Just over a month ago (though it already feels soooo long ago already) I got ridiculously lucky and got to attend TBDI (Travel Bloggers Destination Italy) – a 3 day travel bloggers conference in Rimini, a seaside town on the east coast of Italy. Of course we made a holiday of it (I took my hubby along) and stayed for 2 weeks but I’ll do another post on that soon, for now I’ll just talk TBDI.
To back track a little, I’d been quite bummed at having missed the Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference in Cape Town earlier this year, so when I saw a tweet about TBDI by Melvin from Traveldudes pop up on my timeline, I was immediately interested. And anyway, Italy didn’t need much of a sell 🙂
1st thing we did when we checked into our hotel? Walk on the beach of course…
What felt like all too soon, after 4 days in Rome, we headed to Rimini by train and got in the night before so I could arrive in time for the early start on day 1. With over 1000 hotels, thousands of bars and restaurants on just a 15km stretch of coastline, many would consider Rimini an overcrowded tourist trap of sorts. Luckily for us by October Italians consider their summer to be more than done (though temperatures were still in the mid 20’s) so it felt more like a sleepy beach town. Many hotels had already actually closed for the year at the end of September (I was baffled to find this out) so we pretty much just miss edthe crowds.
TBDI (in its inaugural year by the way) ran Thursday to Saturday (inclusive) and the days were jam-packed from beginning to end with social/cultural events on the program for the evenings. What I didn’t know & didn’t expect was that TBDI was actually a part of a bigger major annual travel/tourism event, namely TTI (Travel Trade Italia).
TTI was huge. Imagine this – 70 000 square meters with over 59 countries, 600 tour operators & 50 000 visitors per day. I cannot begin to tell you how much exercise I got getting lost in that venue even still on the 3rd day!
Just past this desk (which was just outside the conference venue) was the bloggers lounge – couches with heaps of plug points/adapters and a coffee shop next door -a bloggers dream 🙂
Melvin, Kate & Katja in one of the opening sessions…
- THE most standout thing for me was the quality & variety of the speakers/presenters from all around the world. And they weren’t just other bloggers. From Instagrammers, photographers and videographers – they were all superb in their respective fields and I honestly didn’t once feel myself getting bored listening to them.
- One of the best chats I had at TDBI was with Swedish Katja Presnal, pictured above who was the only lifestyle blogger (like me, but she is a pro!) of all the speakers. It was so, so valuable for me to chat to her frankly one-on-one about things like advertising, reviews, her rates etc. – honestly stuff I haven’t really had a good sounding board for. Our chat helped me A LOT!
- A sold out event of over 150 bloggers from 10 different countries, I really liked that TBDI was relatively intimate. I’ve heard of other blogger conferences that have hundreds upon hundreds of bloggers, so for my 1st one, this was a perfect start. I felt comfortable enough to chat to any of the bloggers & presenters at any time and the group definitely grew more cohesive even just over the 3 days.
- TTI (the bigger tourism even that TDBI was set within) was a major bonus and I made sure I spent a bit of time getting around to key stalls. Besides networking at the stand of various countries tourism boards (Spain, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Ireland the list goes on…) it was also cool to meet the teams behind companies like Groupon and City Sightseeing (the hop-on-hop off busses).
- There were definite opportunity areas with some of the organisation e.g. the final conference details with key info (like discounts for the train) that was sent via email too late (& some of it Italian!); the shuttle not pitching on day 1 leaving 2 of us stranded and arriving late for the opening of the conference. These may be unique to me as an international attendee but all easily fixable no doubt.
- There were probably 2 sessions that were fully in Italian & there was initially talk about translators but in the end there weren’t any. I was bummed because I was really enjoying the content but I joined all the non-Italians for chats outside (some of whom have now become cool connections/contacts) and I also used the time to network and visit some of the TTI stalls
- There was confusion about who was invited to specific areas of the conference (that wasn’t open to everyone) like the welcome event, B2B sessions & post conference tours. This could have been clearer upfront.
The “meet your blogger” B2D (i.e. blogger to destination) “speed dating” (marketing/networking) sessions on day 2 where we got one-on-one time with selected exhibitors/sponsors.
I was a bit nervous for the B2D session but it was all fine in the end & I actually found myself enjoying it…
Kelley Ferro (who is gong to be visiting SA next month!) and her sweet mom on a Ducati at the welcome event
Need to know
I also took a few lessons myself personally if I should attend another similar event – all around the B2D sessions. It should be a no-brainer, but I should have printed press kits at home – I did this at the hotel for a small fortune. Next time I would have a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’ of sorts prepared in advance to sell myself and my blog in a concise manner. Lastly, space is quite tight, so I’d say show off your blog on a tablet instead of a laptop. Luckily I had my own wi-fi because with so many people on it, the connection was understandably very unreliable.
If I ran the event
For the 1st of its kind in Italy, if I ran the event I’d be giving myself quite a pat on the back. Nicely done Emma Taveri and Fabrizio Todisco and thank you!
Two important things I’ve omitted up to now:
- Bloggers had to apply a attend TBDI (a little daunting)
- The conference was not only free to attend but they also covered accommodation, shuttles, meals and both evening’s entertainment via sponsorships – pretty phenomenal
Was TBDI a success? Would I go again? Hell yes! Many of us were extended press trips and opportunities over these 3 days especially at the B2D sessions. Some for as soon as the very next day after TBDI wrapped up! Since I had a good idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of our time in Italy I declined except for doing a walking tour in Venice and Florence with Walks of Italy – they are so, so, good I regret that we didn’t use them in Rome too. But the thing that’s been the most amazing to me is the connections made that I have put some effort into solidifying when I got home and are already bearing fruits for my blog. I left TBDI each of the 3 days feeling super excited and full of ideas for my blog, some of which I implemented immediately before I even left Italy & have started to see results!
As for my holiday in Italy I don’t even know where and how to start telling you about that but I will soon, promise. After the conference we left Rimini on that same Saturday for our 3rd out of 4 stops in Italy – Venice!