CLOSE to 400 international travel bloggers, online travel journalists and new media content creators got a taste of the infamous Philippine typhoons during the four-day Travel Bloggers Exchange, Asia Pacific 2016 (TBEX 2016).
As Typhoon Karen’s rains lashed Manila early Sunday morning, the travel media, however, were warmly welcomed by Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. In her speech, she extolled the importance of the new media in sharing the “joys of your travel…across the world in an instant,” using their cameras, phones, laptops, drones and other gadgets.
She described new media as being the voice of a new generation and of the eyes of the masses, inspiring millions to live vicariously through the bloggers’ posts about their vacation, and bringing focus and attention to locations normally looked over in the usual packaged tours.
Teo also praised the bloggers’ influence in boosting the economies of countries with high incidences of poverty, like the Philippines. “Travel bloggers like you actually help prop up economies. For example, in a region in the Philippines called Bicol, for every foreign tourist that visits the region, five jobs are created for three days. What you do is no less than spur trade and industry in different parts of the world.”
Aside from encouraging the new travel media to visit many parts of the Philippines during their stay, TBEX, she said, allowed the government tourism agency to learn from them by exchanging opinions and insights on ways of promoting the country and “[improving] the Philippine experience for travelers.”
In highlighting the Filipinos’ fluency in English and their world-famous hospitality, Teo invited the participants “to really dig below the surface…and use this opportunity to really get a glimpse of the soul of the Philippines. Not everything is pretty and perfect and new, but I guarantee you that if you look closely, this is a country that really tries. We try to put our best foot forward. We are not known as a land of riches. We are a country struggling with poverty in many areas. But what we do have is an abundance of heart, and you can feel it in our efforts. If you open yourselves up to the Philippine experience, you will feel the soul of the most gentle nation in Asia.”
She also outlined other features, “more than the beaches of Boracay,” that make the Philippines an exciting destination, such as its “centuries-old heritage” from the Spanish, Americans and Japanese, as well as the cultures of its native tribes. “This is reflected in the melting pot of our cuisines, and in the look of our people…. Look for how we Filipinos have incorporated other cultures and made it our own. Look for traces of our old soul in a new world,” she added.
TBEX was first created in 2009 by six friends, and has since grown into the world’s largest travel community reaching close to 1,000 participants, with conferences held annually in North America, Europe and Asia.
According to the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism, participants in TBEX 2016 are from Australia, India, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the Philippines.
“We are honored and excited to bring in the largest travel bloggers’ conference. By hosting this year’s TBEX Asia-Pacific leg, we will be able to showcase the best of the Philippines,” TPB Officer in Charge Joselito V. Gregorio said. “[The event] gives us a great opportunity to share with the world the many wonderful gems the country has to offer,” he added.
Highlighting the conference were a series of talks by some of the world’s most renowned travel journalists and bloggers, including international best-selling author (1,000 Places to See Before You Die) and veteran travel journalist Patricia Schultz; host of the award-winning podcast Slice of Sci-Fi Evo Terra; award-winning writer from the National Geographic Traveler, Frommer’s and San Francisco Chronicle Bill Fink; Agoda Vice President for Business Development Timothy Hughes; Founder and Global Community Leader for Travel Massive Ian Cumming; and marketing expert and Founder of Hastracking Inc. Ciaran Blumenfield, to name a few.
Topics discussed were the proper use of social-networking sites, video blogging, content management, marketing techniques to building brands, and challenges and opportunities in blogging.
Before the two-day conference at the PICC, the participants were taken on tours of the walled city of Intramuros, Pampanga and Binondo for food samplings, Quezon City and Bulacan for volunteer sociocivic activities with Gawad Kalinga, and Tagaytay for wellness activities.
From October 17 to 21, remaining participants will travel to the Banaue Rice Terraces; Boracay, Coron and El Nido in Palawan; Vigan in Ilocos Sur; Iloilo; Siargao; Bacolod; Sorsogon; and Davao.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes