Travel Blog Exchange Announces More Speakers for TBEX 13 in Toronto


megaphone announcementWe’ve been working away through more of the speaker submission forms, balancing out the program, crunching the topics and niches, and trying to come up with a program as diverse as our community.

Today, we’re excited to announce a few more speakers to our lineup for TBEX 2013 in Toronto. We think you’ll find a few familiar names and we’re also excited about adding some new voices and opinions to the program.

Along with these additional TBEX speaker announcements came more emails declining other submissions. There are still over 100 submissions under review and we hope to conclude this process next week or so. We have a couple of projects in the works that have caused this delay, but we’re working hard to get everything wrapped up and more announcement made quickly.

The speaker biographies, sessions titles, and session descriptions will be up soon and we hope you will be just as excited as we are at how it’s all coming together.

Photo credit:  via morguefile

Travel Bloggers: How to Prepare & Pitch for TBEX Speed Dating


Without a doubt, TBEX is one of the most important conferences for travel bloggers. This is the place where you learn and improve your blogging skills, meet and network with fellow bloggers, and also meet interesting companies who want to work with you. Whether you are a starting blogger or an established high-profile blogger, chances are you want to work with companies. Here are a couple of tips for anyone who is interested in pitching companies at TBEX Toronto.

meetings at TBEX keystone


As Benjamin Franklin once said, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Preparation is the key to success, and with TBEX this is no exception.

Do some research – Ask fellow bloggers what they know about the companies that are represented at TBEX. Have they worked with them before? How did they successfully approach the company, and how would they suggest approaching the company? Do they know of any other companies who are interested in working with bloggers? The more information you have about the TBEX sponsors before the conference, the better.

Keep your media kit updated – This cannot be stressed enough. Companies do not want to know how many visitors you had in 2007. They want to know your current numbers and growth. Since travel blogging is still a young phenomenon, numbers are growing quite rapidly. It is therefore vital to update the media kit at least every couple of months, especially just before a conference like TBEX.

Business cards – This one might seem like a given, but you might be surprised as to how many people actually forget to bring them. Business cards are among the most important items to take with you. Handing out business cards during TBEX allows companies and bloggers to get in touch with you. If you have no business cards yet, make sure to print some before TBEX. Remember to include all the important information, such as your name, your blog, Facebook, Twitter, your e-mail address and telephone number. Prepare enough business cards to distribute to companies and bloggers.

Plan your trips ahead – Before you meet company representatives, you need to know what you can offer the companies, and how you can work with them. As a travel blogger, you may be traveling a good deal of the time. If you want companies to know where you are going to be in the next couple of months so that they will want to work with you, plan your trips before TBEX. Otherwise, send them an e-mail as soon as you plan your trip to update that information.


Now that you are prepared to meet hundreds of bloggers, attend interesting educational sessions on blogging, social media, and SEO, and meet representatives of travel companies who would love to work with you, it’s time to head to TBEX!

Visit all sponsor stands – Don’t be shy to walk up to the stands. Companies want to work with you, that’s the reason why they’re there. Ask the exhibitors questions regarding the company, and how they want to work with bloggers. Don’t be afraid to give them feedback and suggestions, since most companies are willing to personalize the way that they work with bloggers. Make it a point to visit all stands and to inform yourself about every company representative that is attending, so that you do not miss out on any possible connection.

Pitch – Show the company representatives why they should work with you. Be confident, and have a professional attitude. Many companies have an allocated budget to use on bloggers, and while they want to spend it all, they want to spend it wisely. Working with travel bloggers is a new venture for many companies, so they want to make sure that the bloggers can deliver good and well-written content. Prove to them that you have got what it takes, and you will be flooded with requests before you know it! Make sure to drop by to see us at the GetYourGuide stand and pitch us!


Attending the conference was just the beginning. Now it is time to network with your new corporate partners, and secure some sweet deals!

Send e-mails! – The most important part of pitching to companies at TBEX isn’t attending the conference; it’s writing the follow-up e-mail. This is usually the stage where deals are made. Give a summary of what you already agreed on at TBEX, dish out your statistics again, attach your updated media kit, and give detailed information as to how you would like to work with them. While doing all this, remember to be concise. Nobody likes reading long e-mails, especially if the inbox is flooded with hundreds of follow-up e-mails.

Regular contact – Keep in touch with the companies and bloggers you met at TBEX through e-mails and social media. Tell the representatives about any new plans that might be interesting for them. Notify them when your article will be published. Also, be timely when responding to e-mails. It is understandable that you do not have internet access when travelling to some countries. If the company representatives are waiting for an e-mail from you, let them know that you will not be able to respond to any e-mails while on this trip, especially if they are waiting for you to publish an article you wrote about their company. Maintain regular contact so that they will want to work with you again.


TBEX is the place to be if you want to establish a working relationship with those who share your passion for blogging. If you make use of these tips you are sure to make a good impression on the exhibitors.

This list is of course not exhaustive, and you might want to think about more ways to ensure your trip to TBEX is a success, however it will definitely lead you in the right direction.

This is a guest post from TBEX Toronto sponsor GetYourGuide. With more than 19,000 things to do in over 1,870 global destinations, GetYourGuide is the web’s largest platform for tours and activities around the world. GetYourGuide’s assortment is vast and varied, offering everything from historic and sightseeing tours to sporting activities, and even entries to museums, shows, and events. GetYourGuide holds offices in Berlin, Las Vegas, and Zurich, and we are excited to have them as a sponsor.


Travel Blog Exchange: 10 Ways to Build Your Audience Before & After You Hit Publish


We know how satisfying it is to publish a well-written travel blog post, post a gorgeous photo, or record an informative podcast. But without an audience on the receiving end of all that great content, it’s more of a one-way conversation than most of us would like. What can you do to help build an audience for your work, besides handing out flyers on the street corner?

Creative Commons photo by eastscene on Flickr

Creative Commons photo by eastscene on Flickr

Sunday’s This Week in Travel podcast may have been one of the best ever… But you’ll never get to hear it.

Co-host Jen Leo and I were interviewing Cory Taratuta from the Irish Fireside podcast and Mark Peacock from the Travel Commons podcast. On our Google Hangout we bantered about the latest travel news, we told humorous personal anecdotes, we gave useful tips and tricks for travelers, and we had an enjoyable time doing it. We even had a surprising call-in appearance from missing co-host Gary Arndt who was 150 meters down a salt mine in Eastern Europe and phoned in with a surprise video hello. In that way and others it may have been the “deepest” episode we have ever done. The only issue with the episode was discovered after an hour when we wanted to stop the show and found we had never started recording. It was a wonderful episode but only lacked one thing – an audience.

Somehow an audience makes the whole process of content creation more enjoyable and more rewarding. Here are 10 things that you can do to build the audience for your content just before and just after you press the publish button.

Better SEO

If you are hosting your blog with WordPress install the WordPress SEO plug-in by Joost. This plug-in will enable you to add in an SEO title and SEO description into your post. This title and description are what a search engine like Google will use to display your content when it is found by a search. A good title and a good description will increase your relevance in search results and cause your search ranking to grow. If you don’t provide an SEO title and description Google will use your article title as the search result title and the first few sentences of your article as a description.

Email Subscription

The advantage of subscribers is that they’re people who have expressed preference to read, see or listen to your next piece of content. We want to encourage this behavior. Display on your blog a way to get e-mail updates when you come out with a new post. FeedBurner and FeedBlitz have widgets that you can place in your blog sidebar to allow people to sign-up to your RSS feed via email.

Engage Commentors

If someone takes the time to write a meaningful comment on one of your posts then they are often saying they like what you do (assuming of course that their comment does not contain the phrase “I hope you die slowly”). Why not make it easier for them to get more of your content. The new free JetPack WordPress plugin will allow you to put two check boxes after the comment form. The first will allow them to get your content via email and the second to get additional comments on this post via email.

Direct Email

Are there people who would be interested in that last piece of content you created? Could you email the appropriate tourism board, the relevant host at, the hotel you mentioned, the restaurant you reviewed, or fellow bloggers who blog on the same topic? If you spent hours working on that great story it’s worth spending a minute or two getting the word out.

Social Media

Build your social media audience. Every time you write a story get the word out. You may not have followers right now on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or Facebook but one way to build an audience is to consistently provide valuable content to those networks. In addition to mentioning your latest story also tell your followers of other things that you think they will enjoy even if they’re from your “competition”. This will build your reputation as someone who can spot quality content.

Long Term Value

Does your content have long-term value? If you are writing a post about hotel deals this weekend and the answer is no. But if you are writing the definitive guide to backpacking in Vietnam or how to get around the Paris Metro your content will still be valuable next week, next month and next year. Make it easy for a new visitor on your site to find your best. Make a page on your site that includes your hand-selected best introductory content.


If you just wrote a new post that overlaps with a previous post then take advantage of the opportunity to link to it. Now that you have the definitive guide to the Paris Metro all the links in your blog for “Paris Metro” could link to that post. One mechanism for doing that is the WordPress plugin like SEO Smart Links. You enter in a series of keywords and links and it turns all references on your site to those keywords into links.

Related Posts

One of my favorite WordPress plug-ins is yet another related posts plug-in. At the bottom of my post it displays 4 or more (depending on the width of the page) posts relevant to the readers of this post. This one this will increase the time that people spend on your site will expose people to your older valuable content.

More Please Sir

An inexpensive tool to find out what posts you should write is This tool lets you know what your next blog post should be about by looking at your search engine traffic at keywords that you are getting traffic for but could get more. This tool won’t help you identify radically new subjects to write about but will help you find a few productive subjects.


If you have great content why not deliver the same post or podcast you just produced in a different form to a different audience. If you wrote a great editorial rant then turn on the camera and record a YouTube video. If you recorded a podcast then maybe you could transcribe it (I once had a volunteer who transcribed some of my podcasts in exchange for me teaching her some technical things on the web). If you have a video you put on YouTube then make sure you post a blog post as well. Your same content can find a new audience.


Creating content is fun but building and audience can be more fun and more productive. Choose one of these methods above to grow your audience or give us your best idea below.

Guest Post Author Bio: Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. By day he works at where they create products to help people without credit or debit cards pay for things. Chris was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld which runs online communities like those for eBay, HBO, and American Express, and a Software Manager at Apple, Momenta (pen computing) and HP.

Travel Blog Exchange: Organized Blogger Sharing Groups – Yay or Nay?


No matter what end of the blogging ladder you’re on now, no doubt you’ve looked at some point for ways to make the climb easier. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a fast lane to success? Today, we’ve got two takes on organized blogger groups – first from someone who thinks such groups represent a way to launch a blog to the top of the heap, and then from someone who thinks bloggers who don’t look outside those insular groups are targeting the wrong audience. Is there a magic pill? Or are these the emperor’s new clothes?

The secret of top level bloggers: Blogging Super Sharing Groups

by Cole Burmester

Creative Commons photo by C!... on Flickr

Creative Commons photo by C!… on Flickr

Looking up from the bottom of the blogging pile towards the success that others have reached, can make you pull your head back in and shut down your blog. But don’t despair there is hope for you yet.

These bloggers that you may look up to didn’t reach the levels by just being excellent writers, engaging on social media or becoming an authority in their chosen niches. Sure it helps, but they also had a dirty little secret. A secret that I was only privy to a few weeks ago.

And I want to reveal it to you…

They are involved in what I like to call a “Blogging Super Sharing Group.”

What is a blogging super sharing group?

You don’t have to look very far to see that the promotional power of social networks is being watered down by automated blogging robots who tweet new posts without reading them and without regard for quality or relevance. This approach to blog promotion spreads a weak message to a wide audience about an even wider (often random) group of mixed quality blogs.

It’s no surprise then that most bloggers therefore only seem to be writing for one another as they hope to join in with the robots.

But a blogging super sharing group is different. In these groups they value content and creativity.

Everyone agrees that just being a great photographer or creator of fantastic content is usually not enough in such a cut-throat business. You also need a strong social media presence.

By utilising a group of like-minded bloggers to share your posts, you are extending your own reach through trusted sources and recommendations.

Some may call it a blogging circle-jerk and look down upon such groups. But no matter which way you slice it, they are extremely beneficial. By joining forces with other dedicated like minded bloggers you can help spread your posts to a much more engaged and targeted audience.

What is involved?

Having only just been shown the key to this exclusive world I had no idea what to expect. And I was quickly overwhelmed. Here I was in the presence of some of my favourite bloggers and being asked to share my own posts with them so that they in turn could share them through their own social media channels.

At first glance the blogging sharing super group “rules” seemed very strict and I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Luckily these “rules” turned out to be more like guidelines. But make no mistake, if I decided I wanted to start dragging my heels then I would quickly be told where to go.

  • Members can submit up to two posts per week to the group.
  • Members will read submitted posts and regularly submit comments about them.
  • Members will always tweet ALL posts submitted by other members, ideally with a personalized tweet.
  • Members will “discover” other members posts on StumbleUpon with relevant keywords and tags.
  • Members are expected to share and like posts on Facebook if they particularly like the post.
  • Members will develop cross-linking between member blogs within new posts whenever appropriate and legitimate.
  • Members will be available to produce guest posts for each other’s blogs.

How it has benefited us

Before we joined our blogger super sharing group we had stagnated. Our unique views were consistent and our social media channels were growing, but not at the levels we had hoped. We needed something else.

Our group started with 5 travel blogs all willing to share each others best posts twice a week on StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

We immediately saw the benefits from day one. One of our posts went viral and within a week we had increased our page views and followers more than in the last 3 months combined. We knew we were onto something.

Every time our posts were shared we saw a surge in traffic. And our fellow members reported the same. We were all benefiting from reaching a new and trusted audience through our fellow bloggers.

How can I set one up?

Realistically you are not going to be able to approach the big names in the blogosphere without doing some groundwork beforehand. But you also don’t have to look very far to see who might be a great fit.

Which blogs do you always read and share anyway because you enjoy what they write? Do they in turn stumble, like, tweet or comment on your posts?

Chances are you have even networked with other bloggers that may have started at a similar time to you or written about the same niche. Just send them a friendly message and see if they would be interested in turning what is currently a mutual understanding into something much more robust.

The key is ensuring that you do not overwhelm your existing community. Luckily the beauty of your own personal blogging super sharing group is that by limiting the number of members in your group to like-minded bloggers with the same goals as you, then your overall message will be even more powerful.

Think Outside the Bubble, Bloggers, or Risk Stunted Growth

by Annemarie Dooling

Creative Commons photo by nic_r on Flickr

Creative Commons photo by nic_r on Flickr

Despite the occasional loud-mouthed scuffle, the travel blogging community is a kind one. There aren’t many more where members would gladly drop everything to teach a new peer a skill, or meet a stranger randomly in a new city, or put overwhelming amounts of passion into building and sharing the connections that strengthen the network.

We’ve created a cozy bubble where every blogger knows each other, some more intimately than others, for sure, and rallies behind their fellow blogger across websites, Facebook, Instagram. But there’s danger in the bubble and it’s called stunted growth.

Here are a few additional facts about travel bloggers: many of them are self-taught in their abilities, don’t always pay for their own travel, and rarely do the wide-market research that would enable their content or brand to spread beyond that comfortable bubble. It’s a fantastic thing when a writer is able to build a truly devoted audience, one that follows you, shares, wants to know more, engages with you and more importantly engages with others about you. But when that ‘devoted audience’ is no more than a small group of like minded peers, we come to troubled territory.

There’s another piece to the puzzle of sharing across a small radius, and it’s the concept of organized groups of voters. In the early days of Internet sharing sites, Usenet and Google groups were designed by the dozens for the sole purpose of sharing one’s latest content and gaming large quantities of comments, likes and clicks as possible. When the temple of Digg fell, so did many of these groups, but they’re still strong in blogging circles. And bloggers aren’t to blame. It’s a larger problem created by aggressive websites built on hyper social activity with much less of a concentrate on originality and authenticity and quality (Ok, I’ll confess to working for at least one company like this). How can a DIY site compete with media monsters who have less passion and better SEO? The answer seems clear in these voting groups; share your link, earn a hundred likes and move on with your day.

But these larger sites will fail if they continue to rely solely on shallow, base numbers, and blogs will, too. It’s much easier to change an independent blog, though, and bloggers have the opportunity to ignore the organized system based on gaming clicks from your friends, and turn it around to a place where good content floats to the top of the Google heap.

Why turn away from those groups of clickers? Though that group might actually be somewhat of an enthusiastic fan base, having no critics means no opportunities to see where you can improve. Having only comments or clicks from someone who is obligated to do so means you’ll never really know how your content is doing. Sharing the same nuclear network as those peers means your content is rarely seen beyond that bubble to the wider audience, the real audience that could wonder at and benefit from your knowledge.

If I had one wish for new bloggers, it would be to, yes, lean on that community, for thoughts, brainstorms, advice and friendship. But don’t be afraid to move beyond. Do some work on the reader base who is the core demographic of your product. Figure out how best to speak to and reach them. They are the reason you started writing; they are the audience that craves your information. Sell yourself to someone who’s buying.

The first post was written by Cole Burmester, founder of the couples adventure travel blog You can find them on Twitter and Facebook.

The second post was written by Annemarie Dooling, travel writer and senior community editor at Huffington Post. Her blog is Frill Seeker Diary.

Your turn!
What do you think of these two contrasting views? Leave your comments below!

Destinations Working with Travel Bloggers: Q&A with Germany Tourism


In early December 2012, the NYC chapter of TBEX got together with Germany Tourism to celebrate pretzels, beer and the great, warm culture of Germany. Tourism officials were on-hand to meet bloggers and respond to thoughts and questions, and they even took the time to respond to some questions from TBEX’s non-NYC social media audience.

Here’s what they had to say about working with bloggers, from a tourism standpoint.

photo by Hillary Richard, used with permission

German beer offerings at TBEX NYC event (photo by Hillary Richard, used with permission)

Is it Social Media Reach, or [do tourism officials] also look at the profile, writing style or niche a blogger offers in terms of strategic fit?
Elena from Creativelena

There’s definitely more to it than reach. While a large reach is great in terms of getting our name out, we want to make sure the people that it reaches are actually interested. We always thoroughly review the blog to validate that it is a relevant outlet before getting involved. Of course it’s important that the blog is well written as well and if possible contains images to showcase a destination.

Do tourism officials welcome new project ideas and suggestions from bloggers? Or do they generally just like bloggers to follow their plans to the letter?
Jac from The Occasional Traveller

We welcome all ideas. With each story, trip or project, we work closely with the blogger or writer to develop a plan that is going to work for them, their readers and the German National Tourist Office.

What topics and content would be in their ideal blogger pitch and media kit they received?
Gary of Tips for Travellers

We love having a solid idea of their area(s) of interest / story angles, types of experts they may be interested in connecting with while in the destination, and timing. It’s also very helpful to provide an overview of readership and details about the reach of your blog and any social media sites that are associated.

Would you elaborate on the number of blogger projects you might be working with throughout the year? What is the best way to stay visible with tourism officials if not chosen at first?
Donna W. on the TBEX Facebook page

It all depends. The best way to stay up to date with everything going on in Germany is to follow us on Twitter at @GermanyTourism. Please also send ideas to

How do you locate bloggers to work with?
At various industry events and via relationships held by the German National Tourist Office.

Thanks so much to Annemarie Dooling for asking these questions on behalf of the TBEX community and then for compiling the answers into a post for the TBEX blog!

Travel Blog Exchange: Toronto Neighborhoods – The Whole World in Just One City


The City of Toronto is the largest of Canada’s vibrant urban centers. It is the hub of the nation’s commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural life, and is the capital of the Province of Ontario. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world – a city where more than 150 languages are spoken every day and 50% of its residents are born outside of Canada.

A true city of the world, Toronto is a large cosmopolitan city. You’ll find a vibrant nightlife, world-class festivals, stunning architecture, great museums, galleries and theatre, various restaurants and shops, and interesting work opportunities. It is also home to hundreds of ethno-cultural organizations including professional associations and community centres.

Take a stroll through these neighbourhoods when you’re in town for TBEX:


Take a bite out of GreekTown by visiting one of its many restaurants, lounges, cafes, or bakeries. Enjoy traditional Greek cuisine, or other multi-ethnic dishes, that offer a variety of tastes that will tantalize anyone’s taste buds. Come to the Danforth and enjoy a meal with the family, have a cocktail or two with friends and co-workers, or take a little bit of GreekTown home.

Greektown Taste of the Danforth, sponsored by Pilaros, is one of Toronto’s signature events, showcasing the best of Hellenic food, culture, and music our multicultural city has to offer – from souvlaki to mezes, authentic Greek music to interactive children’s games!

Greektown was also one of the locations for the filming of the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Indian Bazaar

Gerrard India Bazaar is the largest marketing place of South Asian goods and services in North America. With over 100 shops and restaurants which represent regional diversities of South Asian culture, food, music and products, this slice of the Indian subcontinent offers a wide selection of services and products exhibited in an exotic display of sights, sounds, tastes and aromas. The array of merchandise available here helps South Asians maintain ancient cultural and religious traditions, and keep in touch with the contemporary lifestyle of the Subcontinent.


One of Toronto’s Chinatowns is located on the corner of Spadina and Dundas Street West. The area is home to a number of authentic Asian restaurants, shops and fruit markets. This is the largest of five Chinatowns in Toronto.

The second largest is located in the Broadview/Gerrard area.

Chinatown Toronto

Toronto has two Chinatowns

Toronto’s Chinatown district is one of the largest in North America. In addition to the colourful signage and storefronts, attractions to visitors include the many authentic Chinese restaurants in the area as well as many ethnic shops selling herbal remedies, fresh produce, meats, baked goods, videos, books, arts and crafts, and more. Two shopping malls in the immediate area have many stores and services catering to the Chinese community. Chinatown Toronto street signs are in both Chinese and English.  

Kensington Market

Adjacent to Chinatown and bordered between College and Dundas streets, all the flavours of the world are here at Kensington Market. Cheese and pastry shops, delis, clothing and dining options from Jamaica, Mexico and Hungary to Ethiopia, the Caribbean and Lao and all points in between make for worldly dining and shopping options.

Little Italy

Little Italy, with its intimate European atmosphere, has some of the best Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.

Walking down the College strip, you can smell the scent of authentic Italian dishes being prepared for the crowds of people on the patios. Italian cuisine has long dominated College St. and while many changes have come and gone, it still remains the main dish of the street. With some of the best patios, menus and people in the city, why not lose yourself and have a “taste” of Little Italy in your own backyard!

Little Italy has created its own clubbing district within the Downtown core in the past couple years. The strip transforms overnight, with beautiful young people flooding the streets, switching between local bars to martini lounges in a matter of minutes.

Shopping on College St. was originally aimed for the local Italian community, but as the area bloomed, trendy boutiques have popped up all over. With everything from specialty shops, a record shop and trendy book stores.


West of the Annex, between Markham and Christie Streets, lays Koreatown. Also known as Little Korea, the small stretch along Bloor has a great mix of affordable Korean eateries catering to both the local Korean-Canadian community, hungry students and other intrepid souls who dare venture west of Honest Ed’s.

The joy of Koreatown lies in the process of discovery – figuring out the best place to buy a huge tub of kimchee, sampling pork bone soups, comparing bibimbaps or debating the merits of indulging in freshly made walnut cake versus the alternatives a few blocks south in Little Italy. When night falls, it’s not only time to chow down, but also seek out one of the many local karaoke bars.

Little Portugal

Little Portugal, stretching from Bathurst St. to Dufferin St., serves as the historical core of Portuguese settlement in Canada. One of the most visible ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto, Little Portugal celebrates the identity of its roots with shops that specialize in regional cuisines, baked goods, ceramics, fabrics, and even custom furniture and fabrication. Home as well to locations of two major rival bakeries, Nova Era and Caldense, Torontonians flock to sample specialties such as the Pasteis de Nata, a Portuguese custard tart.

A wave of restaurants, galleries, and clothing shops have entered the neighbourhood in the last ten years, diversifying the image of the area and reflecting the expansion of the Queen St. West neighbourhood up Ossington Ave.

Bloor West Village

There is a strong Eastern European presence in this neighbourhood which is bordered by Bloor Street, the Humber River and High Park. Shops, cafés, bakeries and delis reflect a Ukranian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, German, Polish and Bulgarian heritage.

August brings the Ukranian Festival complete with a parade, music, dancers and cuisine native to the country.

Roncesvalles Village

The undeniable Little Poland of Toronto, this district is located east of High Park and features a mix of new and old, including traditional Polish butcher shops, historic cultural venues, fine restaurants and services. The vibrant neighborhood is also home to the annual Roncesvalles Polish Festival.

West Queen West

Queens West neighborhood Toronto

Queens West neighborhood in Toronto

West Queen West is gallery central with some of the city’s most cutting-edge galleries dotting the street-scape from Trinity Bellwoods Park to Dufferin. Anchored by the nightlife and cultural destinations that are The Drake and Gladstone Hotels, this neighbourhood oozes creativity, community and fun. Not to be overlooked are hidden gems like Julie’s Cuban and Luna Cafe up Dovercourt or the burgeoning South Ossington strip.

Church and Wellesley

Church Street and the area around it has been familiar to the Toronto gay community for many decades. Prior to the 1970s there had been an underground gay scene centered around various bathhouses and bars around the city that were not exclusively gay establishments and were mostly catered to the male population. A strip of gay bars opened along the street and many LGBT people rented apartments, joined residential co-ops or purchased condos close to Church and Wellesley. The area became what it is today, a safe and progressive friendly environment where people could not only be open but celebrate the very nature of their sexual orientation.

Aboriginal Community

It’s estimated that as many as 80,000 Aboriginals live in the Greater Toronto Area.  That’s a population about the size of the City of Niagara Falls.

Toronto is home to the oldest Aboriginal friendship center in Canada – the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, established in 1951 as the North American Indian Club. The Centre welcomes the local community, including guests from across Canada and offers a variety of programs and services.

This is a guest post from our friends, and TBEX 13 host destination, Toronto Tourism. All photos are used with their permission.

You Are Not a Travel Blogger



This weekend Matt Kepnes, otherwise known as Nomadic Matt, wrote a post that was a bit of a wake-up call. I told him I was proud of him. Matt has a caveat in his post that if your blog is your hobby that his post was not meant for you. The same applies here. If you are blogging for your own personal enjoyment, good for you. This post really isn’t for you. Have fun blogging and enjoy it.

If you ever ask for free stuff or try to sell something on your blog, then this post is for you.

I have been saying for years bloggers are like rock stars, and professional bloggers really are. Many people who think they are professional bloggers are really more like amateur wanna-be rock stars. They love the idea of fame and fortune and the rock star lifestyle, but have no clue how to achieve that goal – or they lack any work ethic to make it possible. This isn’t unique to travel blogging. It spans the entire blogosphere.

creative commons photo by Hervegirod via Wikimedia Commons

creative commons photo by Hervegirod via Wikimedia Commons

Even more lack the actual talent needed to deserve that success. I call it “American Idol Syndrome.” If you have ever seen the show, you know what I mean. Some people are completely delusional about their abilities. This isn’t unique to blogging. Music has always been this way. Most people who try to play the guitar suck, don’t they?

The difference is most sucky guitar players don’t go around calling themselves musicians. Although there are a lot more of them out there now with the advent of the internet.

Bloggers writing about their drunken escapades? Sounds just like wanna-be flash-in-the-pan rock stars – only these people are so dumb that they publicize their own bad behavior. At least rock stars try to hide it from the paparazzi.

Matt talks about bloggers having a menu of what they offer, like restaurants do. I would love to hear him expand more on this. What kind of menu? What kind of products and services should a blogger offer?

Again the music analogy applies. Did you ever notice all the merchandise Lady Gaga and other rock stars sell? They definitely have a menu. They sell their content to start with. They sell all sorts of products and services, and they definitely sell the equivalent of sponsored posts – they are called product endorsements. The smart ones, the good business-minded rock stars, sell sponsored posts that reflect their brand, that their fans can relate to and that don’t violate their fans’ trust.

Here is a reality check:
If you think travel blogging is about getting free trips and getting drunk and stupid, then YOU ARE NOT A TRAVEL BLOGGER.

You are a wanna-be. You are a poser. You give people who do want to be or who are travel bloggers a bad name. Either wake up and shape up, or do us all a favor and stop calling yourself a travel blogger.

If you don’t have a business plan (like Matt suggests), if you are not a talented story teller (regardless of whether your stories are told via print, audio, or video), if you are not constantly trying to improve your craft and provide value to your sponsors and readers, then you are not a professional. Again, if you are a hobbyist there is nothing wrong with that. Have fun. Just don’t represent yourself as a professional. In fact, you can be a hobbyist and accept a press trip, a comp, or a sweet deal, but you need to know that the moment you accept any form of compensation you have entered an agreement. That agreement includes the expectation that you will act like a professional for the duration of that relationship. If you think anyone is giving you a comp just because they like you, you are wrong.  These companies are in business to make money, and they expect you to help them reach more customers and do more business.

Professionals have talent. Professionals work hard to constantly improve that talent. Professionals also work on all the mundane things that separate them from amateurs. They learn about SEO and other technology that impacts their reach. They create a business plan and a marketing plan. Then they execute and measure the progress of those plans and adapt them when necessary to bring them closer to success. They act like professionals when they meet with potential sponsors and clients. Professionals disclose it to their readers when they have received compensation that may affect their opinion on a story. They disclose when links they provide are paid for or when a post is sponsored. They look for mentors and teachers from whom they can learn. They network with their peers, copy their successes, and try to avoid others’ mistakes.

So you should ask yourself – do you really want to be a travel blogger?

If the answer is yes, then start honing your craft and doing the things a successful professional does. I hope one of those things is attending an upcoming TBEX or other events that are geared toward professional development. Start taking a creative writing or journalism course, or start learning how the internet, SEO, keywords, and the technology you use every day works.

Do you call yourself a travel blogger? Do you disagree with this post?

Author Rick Calvert is the CEO of TBEX and CEO & Co-founder of BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Travel Blog Exchange: Announcing TBEX Toronto Blog Trips


Having TBEX in a different location each time gives travel bloggers a chance to discover something new – especially when our hosts work so hard to showcase the best of their city and region. Toronto is no exception. In addition to all the fun we’ll have in the city, we’re excited to announce the array of pre-TBEX and post-TBEX blog trips that Ontario Tourism and Tourism Toronto are offering travel bloggers who will be attending TBEX.


Tourism Toronto and its members and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Co. and its partners have put together 16 different trips you can choose from. There’s a variety of trips, from multi-day tours to day tours from the city before and after TBEX, and a range of possible experiences. In short, you should be able to find at least one that fits the niche of your travel blog – the trouble may be narrowing it down to just one.

You can browse all 16 trip options, read details about each one, and then apply to be considered for a spot on the trips you’re most interested in via the “Apply Now” link at the bottom of the page. All the information you need to include in your application is listed on that page, too, so you’re prepared before you begin the application process.

We won’t go into the nitty-gritty of every blog trip here, but to whet your appetite, here are some of the trips you can choose from:

  • Quintessential Canadian Wilderness Experience
  • Wine Country Ontario
  • Family Adventures in Central Counties
  • Thunder Bay Sail the Big Lake
  • Ottawa: Sweet vs Spicy a Canadian Smackdown
  • World Class Fly Fishing

Now that you’re even more curious, your next move should be to read about all of the TBEX blog trips in Ontario, pick the ones you want to apply for, and then fill out the online application. Applications must be completed by March 22, and Ontario Tourism will notify bloggers if they are selected by April 1.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to all of the trips outside the city, there will also be more than 40 experiences in and around Toronto on May 30-31 and June 3, both right before and right after TBEX. Those Toronto experiences will have a separate application process for registered TBEX attendees, and we’ll have that announcement ready soon – so stay tuned for news of the amazing line up of Toronto experiences.

Important Notes:

  • Space is limited on each trip.
  • Only registered travel bloggers attending TBEX can apply for these blog trips (no guests).
  • Although every effort will be made to accommodate requests, there is no guarantee placement on a FAM tour.
  • Bloggers may only take one pre and/or post FAM or day tour in Ontario and can take one city tour in Toronto on Friday, May 31st, not multiple tours.
  • The purpose of participating in one of these trips is to gather editorial content – blog posts, photos, videos, and more – to be published on a blog, website, print publication, radio or broadcast media.
  • As with all blog trips, you should plan to engage on social media to the extent possible (every effort will be made to make sure you have WiFi access) and to provide Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Co., Tourism Toronto, and their partners with links to all published works resulting from the trip.

Photo used with the permission of Tourism Toronto

Travel Blog Exchange Announces First TBEX 13 Toronto Speakers


TBEX Conference Session

Packed Conference Session at TBEX

Today we’re excited to announce the first round of speakers for TBEX 13 in Toronto. It’s the beginning of a stellar line up of travel bloggers and travel industry representatives, and is the first of a couple of announcement regarding speakers for this event.


Session titles and descriptions, along with speaker bios, will posted in the coming weeks.

Along with the excitement of speaker announcement comes the disappointment of having to send out emails declining other submissions. Saying no to great people is one of the toughest part of being Conference Director. It’s not personal. And while some submission completely missed the mark most were terrific, but just didn’t make the cut for any of a number of reasons. We hope that you’ll spruce up the idea and submit for our Dublin event.

Most of you, however, will not have heard anything today – neither an acceptance nor a decline. About 125 submissions are still in the review stage and are in the next layer of building the giant jigsaw puzzle that becomes a dynamic conference program. Every speaker selection influences the big puzzle and while we go as quickly as possible, it all takes time to all come together. If you don’t hear from us, your proposal is still being considered and we need a little more time with it. Please be patient – we mentioned that in our speaker guidelines – and we’ll have another announcement in the coming week.

This is just the beginning of a couple of weeks of big TBEX travel blogger announcements, so stay tuned.

Photo credit: courtesy of Toronto Tourism