEX.

Rick Calvert

 

***Update 7/12/14****

This has been a very active debate and I thought it was important to include some more information.

Some of accused us of including these programs on behalf of sponsors and to make money.

Fact, the company providing these tours is not a sponsor. TBEX has not been compensated monetarily or otherwise.

Diana from d travels’ round has been very active in this discussion. All of her comments have been thoughtful and respectful. I felt it was appropriate to include her latest comment here. My reply to her comment is below as well.

Diana’s comment:

That is the problem though: your audience is not that knowledgeable. Speaking from experience and working in both the PR and blogger sides, most bloggers don’t know the truth about animal tourism and without someone actually taking the time to educate them, they won’t. I’ve come across so many in my time working with responsible tourism who tell me they wish they would have known the truth about whatever animal attraction it is they supported and wrote about, because then they would not have written/advocated for it. People learn because thought leaders, brands, etc. speak out and make it a priority to educate.

My reply:

 Fair point and very well said Diana. They should be. Isn’t it their job as providers of information to educate themselves and share that information with their audience? Isn’t that your job?

Imagine if every blogger who signed up for one of these trips came home and wrote a story that agreed with your point of view. How many more people would be educated?

This is the point I have been trying to make from the beginning. Our audience is not made up of consumers. It is made up of new media content creators and travel industry professionals. TBEX is not for the general public. This is an important distinction. Part of our job is to teach new media content creators how to improve their investigative skills, how to write and communicate effectively and deliver real value to their audience. In order to do that, they need to gather information.

It is their job to educate the public.

Our critics are taking the position that some sources of information are acceptable and others should be censored. That they have found the truth and no further debate or fact finding is needed. That our audience is too naive to learn and decide for themselves. That is completely contrary to what we believe and what we advocate for on behalf of new media content creators.

We are not trying to defend these programs or promote them. We included them because local businesses offered them. We think our audience is / should be sophisticated enough to make the decision of taking one of these tours and then writing objectively about their experience for themselves.

 

We hope more of our community uses this debate to educate themselves about this subject.