TBEX Zimbabwe and Why I’m not Attending

May 18, 2017

Amy Trumpeter

When I started out my blogging career, I was dedicated to personal development and my own learning. I knew that I needed to improve constantly in order to keep up with a competitive industry. One of the first conferences that I attended was TBEX in Stockholm. It was an amazing introduction to professional travel blogging. I met some great people and learnt a great deal. But recently, I made the decision not to attend the next TBEX Zimbabwe (Harare) and today I’m sharing my reasons why.

Stockholm Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden – the destination of the TBEX 2016 Europe.
Image Credit: Pixabay (Public Domain)

TBEX Zimbabwe has been Announced for 2018

TBEX Zimbabwe is going to take place in Harare from 25th-27th July 2018. Conference tickets are currently being sold at the Early Bird price of $97 (register here).

We were expecting an African destination to feature soon, as most previous TBEX destinations were based in Europe, USA and Asia. I attended Stockholm (Sweden), Manila (Philippines) and Jerusalem (Israel). Israel was the first TBEX International.

Harare Zimbabwe

Reasons why I have decided not to attend TBEX Zimbabwe

I’ve given some thought to TBEX Zimbabwe next year and decided not to attend. There are many reasons for this, both personal and ethical, which I’m about to share. Here’s why I’m not going…

Reason 1: Flights to Africa are Expensive!

For a round trip from Manchester (UK) to Harare (Zimbabwe) start from £468 with KLM. That’s not cheap, plus you have to pay the conference fee and accommodation. Many people think that travel bloggers earn hundreds of thousands a year and travel for free, which is not always the case. We often work in return for coverage and don’t actually get paid. Adsense and commission that many people earn from their blogs isn’t always mega bucks – it often just covers basic costs such as food, until they get over 100,000 views per month.

Reason 2: I’ve got Commitments!

2018 is a very exciting year for me. I’m going to be getting surgery for stage 4 endometriosis, get married and continue with my job in Liverpool as client services manager at Elephant Digital. Travel time is now more limited – I travel in my work holidays and I’m no longer nomadic. A journalist conference to Zimbabwe is not at the top of my list of priorities right now.

Reason 3: Political Climate of Zimbabwe – Do I want to be Sponsored by Mugabe’s Government?

The travel bloggers community have really had their backs rubbed up the wrong way by TBEX when they entered into a contract with Mugabe’s government – a dictatorship notoriously known for human rights violations. The Telegraph recently reported that 92 year old Mugabe could run in the next election ‘as a corpse’ Wtf?! (Read the article here) Concerns about this were highlighted by Adventurous Kate in her article entitled ‘An Unethical and Irresponsible Choice‘.

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, attends the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The assembly agreed to a schedule for the formation of Zimbabwe’s new unity government, calling for the immediate lifting of sanctions on the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released)

I did attend TBEX Manila and TBEX Jerusalem, both of which have received some criticism from the media and international community. Manila was a dubious choice as the Philippines president Duterte won the election following his campaign dominated by threats to kill drug addicts (Read the Guardian article here).

Attendance at the Jerusalem TBEX was down in numbers. The conference was sponsored by iTravel Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Tourism board. There were some concerns about safety in Israel, although I never felt threatened when I was there and had an amazing time (Read my blog: Is Israel safe for Solo Female Travellers). However, a couple of weeks after we returned, a young British woman was stabbed to death on Good Friday on the metro that we got free passes for during TBEX. Thankfully, they avoided the tensions of Easter and Passover and the conference was a success.

However, it has recently been questioned whether TBEX are making safe decisions for bloggers. The recent decision to host in Zimbabwe has raised further flags – is it safe to take openly journalists on such a trip?

Many members of the travel blogging community are recommending an independent trip to Zimbabwe so that you ensure that you use eco-friendly tour operators, retain some privacy about your status as a blogger and see all aspects of life in Zimbabwe, not just what is recommended by TBEX and the government.

Reason 4: Ethics of TBEX

Recently, many bloggers have been speaking out about corruption within TBEX. A key article to read on this is on www.medium.com entitled: The Sad Strange Story of NMX and TBEX.  I’m not feeling great about continuing to support an organisation that does not pay travel bloggers or pay their staff. Apparently, this is ‘in hand’ but we have no evidence that everybody’s been paid.

TBEX has also been criticised in the past for sending bloggers on conferences where saying something wrong in journalism could result in imprisonment (Thailand) and running tours that are not eco-friendly. In 2014, responsible travellers and travel bloggers put pressure on TBEX to cancel the Dolphin Shows at a Dolphinarium in Mexico (Dolphin Tours Cancelled at Mexico Travel Conference).

From what I’ve seen online, I’m not sure that the Zimbabwe TBEX trips would be ethical or involve ecotourism. The Government tourism board of Zimbabwe recently had photos of Elephant riding – not my idea of sustainable tourism.

Reason 5: TBEX is a Conference for Beginner Travel Bloggers

I have thoroughly enjoyed the three TBEX conferences that I have attended, and learnt a hell of a lot. However, I am noticing that there is a lack of variety in the TBEX sessions – many are repeats or only relevant to new starters.

As I am now a good few years into my blog, and have a larger following, it may be time to branch out and look at a few other travel conferences and travel trade shows such as ITB and WTM.

Should you go to TBEX?

Just to be clear, it’s a combination of ethical issues, safety, and personal circumstances as to way I’m not attending TBEX Zimbabwe.

Overall, I would still recommend certain TBEX conferences to first time bloggers. There are good opportunities and FAM Trips available. However, do your research on the trips and destinations and make sure that you are comfortable with all aspects of the conference. Also, if you are bothered about ethics, keep an eye on current blogs about the company and the tours that they are running.

What’s your opinion? Will you be attending TBEX Zimbabwe? I’d love to hear your views.

You might also like to read about: What did I learn from my first TBEX?