How did Jerusalem, a city so rich with history and charged with bias, change popular opinion? How a conversation on Twitter spawned an international conference of influential travel bloggers in Jerusalem.
When you think about Jerusalem do you imagine it as a city that is vibrant or sexy?
This is a story that spans over 1.5 recent years and 3000 years of history to highlight the new world of public relations, digital influence, and global travelers, as well as the modern appeal of one of the world’s oldest cities.
It all began on August 19, 2015 at 4pm in NYC over coffee. That was the first time I met in real life with Vicki Winters, a self proclaimed travel blogger with ADHD.
After our meeting, we kept our high-octane conversation going on Twitter. Every time I saw Vicki’s tweets she was in another destination. Every tweet ended with #tbex….
Finally, I tweeted Vicki what’s TBEX?
She responded via DM saying that:
It’s only the largest travel bloggers conference in the world. Imagine hundreds of travel bloggers exploring, tweeting, posting, sharing, snapping about a destination for a week. After that, they go home (or to their next stop) and write long form content, like blog posts, about their experience in the destination.
As the New Media Coordinator for the tourism division of Jerusalem, this sounded to me like something our awesome city needed!
Fast Forward to November 2016
After exchanging some emails with Vicki and the TBEX team, submitting a bid for Jerusalem to host TBEX and a site inspection by three staff members in June 2016, Jerusalem was officially announced as a future TBEX host.
TBEX was coming to Jerusalem in March 2017!
November 2016- Test Run
As part of the bid, Jerusalem was required to host a group of 20-30 bloggers to get a pre-screening of Jerusalem. They, in turn, would promote the city to their constituents as a great destination for the big conference, which would take place in May.
Give these bloggers a three-day- whirlwind tour of Jerusalem.
ROI: When was the last time Jerusalem was called vibrant, innovative, sexy?!
Positive, colorful, creative, and tasty digital content about Jerusalem.
What impact do travel bloggers have on a city in 3 days? What did they think about their experience?
Here is the social media outcome the group generated about the Press Trip (courtesy of Zoomph)
582 social posts in 3 days
7.7 million social impressions
Jerusalem is a city of growth, vibrant history, and engaging culture. And the views?!? Well…they speak for themselves #itraveljerusalem #tbexjlm #jerusalem #adventuretravel #falife #theflightattendantlife A post shared by Kara• Flightattendantlife.com (@thefalife) on
If this is what 22 bloggers could do in 3 days… imagine the impact of an entire conference!!
The Big Event: March 19- 22, 2017
4 days, 400 travel bloggers, influencers, content creators, speakers, and media all converging in Jerusalem. Most of them (minus 40 VIP’s) arrange their own flights and hotels. March 19 + 20: Equipped with local sims packed with unlimited data, these bloggers were ready to enjoy their tours around Jerusalem. For a full list of pre-BEX tours click here .
Really enchanted by the stories, discoveries and exploration in the City of David. Wow. A post shared by Blissy Life 😍 (@blissylife) on
One more from the old city of Jerusalem last week – I loved the pomegranates everywhere! #itraveljerusalem #tbexjlm A post shared by Eric Stoen (@travelbabbo) on
#TBEXJLM By the Numbers
(courtesy of Zoomph)
These metrics do NOT include any content on Snapchat or Facebook. This is just pure micro pieces of content during the week-long experience of #TBEXJLM.
Clearly, from a PR perspective the positive content, strong social reach and impressive content about Jerusalem will influence longer term conversations and promote positive tourism to the city. The contribution of social media is good but actual dollars and money spent means much more.
So for the pragmatists here is a calculation of ROI :
Assuming 360 paying participants (not including 40 VIP’s comped)
Flights: Average flight cost $800 (not including low cost tickets)
Tourist Spending: $520 per day x 4 days x 360 participants (hotel, food, transportation)
Total Investment to the City/ Country $ 1,038,000
Not bad for a 4 day conference!
It’s important to note that many TBEX participants stay in a destination an average between one week to three weeks.
Sparing many of the details, logistics, and thousands of emails, here are the most important lessons that made TBEX Jerusalem, the first conference of its kind in Israel and in the region, such a success.
Larger than Life
While the entire concept of #TBEXJLM started on a personal conversation on Twitter, it morphed into something that was much greater than a few tweets between friends. The conference, in no uncertain terms, was a wind for the sails of Jerusalem. It was about bringing the many facets of the city to the forefront and allowing the many diverse narratives to speak for themselves. It was about taking an online conversation offline, then bringing it back online to share with millions of others.
(Photo credit: Noam Moskowitz)
My role was to orchestrate the entire series of events. After that, I just sat in the background refreshing my phone/ computer watching the statistics and reading how these amazing people talk about Jerusalem.
The most essential component of embarking upon such an impressive venture to Jerusalem was the ability to mobilize the entire tourist-facing industry. Securing these partners early on clearly helped from everyone in the industry, from ministries, government offices, hotels, tour guides, restaurants, venues, to media partners. Everyone understood the importance of this venture.
In many cases, this was the hardest part. In a region where the concept of bloggers and digital marketers is still fairly new, many local partners assume that bloggers will bring an instant increase in business. Clearly, that is not the case.
Were there challenges? Sure. Problems and issues? You bet.
Education is key.
Yes, digital content will indeed help promote a brand and increase awareness about a tour, site, hotel, restaurant, but as always social media is a marathon, not a sprint.
Finally, I have to say that both during the November pre-Bex trip and the March conference, someone was definitely watching over Jerusalem. A lot of praying and a little bit of luck that no other major news or political events impacted on #TBEXJLM –that would have caused the entire thing to implode.
So yes, while some people view Twitter as a futile waste of time, I’d like to argue with sincerity that when used properly, Twitter is an excellent tool for building meaningful relationships and a great way to develop your reach and your business. Have you ever used social media to bring real change to a brand, a company, a city, or a destination? I’d love to hear how.