TBEX Zimbabwe Announcement Exposes the Pitfalls of Privilege

TBEX Zimbabwe Announcement Exposes The Pitfalls of Privilege. There are several types of privilege addressed here including travel privilege, white privilege and professional blogger privilege.

This is an opinion piece based on discussions occurring in the travel blogging industry on TBEX Zimbabwe.

I recently attended the TBEX North America conference in Huntsville Alabama at which time an announcement was made for the next TBEX International Conference. I was surprised and excited to hear the news: TBEX Zimbabwe. This will be the first TBEX conference held in Africa. Although I have not been to Zimbabwe, I have visited South Africa twice and look forward to exploring more of the continent. Africa is not as popular of a destination as Asia or Europe, which have both held TBEX conferences. I believe their stories also deserve to be told. Their economy and tourism industry deserve to be boosted by a major travel conference. However, soon after the TBEX Zimbabwe announcement was made, there was uproar from a few big names in the travel blogging industry. Due to politics and the current leader of Zimbabwe, they felt TBEX had made the wrong choice. These travel bloggers have made a stance on boycotting the conference next summer and are encouraging others to do the same. But, in their posts they encourage travelers to visit Zimbabwe on their own. Reading the blog posts and social media comments kept bringing me back to one word. Privilege. There are many types of privilege. This argument of traveling to Zimbabwe on your own vs. with TBEX wreaks of travel privilege, white privilege and full-time professional blogger privilege.

First of all, travel is a privilege. Especially if you are going to far away or expensive destinations. Many people simply can not afford to travel far away partly due to the cost of airfare, hotel and transportation. Also, as popular as solo travel is right now, for inexperienced or even some experienced travelers, there is comfort in traveling with a group to distant or unknown destinations. Having travel industry professionals pick a destination and suitable accommodations, plan an itinerary and find tour guides allows people the opportunity to visit destinations they would not normally travel to. TBEX provides these services along with valuable lectures and networking for travel bloggers. For many, Africa is a dream destination. Being at TBEX Zimbabwe could be a gateway to discovering more of the continent. I actually did not plan on attending the recent conference in Alabama because….I am black and it was in Alabama. I was not familiar with the city of Huntsville. However, there is strength in numbers. Since I knew I would be part of a large group of fellow travel professionals and a few friends, I decided to attend. I am glad I did since I gained valuable travel blogging information, knowledge of an interesting and friendly Southern city and new friends in the industry. I feel that travelers are more likely to visit Zimbabwe because of TBEX vs ever going there on their own.

Secondly, being a white traveler offers you privileges that no one else has. I don’t think that anyone can disagree with this. Yes, being American and having USD also offers privilege in terms of how you are treated around the world (although this may be changing soon with our new administration). But, the idea that these particular white bloggers are suggesting-that anyone can just travel to Zimbabwe and discover it on their own-is completing ignoring that blacks, Muslims, openly gay or transgender individuals do not have the same travel experience and are not treated the same from country to country. I actually worried about my safety as a Black woman traveling alone to Alabama and I am also cautious depending on where I am traveling abroad. Many people in my situation feel much safer traveling with a group to international destinations.

Finally, there is the issue of full-time, professional travel bloggers making the casual assumption that everyone can travel to Africa, the Philippines or Israel (recent TBEX locations) on their own ignoring the costs. If you are traveling for a living, you have both the finances to go where you want to go and connections all around the world that allow you to travel for free. “Celebrity” travel bloggers are routinely invited to visit destinations for free with expenses included and often get paid to write about their experiences. Therefore, they do not have to worry about the costs of airfare, hotels, food, transportation and tours that the average traveler has to budget for. TBEX negotiates discounted accommodations, free tours and events that allow you to get to know a city and its surrounding areas. This is a very valuable experience to travel bloggers whether they are “newbies” (I hate the way that word is being used in a demeaning manner) or seasoned writers.

In the end, I feel everyone has to make their own decision, based on their own circumstances, as to where they will travel to and for what reason. However, this is a reminder to check your privilege, all of them.

What is your opinion on TBEX Zimbabwe? Do you plan to attend? Share your thoughts with us below!

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8 Comments

  • YES, Nadeen. Thank you for your post. I have been at this for awhile and this is a recurring problem in our industry. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as I admit, it if weren’t for conferences, press trips, or blogger summits I wouldn’t have been able to hace easily access the stories I did when I first started.

  • I am loving this comment thread. I was also very leery about going to Alabama. I’m a black American from the West. As I’ve mentioned before-the only thing I really know about the South is that my family got the hell out of there. That said, because I knew I would be going with a large group of people, I felt a lot more comfortable traveling to Alabama. I had a great time and would visit again. I’m sure that there were a number of people very concerned about traveling to the US from overseas given what’s going on politically right now. The US is not as safe as other countries, we’re armed and bat-sh$t crazy (keeping it real). As a person of color wandering this globe, I don’t consistently experience privilege in the way that many white people do. That said, I was and am a bit leery about Zimbabwe, but if I go, it will because I am with a group of people. I would most likely NOT go there on my own because of the political situation. TBEX may have issues like every organization, but, it is opening up an opportunity for me to take this trip. Thanks for the post!

  • Great article! It is good to see this POV regarding the announcement. I forgot about all the discounts outside of the hotel associated with conferences. I recently attended a conference in a city I would never consider. The tourist board gave us a VIP pass for free entry into a lot of places and freebies at restaurants. I enjoyed the city and now have good content. I went to school in Huntsville for two years while the city wasn’t bad the drive to Huntsville is interesting and filled with a lot of gas stations I would not feel comfortable stopping or cops that I want to be bothered with.
    Kim recently posted…From Blog To Entrepreneurship: 5 Lessons From The Women In Travel SummitMy Profile

  • I’m so glad you took the time to write this and throw another opinion out there. I read the other article and just the sheer condescending manor in which it was written (especially the whole “newbie bloggers” versus “professional and veterans thing, yuck) had me questioning if I should even continue reading.

    The assumption that the average person, or “newbie” can just jump up and travel all the way to Zimbabwe on a DIY trip is dripping with privilege. Good on you for calling it out!
    francesca murray recently posted…5 Tips for Road Tripping Barbados!My Profile

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