As of early 2019 we are no longer part of the PTBA as beyond the initial plugins and conference we found little value to retain our membership after the first year.
If you would've asked me when the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA) was founded a few years ago if it was worth joining, I would've said no.
If you would've asked me when the PTBA announced the first conference, TBC Asia in Sri Lanka, I would've said maybe.
If you ask me today, I would say absolutely- and there is one very good reason for that. But to truly explain why we feel that way, we have to start at the beginning.
Lots of Behind the Scenes Work Going On
As the PTBA is still quite young as an organization, most of the work has been behind the scenes. Board members and volunteers (both unpaid) have been attending conferences, meeting industry leaders, and working hard to promote professional travel blogging to the world. At its very nature, this is one of the core reasons the organization was founded in the first place.
One of the biggest complaints travel bloggers have against the PTBA has been the lack of an appreciable “return on investment” for the membership cost of $75/year. Naturally, this is because most of the work that has been done has been for the improvement of our industry as a whole- which benefits everyone regardless of membership status.
To be honest, while I appreciate the behind the scenes work done by the board members over the last couple of years since the organization was founded, I did not find this to be enough to justify joining the organization and I held off until more tangible projects came about.
Last year, the first of those came about in the form of the TBC Asia conference in Sri Lanka.
One Conference Down and More Planned
What did get me to join the PTBA was hearing about plans for yearly conferences in North America, Europe, and Asia. The first of which, the TBC Asia conference in Sri Lanka, took place in November 2014. Like other professional organizations, often the best part of membership is attending the conference, and I had a feeling the PTBA would be no different. (The North America and Europe conferences are still rumored at this point, unfortunately, although a second Sri Lanka conference is taking place in early 2016.)
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Although the conference had opportunities for funded visits on a pre-conference tour (which I was later accepted for), I decided to join the organization after the announcement to support the goal of hosting public conferences for professional travel bloggers and industry members. To me this was a tangible return that could justify my annual fee, regardless of if I was able to attend.
This conference ended up being a game changer for me, and I learned more from the one day conference than I did at the two TBEX events I attended in Toronto and Cancun which had nearly ten times as many speakers. Likewise, the pre-trip tour allowed me to speak with industry leaders like the editor at BBC Travel, an SEO master from Distilled, and top travel bloggers like Dave and Deb from The Planet D distraction free for quite some time.
That hasn't happened anywhere else, and in any other environment that SEO advice alone would probably have come with a bill for four-figures or more just for that.
You could say that I came out of this conference with a whole new direction to take my site, and it was both inspired by and reviewed by some of the best minds in our industry. I took many tips featured in the presentations and one-on-one chats and increased our Google referrals by over 400% and direct traffic by over 150% in under one year, and I can trace most all of it back to this one specific event for igniting the fire in me to do the work to make it happen.
Unfortunately, as much as I sing the praises of this conference, a new blogger may not be ready for that yet (although you should never turn down that opportunity to attend a conference if you can easily make it happen).
The conference at Sri Lanka was quite valuable or me, but I could easily see many of the topics covered on how to promote your blog and keyword research for SEO being a bit too advanced for new bloggers. As I only have one conference to go on here in this review, it is hard for me to say what the next ones will be like and the skill level needed for someone to get the most out it.
All I can say is I will be doing my best to attend the next one, hosted or not, and that is more than I can say about future TBEX events which I am skipping even with a free ticket in my name.
Free Plug-Ins Make it a Must Join
The conferences are a great thing that the PTBA offers, but the recent announcement of free premium plug-in subscriptions really helps those wanting a return on investment right now.
As of the time of publishing this post (September 2015) the plug-in and themes list offered is as follows:
- Genesis Framework + Themes
- KingSumo Giveaway Plug-In ($198)
- Discounts on Rafflecopter Plans (We like KingSumo better anyway!)
There was also a limited license for Viraltag, the incredibly popular online social media scheduling tool, but was only offered to the first 50 subscribers (we were one of these, but now switched to Tailwind. Click for our full Tailwind review!). I suspect more arrangements like this one will become available in the future as well but can't say with any certainty right now.
Overall, I had been on the fence about purchasing KingSumo and got it installed on my site within a day (2.66 years of PTBA fees equivalent) and got in for a license of Viraltag as well. These two plug-ins are going to be great additions to my sites and how we run our business, and if you're looking for an appreciable return on your investment the moment you sign up, one or two of the above plug-ins will do it many times over.
Should You Join the PTBA?
Overall, there are a few considerations to keep in mind on whether or not joining the PTBA is right for you.
First off, there is a barrier to join based on page views and blog age, so most brand new bloggers will have to wait a bit in order to qualify (admittedly, the entry barrier is pretty low so I do not envision anyone being upset by this).
Second, there is still a leap on when most bloggers will want to begin playing around with premium plug-ins, themes, and attending conferences out of their own pocket. As the PTBA organization is designed for bloggers who are in it for the long haul as professionals, this one may be out of the realm of absolute beginners for a while but should be on your radar as your blog grows in the future.
For me, I think that the best of the PTBA is truly yet to come.
If you found this review helpful and would like to join the PTBA, please click here. Please note that links in this post may contain affiliate information.
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