By Aly Murnion, MSPR
Leisure Sales, Marketing & Social Media Manager; Visit Billings
What a success! Thank you, Billings.
As we’ve noted in previous issues, 2019 was a wild ride of planning for Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX). Visit Billings, Visit Southeast Montana, the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development (MOTBD), Chamber of Commerce, and dozens of other tourism partners came together to host some of the travel industry’s top influencers late last summer.
A reminder that in August of 2018, it came to the attention of the Visit Billings team that TBEX organizers were looking to host their North America event in Montana. The Tourism Business Improvement District Board and Visit Billings staff rose to the occasion. After a site visit to inspect the community, the decision was made for Billings to be the host destination of TBEX North America 2019. After a year of planning, negotiations, itinerary building, and meetings, attendees successfully converged on the city September 10th – 13th.
TBEX is the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands, and industry professionals. The Billings event saw 494 attendees from all over the world. While the conference was the main purpose of their trip to Billings, attendees also had the opportunity to choose from 37 tours in and around Billings the two days prior to the conference kick-off. The week also included four night parties at varying venues in town, and wrapped up with application based familiarization tours around the state of Montana.
The Visit Billings team and TBID Board knew this would have an impact on not only the city of Billings, but the region, and state as a whole. The opportunities to showcase the destination were endless, as were the opportunities to strengthen partnerships with Visit Billings’ tourism partners. MOTBD was a key partner in the efforts of TBEX. As one of the first sponsors to come to the table to host the opening night party and coordinate nearly 20 application-based post familiarization tours around the state, their example led many more partners to join in Visit Billings’ efforts to host the attendees, saving on cost and time.
The strength of Billings as a destination is boosted by the regional draws that lie within an hour of the city, which is why partnerships with Montana State Parks and the National Park Service were crucial to the event’s success as well. The partnerships in Billings were perhaps some of the most impressive. The Billings Cultural Partners, Downtown Billings Alliance, restaurants, Austin Adventures, Montana Fun Adventures, CapeAir, and ZooMontana, are just a few of the amazing organizations and businesses that came to the table and hosted tours or events in order to ensure amazing experiences at Montana’s Trailhead. The Depot, Pub Station, Camelot Ranch, and Yellowstone Art Museum offered amazing venues for influencers to network and build content by night. At that same time the lodging community including Erck Hotels and staff at Billings Hotel and Convention Center made sure the convention was a success as well. This convention would not have been successful without area hotels and motels assisting with Tourism Business Improvement District assessments and the State Lodging Facility Use Tax.
So, the big question is, what does all this mean? The impact of an event of this nature on a destination is notable. As a Destination Marketing Organization, having influencers on the ground for a conference, meant publicity that Visit Billings would normally have to pay for in some marketing capacity, whether that be creative fees, cost of travel, cost of experiences, etc. Over one-hundred blogs were written and published on the area within a month of the event, and that number is expected to grow. The hashtag VisitBillings was mentioned nearly 4,000 times on social channels resulting in around 7 million impressions. The Visit Billings team is fortunate to see the community from the eyes of visitors every day. You can to! Follow #VisitBillings on Instagram and Twitter. It’s a great opportunity to see what makes us special as a destination. The economic impact of this convention on Billings and the ripple impact of the social media exposure will be realized for years to come. We appreciate every business, partner, community leader, and resident who helped make TBEX guests feel at home.