AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

AITO announces winners of its 2019 Members’ Awards at London AGM

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AITO, The Specialist Travel Association (, hosted its AGM yesterday (Thursday, 5 March 2020) at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London.

This year, there was a strong focus on the complex and critical issues facing the travel industry and the wider world – the Climate Emergency and the urgent necessity for reduction of carbon emissions – with a series of expert-led sessions aimed at engaging members and helping them to think clearly and decisively about their own company’s environmental impact.

Speakers on the panel included Xavier Font, Professor of Sustainable Marketing at the University of Surrey, and recent recipient of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship to conduct research for governments and tourism bodies to help improve sustainability in the travel industry. From the aviation industry was Mitchell Hawes, UK and Ireland Sales Manager, Norwegian Air, who spoke about the company’s commitment to supporting a sustainable environmental policy and to reducing carbon emissions.

There were hard-hitting discussions on ways in which members could adapt and take action to futureproof their businesses whilst protecting the planet and its people.

The AGM featured an update on AITO’s Project PROTECT initiative from Morwenna Severon, a nature conservation and sustainable tourism expert, who co-ordinates AITO’s extensive Project PROTECT programme, encouraging members in their aims to assist the destinations in which they work. AITO member initiatives include waste reduction – especially plastic waste – donations to charities, nature conservation, cultural heritage work, carbon reduction, animal welfare, marketing sustainable tourism products and also internal sustainable tourism management.

New Chairman and Deputy Chairman

In addition, it was announced in the closed session of the AGM that Chris Rowles, both former long-term MD of Serenity Holidays and Treasurer of AITO, had been elected as Chairman of AITO; Chris is well known throughout the industry and has long been a passionate advocate of AITO and of sustainability.

Derek Moore, now in the role of Deputy Chairman after leading AITO for the past 14 years, will remain fully engaged with the association over the coming important years for the travel and tourism industry, particularly in regard to AITO’s Think Tank project, which he announced at the end of AITO’s Overseas Conference in Poland last November.

The largest-ever AITO gathering in the UK saw a passionate group of 140 AITO Tour Operators, AITO Agents, Business Partners, Sustainable Tourism Project Protect members and Tourist Offices at the AGM, which concluded with a networking lunch and the much-anticipated 2019 AITO member awards ceremony.

The award categories were AITO Tour Operator of the Year, AITO Business Partner of the Year and AITO Affiliate Tourist Office of the Year, 2019.

Executive Director of AITO, Martyn Sumners, said: “We are very pleased to be able to acknowledge the services and support provided by our Business Partners and Tourist Offices, whose contribution to AITO is highly regarded by both our tour operators and travel agents.

“The Tour Operator award was, as ever, a very closely-run race; AITO members always score highly with their customer feedback. It’s great to see some of AITO’s smaller specialist companies taking the top three positions amongst our 120-plus tour operators. We now have over 17,000 independent customer reviews on and it is becoming an important hub of information and ideas from our specialist tour operators and their vast array of holiday experiences.”

2019 AITO Tour Operator of the Year

This award goes to those AITO members with exceptional reviews on

Bronze – McKinlay Kidd
Joint Silver – On Foot Holidays
Joint Silver – Peter Sommer Travels
Gold – Inside Travel Group

Highly Commended:

Absolute Escapes
Safari Consultants
Wilderness Scotland

2019 AITO Business Partner

This award goes to the AITO Business Partner which provided the best service and product in 2019, as voted by AITO tour operators and agents:

Bronze – Wild Dog Design
Silver – Faremine
Gold – Vamoos

2019 AITO Affiliate Tourist Office

This award goes to the AITO Affiliate Tourist Office which provided the best service and product in 2019, as voted by AITO tour operators and agents:

Bronze – Malta Tourism Authority
Silver – Polish National Tourism Authority
Gold – Portuguese National Tourist Office

All awards are made in respect of the calendar year from 1st January to 31st December, 2019.

For more information on AITO’s 120-plus specialist travel companies and their unrivalled collection of holiday ideas, covering every corner of the world, together with their AITO Specialist Travel Agent counterparts, visit

All AITO members are fully bonded, comply with AITO’s Quality Charter and offer the best possible customer service, while remaining closely attuned to AITO’s sustainable tourism aims.

Press:  For more information on AITO or AITO Specialist Travel Agents, or for high-res photos, please contact Jackie Franklin or Charlotte Griffiths at Travel PR on 020 8891 4440 or email or


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Derek Moore
AITO – The Specialist Travel Association


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