I recently attended a TBEX conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For those who don’t know, TBEX is the acronym for Travel Blogger Exchange, which organizes seminar events for travel bloggers, writers and travel industry professionals. Every year, TBEX partners with fantastic destinations to bring the travel industry together for networking, education and tourism.
These events are a great opportunity, not only to learn skills and recent developments, but also to meet and exchange ideas with fellow bloggers and travel industry personnel. These events are usually a ton of fun too because the local businesses and tourism boards go out of their way to showcase all their city has to offer. This translates to great parties at cool venues, with fabulous food and beverages.
There are, at a minimum, three TBEX events per year – one in North America, one in Europe and one in Asia. Actually, it keeps growing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth or fifth yearly TBEX program in the near future. I previously attended two TBEX conferences – one in Toronto, Canada and another in Cancun, Mexico. With each one I became a little more relaxed and knowledgeable with the format of the conference (and more confident in myself as a travel blogger!).
Fast forward to 2015. Fort Lauderdale, Florida was announced as the host for the North America TBEX, and I jumped to sign up. This TBEX was going to be great! Southern Florida just seemed like it would have all the right ingredients for a successful TBEX. I was right! Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau did a phenomenal job of planning and welcoming us to their city!
I can break this trip can into three parts:
- TBEX FAM: Luxury Fort Lauderdale (Sunday, October 25 – Wednesday, October 28)
- Pre-TBEX: An afternoon Foodie Delight in Fort Lauderdale (Wednesday, October 28)
- TBEX Conference and Events (Wednesday, October 28 – Friday, October 30)
TBEX FAM: Luxury Fort Lauderdale (Sunday, October 25 – Wednesday, October 28)
I arrived three days early for a three-day TBEX FAM trip (FAM typically is short for Familiarization Trip), from October 25th – 28th, with the theme of Luxury Fort Lauderdale. These three days were all-expenses paid – we stayed at the incredibly lovely and sophisticated W Fort Lauderdale Hotel, met the nicest people and saw the beauty, elegance, warmth and vibrance of this city. I experienced so much during these few days that it has taken me a while to begin describing the sites and events of these days.
From lavish lunches and dinners (at renowned restaurants such as Steak 954, Kaluz, Louie Bossie, S3, and Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino), to a luxurious spa experience at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, to local tours of new hotel construction (such as the Conrad Hotel), boat tours along the Intracoastal waterway, visits to museums (such as the NSU Museum of Art), and even a visit with an award-winning couture dress designer, Zola Keller – I saw, and learned, and ate, the very best of Fort Lauderdale!
This was an action-packed, incredible few days, and I should add that the hosts and other participants on this tour added as much to the event as the event itself! Expect more detail in upcoming posts.
The FAM trip concluded after breakfast on Wednesday, October 28th (actually, I skipped breakfast so I could go for a gorgeous run along the ocean). We were transported from the W Hotel to our respective next hotels. In my case, that was the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, which was close to the Convention Center, where the TBEX was being held. I checked in to the hotel (the Presidential Suite – details to come!) and then walked on the suspension bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to pick up my TBEX seminar materials.
Pre-TBEX: An afternoon Foodie Delight in Fort Lauderdale (Wednesday, October 28, Afternoon)
On the day or two before the official start of the TBEX conference, attendees are invited to sign up for and attend pre-TBEX tours and activities. These tours are generally a day or half-day and can range from sailing, eco-tourism, to shopping, photography, fishing, and so much more. Each TBEX attendee was allowed to sign up for one such event. My pre-TBEX event, the afternoon of Wednesday October 28th was entitled Calling All Foodies Tour! This entailed an initial boat ride and party cycle ride to a foray of Fort Lauderdale eating and drinking establishments on Las Olas Boulevard, including YOLO, American Social and Fork & Balls! This culinary event was delicious, flavorful, educational, and hysterical all rolled into one (that is also a separate post or two). What can I say – having fun is hard work, but someone has to do it!
TBEX Conference and Events (Wednesday, October 28 – Friday, October 30)
If I had to give three words to describe TBEX – I’d say Learning, Networking and Enjoying. There are actually two full days at seminars, usually an hour or two, with choices between themes geared towards bloggers, industry and business topics. There are also inspiring keynote speeches by noted travel journalists. Industry professionals and representatives of cities and tourist attractions worldwide attend and make themselves available throughout the event and also during sessions called “speed networking” (mini-interviews fashioned after the speed dating model). TBEX always kicks off with a phenomenal event, and follows with one or two more. In this case, the opening party was at the Museum of Discovery and Science (where I saw what seemed like the world’s largest pan of Paella!), and the following night we were hosted by the Diplomat Resort and Spa Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, for yet another momentous soiree.
This was meant to be an overview, but it’s gone much further than that. If you are still reading this, I will close by saying that although I take a lot of notes during each TBEX I attend, what I take home from the event in terms of experience, camaraderie and personal development is far greater than the conference itself.