Why Pre-BEX Tours are Important
I recently attended TBEX North America in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. For those who have not been to a TBEX travel blogger conference, a pre-BEX tour is a free tour that is offered to attendees before the actual conference begins. They vary by location as the conference is in a different place each year and promote area attractions to the visiting bloggers. The value of these tours sometimes gets overlooked but they are invaluable for connecting to other bloggers and as well as the businesses that offer them.
Because It’s Fun
I see the Pre-BEX tours as one of the best perks of attending TBEX, not only because they’re free but because you spend hours in a small group with other bloggers. Much of the rest of the conference is hundreds of bloggers trying to network with as many people as possible, meaning fast interactions with limited time to get to know each other. On a tour bloggers can relax and there is time to get past the elevator pitch into personal conversations. I have made lasting friendships and had memorable experiences on Pre-BEX tours more than at TBEX itself.
Because It’s Your Job
Pre-BEX tours are an effort by a business to connect with bloggers. They aren’t sending us out for free out of the goodness of their hearts-like any organization that invites bloggers to come see what they have to offer they’d like to be compensated with some publicity on your site. Too often I think this gets forgotten. People work so hard to pitch to the businesses at the conference-that free tour you’re on is part of a business, too!
Write about your Pre-BEX tour, good or bad, and give them some feedback and gratitude for having us there. I wrote about my experience last year with AllTOURnative tours in Cancun and will have posts about my visits to NSU’s Oceanographic Center, kayaking on Whiskey Creek, and the Eco-Everglades airboat ride up within a week of this post.
Because You Are Representing Bloggers Everywhere
Going on a Pre-BEX tour is your chance to make an impression on a place that wants to work with bloggers and how you behave reflects on all of us. Most of the bloggers I know are thrilled to do these trips and I hope they’re following up with a write up and a thank you email. There are exceptions, though, and frankly I was embarrassed by the behavior of some of the TBEX attendees in Ft. Lauderdale.
TBEX initially allows bloggers to sign up for one Pre-BEX trip, then opens it up to more if there is room. FAM trips have to be applied for and bloggers who attend are chosen carefully by the people who organize them. These things have value and we are lucky to be able to do them for free as part of TBEX.
I went on two Pre-BEX trips. The first one had 16 people signed up, but only 9 showed up that morning. Why would you not show up for a free tour? My friend Sondra of Girl Abroad said that 8 people were scheduled on her deep sea fishing tour but only 3 showed up. They went out in a boat, caught 3 fish, then when the ocean got a little rough the captain took them around the canals to tour the large houses, and they ended up at a restaurant that cooked all their fish and fed them an amazing meal. All for free, and people couldn’t be bothered to get on the bus and go there? The spots reserved for TBEX bloggers are usually filled by paying clients, and to not even bother to show up is not only an insult but causes them to lose money because of you. That’s not going to make them want to work with bloggers in the future.
On my afternoon tour we had a full bus load because people who hadn’t signed up decided to drop in and filled the empty spots of the no shows (yes, that’s allowed.) After an amazing airboat ride we were scheduled to watch an alligator show, but a few people were complaining because we ran late. After complaining for several minutes they went so far as to ask our escort from the Florida tourism department if we could skip the second half of the tour so they could get back and shower before the opening night party. They talked at length about how boring it all was in full view and hearing of several employees and one blogger went on to complain about the 3 day FAM trip he had been on leading up to this. A FAM trip includes multiple free tours, as well as accommodation and usually meals. I’m not naming names but the level of ungrateful arrogance displayed made me take note of that blogger’s site so I can be sure never to come near it myself. I cringe to think what the staff reported back to management about our group because 3 people out of 45 acted like jerks.
If you sign up for a Pre-BEX tour or something like it, and especially if you are going to be a greedy bastard (like me) and take multiple free trips, show up! Be courteous! Don’t complain!
When you get back, write about it-that’s why they wanted you there in the first place!
Some of you might have noticed that the photo at the top of this post is the from the TBEX opening party at the Museum of Discovery and Science, where we ate and drank for free while enjoying the exhibits (and networking, of course.) That’s because even host venues like this appreciate a thank you, especially if you’d like to come back sometime like I would. A little gratitude goes a long way.
Bloggers already have a credibility problem that makes some brands hesitate to work with us. There is a perception that we’re just out for freebies and aren’t worth the trouble, and the kind of bad behavior I saw hurts us all. Please, if you aren’t committed to going, participating and writing it up, then don’t sign up for the tour.
In the comments below tell me about your Pre-BEX tour experience and feel free to leave a link to your write up!