AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

Travel Writer Winners Announced at AITO Meets the Media 2017

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Winners of the prestigious 2017 AITO Travel Writer of the Year Awards announced – along with a new AITO Directory of Members, the first in six years

Meets the Media

The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO, has announced the results of its 21st Travel Writer of the Year awards. This year saw the highest number of entries since the awards began in 1997, with almost 300 articles submitted, all of an exceptionally high standard.

Alongside the Travel Writer of the Year awards, AITO is proud to launch its new Directory of Members, the first for the past six years.  Says Derek Moore, Chairman of AITO: “While print may be harder to keep up to date than online publications, AITO’s Council felt strongly that a print publication listing details of all AITO members was a valuable aide memoire of its 120 members and their key holiday specialities.  We shall also issue quarterly updates, and hope that not only media, but also the travel trade and the consumer, will find this Directory very helpful.”

There were five Travel Writer of the Year awards presented yesterday (see below).  The judges reviewed entries according to four criteria, seeking copy that is inspirational, that is informative, that is interesting and that is also well-written.  The first round of marking was judged by 17 AITO members.


AITO Travel Writer of the Year

This is the most hotly contested award and some of the most respected travel journalists in the industry have featured on the roll of honour, which recognises excellence in the huge field of travel writing.

There are now two separate categories for this award: firstly, Travel Writer of the Year (TWOTY) for articles of Under 1,500 words (for pieces that are commissioned to be short and punchy) and, secondly, Travel Writer of the Year for articles of Over 1,500 words, for those articles that can be longer and more descriptive, as briefed by the commissioning editor.

AITO TWOTY Over 1,500 words

The AITO Travel Writer of the Year Over 1,500 words award went to Stanley Stewart for ‘The Secret Trail to Machu Picchu’, a piece for Condé Nast Traveller. It was a first-time win for this talented writer, and all judges were in agreement that his article was of the highest quality. One judge commented: “This fine writer spins colourful tales from a series of brief encounters with the people of Peru.” Another said: “He puts precisely into perspective where the Inca civilisation sits in history with a short observation; no mean feat.”  Stanley received a cash award of £350 plus a magnum of champagne.

In second place, for his article ‘Nepal is Back’ for The Times, was Tom Chesshyre, who penned an excellent piece on how holiday makers are now venturing back to Nepal, following the disastrous earthquake two years ago.

In third place was Chris Leadbeater for his piece on the treasures of Tanutamun, Sudan, in The Sunday Telegraph; it revealed a little-visited region with huge cultural significance, featuring over 200 pyramids.

AITO TWOTY Under 1,500 words

In first place, winning the coveted AITO Travel Writer of the Year Under 1,500 words award, for his piece on ‘Mexico’s Undiscovered Coast’ for The Sunday Times, was the very talented writer – and previous winner (2006, 2008) – Chris Haslam. One judge described how the “quirkily humorous descriptions brought the slightly off-the-wall nature of the area completely to life”. Chris received a cash award of £350 plus a magnum of champagne.

In second place was an article about the extraordinary female free divers of South Korea, featured in SUITCASE magazine, by Jonathan Thompson.

In joint third place were Kerry Christiani for her piece on Svalbard, Norway, in Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, and Jane Knight for her piece on Cambodia in The Times.

AITO Young Travel Writer of the Year

This award celebrates travel writing talent in the under-30s. This was a very close field of entries indeed – one of the closest ever – as all of those shortlisted were only a few marks away from being in the top three.

In first place was Sophie McGrath for her article in Lonely Planet Traveller on road tripping around the Great Lakes of the USA, which one judge called outstanding and another commented: “A comprehensive article laid out in bite-sized chunks, making it easy for the reader to digest.  I like the way she mixes heritage with nature, artisan products and edgy city life – something for everyone.”  Sophie received a cash award of £350 plus a magnum of champagne.

In second place was Guy Kelly, with his article on ‘how the future is bright for Colombia’ in The Telegraph Magazine.

In third place, for his article on Cuba in Gentleman’s Journal, was Jonathan Wells.

AITO Travel Trade Writer of the Year

This award recognises the technical writing abilities of travel trade writers – including the understanding of complex travel industry issues that is required of them on occasion.

In first place was Pippa Jacks for her piece entitled ‘Galapagos Galore’ in TTG. One judge said “carefully-crafted, this piece gives a very good insight into what trips to the Galapagos will be like – perfect material for the publication’s readers to use in a practical way.”  Pippa received a cash award of £250 plus a magnum of champagne.

In second place was John Fitzsimons, for his article entitled ‘Tomorrow’s Travellers’, which was featured in ABTA magazine.

In third place was Jenny Southan, who wins for her Business Traveller piece on Iran.

AITO Travel Blogger of the Year

This category recognises the increasing influence of travel bloggers and their role within the travel writing community.

In first place, the winning piece by Hannah Summers from her blog Burgers and Bruce, entitled ‘Out in the street in Tokyo, Japan’, is a blog post about which one judge said: “This is an incredibly punchy and quirky approach, which grabs you and makes you run with it.”  Hannah received a cash award of £250 plus a magnum of champagne.

In second place is an article entitled ‘Iceland and Tourism: Where the Wild Things Were’, by Kait Reynolds, published on her blog Flaked Blog.

In third place, for her piece on Cycling From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in her blog Vicky Flip Flop, is Vicky Philpott.

Meets the Media
L-R: Guy Kelly; Chris Haslam; Sophie McGrath; Derek Moore; Pippa Jacks; Tom Chesshyre; Jane Knight; Chris Haslam

Chairman of AITO, Derek Moore, said: “Huge congratulations to all of the entrants for such a high standard yet again this year.

“As usual, it’s been a mammoth but very interesting exercise for the judges. I would like to say a special thanks to the five sponsors who contributed the most welcome cash prizes for the winners – Inntravel, Pettitts Travel, On Foot Holidays, Abercrombie & Kent and InsideAsia Tours. And thanks are also due to the 17 AITO members who kindly contributed their time and expertise to act as judges for the first round of these awards – not to mention the five second-round judges, who carefully sifted through the best of the best to come up with our final winners.

“I’d also like to thank the writers.  There were so many excellently written pieces, about so many fascinating destinations around the world, that reading the entries was positively inspiring.  Words continue to have great power in this age of technology; they create desire to visit a destination, and deliver tourism that works for the greater good in the vast majority of cases.”

For further information on AITO’s Travel Writer of the Year Awards, visit


AITO Travel Writer of the Year Awards
AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

AITO Travel Writer of the Year Awards

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AITO Travel Writer of the Year Awards 2023 now open for entries
Aito awards
AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

AITO Travel Writer of the Year Awards 2023 now open for entries

Learn more
Derek Moore
AITO – The Specialist Travel Association


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