Last Sunday I attended the first Travel Blog Exchange meeting in Chicago. I was in town for BlogHer and had already planned to stay Sunday to do some sightseeing. Instead I decided to attend the meeting to get a better flavor of the travel blogging community.
The organizers did a terrific job. They managed to get sponsors for the entire thing, making cost to attendees zero. The panels and speakers were excellent – how to write a lively successful travel blog, working with PR (a topic that comes up in every blogging community), the difference between travel journalism and blogging, and podcasting/videocasting.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that the travel blogging community is also concerned with the proposed revisions to the FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials. As a panelist pointed out, you can’t return a trip or offer it as a giveaway to your readers. As a result, travel bloggers need to be even more careful about what they accept from marketers and make sure that it fits their blog.
This was a very focused audience, and the sponsors were part of the community, not big brands. As a result, the few short sponsor presentations were fairly organic to the content and quite interesting to me, a travel blog newbie. Every preregistered attendee also got a terrific swag bag, including a High Sierra travel backpack from Hertz, Ask Arthur Frommer: And Travel Better, Cheaper, Smarter, gift cards for Gogo Internet and Boingo, a coupon for a level 1 Rosetta Stone course and an Energizer reusable battery recharger. Gogo Internet also shared their special offer for the month of August: Save 50% on Gogo Inflight Internet access with promo code 158FLF7365, thru 8/31/09
I was also able to meet a few BlogHers who are also travel writers, @MomMostTraveled, @KitchenGadgetGirl and @CajunMama, as well as spend a little time with friend @KimMoldofsky. So, while I wish I had booked the sold-out architectural boat tour for the afternoon in advance (next time!), I don’t regret spending part of the day getting to know the travel blog space a little bit better.
An unexpected bonus (in an otherwise disastrous trip home that night) was meeting Jessica Spiegel from Bootsnall.com at the airport, and recognizing each other by virtue of the brand new backpacks. We shared a power strip and alternately guarded the other’s belongings as we searched for food and flight information.