Summer vacations are a thing of the past for many, if not most of us, and so it’s time to focus on that ever-important time of the year leading to the Holidays: 3 months of sheer madness! Besides the obvious back-to-work schedule, it also a time of year ripe for attending seminars, training options and conferences. While some folks will choose to go back to school for full-on educational programs, a specialized certification or a much-needed second or third language course, perhaps the most accessible option is to attend one of the various industry conferences, whether near your home town or abroad. These conferences often make for great networking opportunities with fellow travel industry peers, not to mention the possibility to extend your stay and enjoy some quality sightseeing over the weekend pre- or post-event. But at the end of the day, the first and foremost reason for attending a conference ought to be for quality content, through educational sessions, high-level keynote speakers and industry-relevant case studies. Below are five conferences to consider on your agenda this Fall:

1. TRAVEL DISTRIBUTION SUMMIT – Las Vegas, September 13-14, 2012

The folks at Eye for Travel know how to put up great conferences, where industry peers share practical case studies in a tightly-knit format with over 30-40 speakers attending and sharing their knowledge. Topics will vary according to different possible tracks to attend, but focus mostly on online marketing, social media, mobile and distribution channels for the hospitality industry. The Travel Distribution Summit is their biggest show of the year, with over 500 attendees, making it also a great place to chat, wine and dine with hotel marketers, transportation companies, marketing suppliers and consultants alike. Representatives from global hotel companies are here (Intercontinental, Hilton, Starwood, etc.), major airlines (Air Canada, United-Continental, American, Virgin America, etc.) as well as senior level speakers from Google, Expedia, LivingSocial, and other key distribution players from the OTA field and daily deals sphere as well. Click here for details

2. TBEX EUROPE – Costa Brava, Spain, September 21-22, 2012

The Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX), which was bought by BlogWorld last year caters to a somewhat different community, with its main focus geared towards travel bloggers and writers. The latest edition of this show was held this past June in Keystone, Colorado, and it seems like more and more travel destinations are jumping onboard, realizing the benefits of attending a show such as this one, to meet first-hand with travel bloggers, and understand their needs and approach. Likewise, with the quality keynote speaking taking place, it allows for great discussions and opportunities for destinations to showcase what they are about, and initiate potential blogger outreach programs. The conference format is also different in the sense that destinations and travel bloggers can meet over appointements, which makes it not just educational but also business-driven.

Click here for details

3. ETOURISM SUMMIT – San Francisco, October 11-12, 2012

A lesser known conference but yet very much worthwhile, in particular if you are a destination management organization (DMO), is the Etourism Summit, organized by the folks at Visit North American Journeys, in the San Francisco Bay area. If you are a CVB, provincial destination or national organization, this conference caters to the specific needs and reality of this crows with educational seminars and round-tables, with three possible tracks: socialize (social media), mobilize (mobile platforms) and monetize (emarketing metrics). Participants to this conference are usually capped at 120-130 maximum, to keep it high-level and accessible, in particular during round-table sessions. A key highlight of this annual conference is the pre-conference visit of nearby companies. After visiting Google headquarters in 2011, this year’s program plans for a not-to-be-missed visit at Facebook headquarters. Click here for details

4. SOCIAL MEDIA TOURISM SYMPOSIUM 2012 – El Paso, November 7-9, 2012

Another recent newcomer in the realm of tourism conferences is the Social Media Tourism Symposium, better known through its twitter hashtag #SoMeT, which anyone can follow year round if interested in developments within the social media, local and mobile worlds as it pertains to travel destinations. Here again, the target crowd is mostly CVBs, destination management organizations but also resort, attractions and most tourism related companies. This conference is deeply rooted in social media, as host city contenders went into a Facebook bidding contest to get the privilege to host the event. After Loudoun County, Virginia, in 2010 and Tunica, Mississippi in 2011, the event will be held in El Paso, Texas this coming November. You can already follow activities and updates via Twitter with the #SoMeT12 hashtag or via their Facebook page. Click here for other details

5. PHOCUSWRIGHT CONFERENCE – Scottsdale-Phoenix, November 13-15, 2012

Last but not least is the annual PhocusWright Conference and its Travel Innovation Summit component. This is the place to hear about what to expect in coming months and years, what’s hot and what’s not in the travel industry at-large. Expect to rub shoulders with C-suite and senior executives from global companies, and the speaker layout is just as stellar, with top-brass representatives from: Google, Expedia, Priceline, AirBnB, Kayak, TripAdvisor or Hilton Worldwide among others. And during the Travel Innovation Summit, hear innovative companies and individuals pitch during 12 minutes how and why their product or service will revolutionize an aspect of the travel landscape. Click here for other details


For my Canadian colleagues and industry partners, I would be remiss not to mention the annual event where one can rub shoulders with fellow Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Once known as the Leadership Summit, this Fall event is now called The Tourism Congress and culminates with the annual Awards Ceremony that celebrates the best of the best within our industry – our modest version of the Oscars or the Grammies, if you will. See here for details

What are your plans for this Fall? Will you be attending any of these events? Did I miss one that you think should have made this list? Let me know in the comment section below.