Get your learning on at these 2018 tourism conferences

2018 tourism conferences including those for scenic byways like this one Heartland Byways with Tourism Currents

Sheila Scarborough and Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents, at the 2016 Heartland Byways Conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Have a little budget left for events that can help you with your destination marketing?

Sure, we run an online course in social media for tourism, but we are also enthusiastic about the value of in-person learning.

Here are some of the 2018 tourism conferences that we either recommend, or are honored to be one of the speakers.

(Note – this list is mostly U.S. events, so if we’ve missed a solid 2018 tourism-related conference in the rest of the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, please leave a suggestion down in the comments.)

General Tourism Conferences

1)  eTourism Summit – We’ve said before why we like eTourism Summit. It’s not too big (about 200 people) so the networking is great, conference founder Jake Steinman works hard to cover the most cutting-edge topics, and many of the speakers are straight from the CVB/DMO trenches.

2)  ESTO – The U.S. Travel Association’s ESTO (Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations) always gets high marks from attendees for relevant, up-to-the-minute topics.

3)  PRSA Travel & Tourism – The PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) conference has stepped up its game recently, both with speakers and its wide-ranging topics.

4)  Vendor conferences – We’ve seen great events like the Simpleview Summit, the Saffire Summit, and recently we’ve enjoyed speaking at the iDSS/Tempest Tourism Academy.

Sheila Scarborough Tourism Currents at Tourism Academy Long Beach 2017

Sheila Scarborough from Tourism Currents moderates a panel at iDSS Tempest Tourism Academy Long Beach, California 2017 (photo courtesy Tourism Academy)

5)  Your own state or province conference – We are members of Texas and Oklahoma tourism associations (TACVB, TTIA, OTIA) and you will often see one of us as speakers at their annual conferences, seminars, and webinars.

Our co-founder Sheila Scarborough is also a long-time instructor for the TTIA Travel & Tourism College (which is not just for Texas DMOs.)

Niche 2018 Tourism Conferences

1)  Main Street Now – We enjoy working with Main Street downtown development organizations on their destination marketing, and both of us will attend and speak at the 2018 U.S. national Main Street conference.

2)  Plains Safaris – This is a unique new event in Nebraska, focused on ecotourism and conservation in Great Plains and Midwestern states.

3)  Building Community – We are Media Partners for this new event in Clear Lake, Iowa that seeks to connect Midwest travel writers/bloggers with CVBs, DMOs, and Chambers.

4)  More events to meet bloggers and influencers – The SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) 2018 conference is in BarbadosNATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) 2018 will be in Branson, Missouri.

In 2018, the online travel media TBEX events are in New York’s Finger Lakes region (TBEX North America) and Ostrava, the Czech Republic (TBEX Europe.)

The WITS ’18 / Women in Travel Summit 2018 is in Québec City.

Don’t forget other non-travel online publisher conferences like Podcast MovementPodfestBlogHer, Dad 2.0 Summit, Hispanicize (Latino and Latina trendsetters,) the Social Media Tulsa social business conference, BlogPaws (pet bloggers,) and Type A – The Business of Blogging.

5)  Scenic Byway and Heritage Highway events – For several years we’ve been the preferred online training partner for the National Scenic Byway Foundation, and often speak at byway conferences.

Save the dates for:

  • The Northeast Regional Byway Story Telling Summit in Schenectady, New York, June 6, 2018.
  • The Midwest Regional Byway Conference in Richmond, Indiana, August 22-24, 2018.
  • Preserving the Historic Road conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, September 20-23, 2018.

6)  Rural tourism – Keep an eye out for tourism conferences just for small towns and rural areas, like the Rural Roundup in Nevada, and the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference.

Non-Tourism Conferences That Can
Give You New Ideas

1)  Content Marketing World – Hosted by Content Marketing Institute, it has all kinds of tracks and speakers, including some from major brands and companies.

2)  Social Media Week events worldwide – These happen in cities around the world throughout the year, and are a cost-effective way of connecting with and learning from local geeks.

Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents speaking at TACVB Annual Conference Fort Worth TX (courtesy Dana Goolsby for TACVB)

Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents speaks at the TACVB (Texas Association of CVBs) Annual Conference 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas (courtesy Dana Goolsby for TACVB)

3)  MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum – Hosted by the MarketingProfs educational site for marketers, it wants to prove that B2B communications does NOT have to be stilted or boring.

4)  Social Media Marketing World – Hosted by the respected Social Media Examiner, this is jam-packed with sessions for social media pros at every level.

5)  Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal – There are so many tracks at this event that it might be easy to feel overwhelmed, but that can mean many chances to learn something new and unexpected.

6)  SXSW (South by Southwest) – The SXSW Interactive conference for digital creatives is converging more and more with SXSW Film and SXSW Music; all of them together draw 70,000 people to Austin, Texas each March.


Two calendars we use to keep track of tourism conferences: the DMOproz Industry Calendar and the U.S. Travel Association Events Calendar.

Remember that you can “attend” almost any conference by following its hashtag on Twitter. You’ll still come away with plenty of ideas and feel like you didn’t completely miss out. Here are 9 tips for following conference Twitter hashtags.

Make sure that you get maximum value for your time and money – Small Biz Survival has a series of blog posts about getting more out of conferences. Start with this one: Getting the most out of conferences before you go.

See you out there at badge pick-up!


At Tourism Currents, we help you and your tourism partners learn how to use social media and digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to town. Pick what works for you: our self-paced online course in social media for tourism, our coaching/consulting services, or our speaking and workshop services.

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