Introducing the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop in Athens


You spoke.

You said you wanted a chance to work on your craft, to burrow in and tackle the meatier process of crafting great writing. You said you wanted to write, re-write, and re-write again, then share your writing with others who have sweated through that same process. You said you wanted time to learn more about writing and to work on your craft.

We listened.

In Toronto and Dublin last year, we created a half day writing workshop, although we had to to limit participants in order to ensure that everyone received individual attention. In both locations, the slots filled up fast. Really fast. And as we reviewed the surveys from both locations, it became clear that you not only liked the workshop approach, but that you wanted more.

So this year, we’re bringing you more. We are very excited to announce our small, hands on, in depth, highly focused Travel Writing Workshop at TBEX, with registration opening today.

Our 2-day travel writing workshop will be led by David Farley, a published author, successful freelancer, and travel writing instructor at New York University and Columbia University. This is an opportunity to work with one of the industry’s best as he guides you through story ideas, structure, research, and pitching. Through class instruction, discussion, and writing exercises, Farley will help you workshop a piece of writing that may very well lead to your next big sale. We have a Facebook group set up so that you can meet one another before you get to Athens, ask advance questions of Farley, and get homework assignments that will help you get the most out of the workshop. Class size is limited to 12 people.

The TBEX Travel Writing Workshop

Here’s what you need to know to secure your spot in the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop.

Dates:  October 21-22, 2014. Participating in the workshop will leave you free to enjoy PRE-BEX activities on October 23rd.

Time:  Class meeting time will be announced later. You should plan to arrive in Athens no later than October 20th, fully prepared to start the workshop on October 21st.

Location:  Megaron Athens International Conference Centre (this is the venue for all the TBEX education sessions).

Fee:  $200. This is an add-on to standard TBEX registration. You  must be registered for TBEX Europe 2014 to register for this travel writing workshop. No refunds; transfers are permitted.

Head over to the TBEX Travel Writing Workshop registration page for a workshop synopsis and to sign up. Don’t miss out on this chance to hone your writing in an intimate workshop before the TBEX main event. This workshop WILL SELL OUT, so sign up now.

For those of you who miss out on this opportunity, you can catch David Farley’s session about Freelancing during the TBEX education program.

And a teaser:  If you’re hoping to hone your photography skills, stay tuned for an announcement next week about our photography workshop in Athens.

CALL FOR SPEAKERS: TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun, Mexico


Tropical yellow hibiscus

Today we are opening the call for speakers for TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun, Mexico.

We want you to be successful in submitting a session proposal for TBEX Cancun, so here are some tips to help your proposal get our attention and meet the needs of our attendees. We’ll also try to point out some of the common reasons we have to decline submissions, hopefully giving you some additional ideas on how to structure your session proposal.

  • We have four educational tracks, and your session must fit into one of them. For the bloggers, we have Content, Community, and Commerce. For the travel industry, we have two tracks of TBEX Business designed for DMOs, PR representatives, travel brands, and other travel and tourism attendees.
  • Sessions are one hour in length, allowing time within that for questions and answers.  Please do not suggest something longer.
  • We are a B2B conference and consumer travel topics don’t fit into our programming. We’re looking for topics that can help our attendees learn more about their craft and and how to improve their business life.
  • Topic selection should be fairly narrow, allowing for an in depth discussion. Broad-based, shallower topics are generally not as well received.
  • We are always on the lookout for advanced, high level, educational sessions. Unfortunately, we don’t receive many that are at this level, so if you have the expertise and an idea that are suited for advanced level bloggers, we want to hear it.

Before you head over to the submission form, you may find additional helpful information here. If you still have questions, please get in touch, I’m happy to help you brainstorm ideas or give you feedback.

We’re always looking for new speakers to bring to the TBEX audience — last year, over half our speakers were new to TBEX. Go ahead, click through to our TBEX Cancun speaker submission form and send us a great proposal.

The call for speakers will remain open until midnight (Pacific Time) on June 12th, 2014. Speakers selected will be notified as quickly as possible.

TBEX North America 2014 Heads to Cancun, Mexico


TBEX North America 2014 will be held in Cancun, Mexico, at the beautiful Moon Palace  Golf & Spa Resort  on September 11-14th. Cancun’s beautiful beaches, natural beauty, culture and history, combine with the warmth of the Mexican people to make it a world class destination for travelers.

Cancun beach

You will love Cancun, the Moon Palace Resort, and the surrounding area. If you are blogging, podcasting, taking photos or video, you will find a wealth of editorial content in all travel niches. Whether you’re looking for active adventure experiences, or just relaxing on the beach or poolside, you’ll find plenty of options at TBEX North America 2014 in Cancun.

We are excited about sharing TBEX with partners and attendees in Latin America for the first time. Its convenient location in the Caribbean, with direct flights and easy international connections, make it a great starting point for multi-destination travel to and from the United States, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Our Hosts

Our hosts for TBEX North America 14 are the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Moon Palace Resort.

Cancun and other partners will be providing pre and post-TBEX day trips, FAMS, and other special events. Look for that information to be announced over the next few weeks and, like all TBEX events, plan to come early and stay late to maximize your trip to Cancun and Mexico.

Our Conference Venue

The Moon Palace Resort will be our venue for TBEX workshops and education sessions. The resort is located at the southern end of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, about 10 minutes from Cancun International Airport.


Attendees staying at the Moon Palace Resort will experience a luxury all-inclusive experience that includes elegant rooms, gourmet meals, and premium spirits, along with a variety of included activities. Golf and spa treatments are also available (additional charge). Special TBEX pricing will be available for TBEX attendees and sponsors, with booking information available soon.

Of course, Cancun has hotels priced for every budget, and we’ll be announcing several options in the weeks to come.

The Program

We’ll have a full schedule of TBEX events, including half day workshops, educational programming, two sessions of speed networking, and plenty of great social events. We’ll also be offering in depth, multi-day workshops as well, so plan to come to Cancun early and stay late.

The call for speakers will go out in the next couple of days; look for a further announcement about that. We are a business-to-business event, so start thinking about what you can share with attendees that will help them learn more about blogging, growing their businesses, and how to become more productive.


Super early bird registration is NOW OPEN. Hurry, deadline ends May 29th!


**** UPDATE*****

Already getting some questions about this. The Opening Night Party will be September 11th. We have confirmed there will be day trips on 11th. We may add day trips on the 10th as well. We will update you as soon as we confirm with our partners in Cancun.

The main conference days are September 12 and 13, so your conference tickets will be for September 11 – 13.

We will also have a couple half day and full day workshops on September 14. There will be an additional charge for those workshops if you choose to attend. More details to come on those soon.

How Bloggers Need to Work with Brands – and it isn’t via Twitter Fights


Last month, I had the honour of speaking to a number of DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) about how to work with bloggers. I was asked to attend the conference as the organisers (Think! Social Media) had seen me speak in the past and knew that I had a proactive and positive view of the way bloggers can work with brands – and that I had also put my money where my mouth is by supporting bloggers financially in order to support blogger/brand relationships and activity.

ryan levittSo, imagine my surprise when two slides of my 20-plus slide presentation were jumped on and transformed into a campaign of attack.

It has been a little over a week since it all kicked off, and I have purposely waited until now to respond, as I did not want to turn this guest post into a whiny and defensive column all about me. Because where does that get any of us? And how does that help propel blogger/brand working relationships into the future?

Instead, I’m going to go positive and use the tried and tested link bait method of a top five list to spark a bit more conversation on a platform that allows for more than 140 characters of text. So without further ado, I reveal Ryan Levitt’s Top Five List on How to Work with Brands.

1.  99% of blogs are awful – so stand out from the crowd

I begin with one of the contentious slides that was tweeted about – my belief that 99% of blogs are really sh*t.

I must apologize as I was understating.

It’s really 99.9% of blogs.

In 2013, it was reported that there are over 152 Million blogs around the world (source). I don’t know about you, but I would struggle to find over 10,000 amazing blogs that I would actively want to read let alone the 1.5 Million that make up 1% of what is out there.

Think about it – for every contract, piece of content writing, press trip, and paid possibility, there are potentially thousands of people out there who think they can do the same thing as you. So you need to stand out. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t be lazy and expect the brand or DMO to do all your legwork. You can’t submit copy late. And you certainly can’t bad mouth a brand just because you didn’t get your own way.

You don’t like what they have to say? Educate them – and not just with your Google Analytics or flashy numbers. We know how easy it is to game the system. You may report that you have 500,000 unique viewers a month (but hide the fact that your views are off a single post that happened to go viral). We will find out. We are looking for quality PLUS quantity. Anyone can boast big numbers, but very few people can craft great copy, inspirational photography, and valuable “here only” tips and advice on a consistent basis.

2.  Learn from the newspapers

I know, I know! Traditional media is dying you say. Yes, the numbers aren’t great. But there is something to be said for how they operate. When a PR wants a newspaper on a press trip, they must promise that no other competing publication will be on that trip. Why? Because the newspaper wants an exclusive. They understand the value of being first – and only – to market. Why do you think journalists talk about “the big scoop”? Why do online publications put exclusive features and gossip at the top of a site? Because they generate clicks, readers, and add value.

Newspapers are smart (sometimes). They know that if a consumer reads about the same trip in other publications all at the same time, they get bored. Why read the New York Times if it’s simply printing the same stuff that USA Today is putting on its pages? It’s not fresh or original.

Think I’m the only person who feels this way? Ask Gary Arndt. His April Fools post this year was a masterful piss take on the whole experience. Read it here.

At HouseTrip, we are no longer supporting group press trips where bloggers stay in the same property at the same time. We will continue to offer opportunities for people to travel together in groups when we are sponsoring a large event (such as TBEX Athens, hint, hint), but we will always put bloggers in individual apartments during those periods. Why? Because we want each blogger to have a personal experience that is different from everyone else. We don’t want lots of posts about bloggers talking about other bloggers or identical experiences. And we certainly don’t want everyone talking all at once because it turns into social noise rather than social conversation.

3.  Stop talking to each other

I often feel like social media is a lot like a high school lunch table packed with cool kids. You really want to be at the table, but you don’t know how to get an invitation. Often times, bloggers are a lot like that too. A bunch of cool kids talking about all the fun they are having, while the regular consumer watches unable to find a way into the conversation. We need to be more embracing of what the consumer wants – and they will always want accessibility and engagement.

How many times have you read a blog and seen a lot of bloggers doing love-ins. “I love your blog,” “No I love yours more”. It’s aggravating. I know new bloggers are often finding ways to form relationships and get “in” with the in crowd. I also know that more established bloggers are looking for engagement. If you are compelled to write a comment on another blogger’s work, make sure you are contributing to the conversation. For example, if the blogger is in Thailand and you know a great place to go for sunrise yoga around the corner from a location they mentioned in the post, add that to the list. It’s a better contribution. But the endless love-fests aren’t productive.

4.  Know when you are right for SEO or right for brand building activity

Another contentious slide this one. My presentation prominently said that SEO was the reason why brands should work with bloggers. And that brand engagement is a secondary reason. I stand by this quote because it mirrors the fact that there are a limited number of influential blogs out there to work with. (And frankly you wouldn’t have endless SEO training sessions at blogger events if you didn’t realize the importance of it either).

When you are first starting out, SEO will always be your biggest selling point. At a rough estimate, it will take two years of posting before I, as a brand, believe you have the kind of influence level I need to work with you. Until then, your value to me will be in SEO links. That’s simply the name of the game.

Want to get ahead faster? Then do something that magazine advertisers have done for years. When a magazine launches, their sales team will give away pages to brands that they hope to entice – and so that other brands will see the kind of partners they are working with. If you are a new blogger and you don’t have the track record a brand needs to warrant working with you, then give away a little in the short term and show your value through click throughs, ads, and more. Then, use this case study to get me interested in working with you on bigger projects, or use your success and go to my competitor (who you can charge to work with).

5.  Stop with the begging bowl – at first

I get about five emails a day that say about the same thing. I’m (INSERT NAME) blogger. I’m going to (INSERT DESTINATION). I want free stuff from you. In return you will get a blog post.

Some of the emails include case studies and media kits. Some don’t. In all cases, these pitches go straight to my SEO Director and I rarely take a second look. Why? Because nowhere in those pitches does the blogger say how they can work with my brand, what they like about it, and what they think would benefit both of us if we did an activity together.

I was having lunch with a colleague recently and he told me that he pretty much deletes every single email like the one above that passes into his inbox. But we both agreed that if a blogger did their research and understood our marketing strategy and direction for the year – and then pitched something that fit, we’d sit up and take notice.

So how can a blogger find this out? Easily. Look at the photos on the homepage of the site. Are there big pictures of food? Then chances are food and drink is a big part of the marketing strategy for the year. Are you seeing lots of luxury images and exclusive resorts? Then global nomads and backpacker specialists might want to stay away.

Don’t go straight for the freebie. And don’t try and shoehorn us into your travel desires. Find out what we want and then see if it works with your brand strategy. Because you need to remember that you are a brand too.

If you disagree with anything I have said in this post or in my SoMeT presentation, I welcome your feedback. If you think I have failed to point out other values bloggers deliver, I would greatly appreciate your feedback in the comments. At HouseTrip we are proud to have been supporting bloggers since 2010 and I have been personally involved in that process the entire time. We have been, and are still committed to working with new bloggers, and are continuing to build on our existing relationships.

Author bio:  Ryan Levitt is PR Director of, one of the world’s largest holiday rental websites offering over 230,000 rentals in more than 19,000 destinations worldwide. Prior to this time, he spent almost a decade in travel PR representing NYC, Bermuda, Mauritius, Queensland, Malaysia and many other destinations, hotels and cruise lines in Europe. Also a former travel journalist, he has written over 20 travel guides and contributed to The Independent on Sunday (UK), Arena Magazine, Wallpaper, South China Morning Post, Toronto Star – and was a guide writer for VisitBritain and the German National Tourist Office.