January 2013 – Get these conferences into your budget

Networking at NMX BlogWorld with travel and tourism folks (courtesy BJ McCray on Flickr)

Networking at NMX BlogWorld with travel and tourism folks (courtesy BJ McCray on Flickr)

(A more recent version of this info – Meet travel bloggers and influencers at these conferences.)

Throughout the year we all spend time thinking about how to spend our limited resources.

While we worry about how to enhance our destination, our organization, our event, or whatever our mission is, the one thing we should not forget is to spend some time and money on ourselves by furthering our professional education. This month’s newsletter focuses on some stellar social media and tech conferences that relate to tourism and hospitality.

And you know… it’s not a bad idea to put your boss and/or a board member or two into the budget for these conferences, too. We’re seeing that so many bosses and board members are not quite grasping the enormity of online destination marketing, so if you can, take them along with you so they can start to understand what you need to do to be successful!

With social communications changing so quickly, and the fact that speakers and topics are planned months in advance, don’t expect conferences alone to teach you everything you need to know. Keep yourself up to speed with training resources like ours, and use conferences to fill in the blank spots, network, and discuss best practices with others.

Which Conference Is Best?

Which conference would be the best use of your time and money depends upon your goals for it. Don’t go because “everyone else” is going or just because you’ve gone every year.

Our recommendations (we’ve spoken at or attended all of them….)

Gimme The Hot Info On Social Media For Tourism

Need ideas and best practices for social media marketing in tourism, plus networking with fellow tourism geeks?

No question in our mind that the top pick is the Social Media Tourism Symposium, or SoMeT as everyone calls it. (Update April 2016: sadly now defunct, has become agency events through Destination Think!)

There is a U.S. SoMeT November 6-8, 2013 but we don’t know where, because one unique feature of SoMeT is that everyone votes on which city will win the event. If your town wants to host, RFPs just opened.

There is an Australian SoMeT July 17-18, 2013. We don’t know where that one is either, but RFPs for a host city in Australia are open and voting starts soon!

This conference is where your communications person goes who is usually ahead of the rest of the office, and who needs to stay at his or her “A” game for the benefit of your destination. It’s not that the event does not welcome beginners – it certainly does – but that beginner needs to be ready to up her game FAST.

It’s also perfect for “Lone Ranger” destination marketers who work on a small staff and feel like they’re the only one within 100 square miles (or kilometers) who knows what a blog is or how to check in on Foursquare.

Conference hashtags are very good ways to keep up with both – follow #SoMeT13US for the U.S. event, and #SoMeT13AU for the Aussie one.

I Need The Big Picture On Digital Marketing

Craving an overall look at digital marketing in tourism that includes awesome networking? eTourism Summit.

There are lots of strategy and integration discussions at eTourism, looking at technology beyond social media. Recent conferences have also included side tours at the headquarters campuses for Google and Facebook.

Leslie recently wrote a post regarding this year’s eTourism Summit and why it is a “must attend” event. You can read her eTourism Summit review here.

eTourism Summit 2013 is in San Francisco at Hotel Kabuki, October 9-10.

I Want To Connect With Travel Media

Need to connect with travel bloggers and other online media in the travel world? Get to TBEX (which stands for Travel Blog Exchange and is owned by New Media Expo.)

What started a few years back as a bunch of bloggers hanging out in one room has become a full-blown multi-day event in both North America and Europe. The 2012 TBEX in Keystone, Colorado had 700+ registrants and included a very popular blogger speed-dating session that was jammed with CVBs and DMOs getting to know lots of travel bloggers.

TBEX North America 2013 is in Toronto, June 1-2. TBEX Europe 2013 is in Dublin in October.

I Want Perspectives Outside Tourism

Want to plug into the best and brightest of digital communications outside of tourism and hospitality? Need to pick up some fresh ideas from other industries that you can apply to destination marketing in new ways?

We like SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas every March) and New Media Expo/NMX (formerly BlogWorld, held in Las Vegas, Nevada every January.)

I Want to Hear About Travel Topics Across the Board

No luggage or money required to attend a new weekly Google+ Hangout on Air that we think is pretty cool (Hangouts are video teleconferencing hosted on Google+ for up to 10 people, and On Air ones are simulcast to YouTube, so anyone can watch.)

This one is called Travel Coffee Break, hashtag #tcbhoa. It is hosted by Alastair McKenzie, editor of Travelllll.com and Vice-Chair of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Topics have ranged from equestrian travel to weddings to skiing to rail travel. Travelers, travel media and tourism organizations are all welcome. Here is the #tcbhoa schedule.

Below is the recording of the session on Responsible Travel (here’s the direct link to the video on YouTube if you can’t see the embed box below. The man in the video thumbnail happens to be our long-time Tourism Currents newsletter subscriber Aivar Ruukel with the Soomaa National Park in Estonia.)

Finally, Sheila has a great tip for any budget – 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. Read more in her 9 tips for following conference Twitter hashtags.

Becky has written a couple of really helpful Small Biz Survival posts about getting more out of conferences. Start with this one: Getting the most out of conferences before you go.

What other professional development events would you recommend for those in tourism and hospitality? State tourism conferences, regional events?

Let everyone know what you like in the comments below!

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