AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

AITO Awards

AITO's prestigious Travel Writer of the Year Awards are highly respected within the industry; this is the 23rd year that AITO's awards have run and is a wonderful opportunity for us all to celebrate the incredible talent we enjoy across the travel writing sector.

Expert judges from the travel industry gave their verdict on entries based on four key tenets – how inspirational, informative, interesting, and well-written they are. The awards were presented on Tuesday 15th October at a prestigious ceremony in London.

Find below the shortlist, runners up, and winners of AITO's Travel Writer of the Year Awards 2019!



Travel Writer of the Year (Over 1,500 words)

Prize - £500 cash, Sponsored by DK Eyewitness

The AITO Travel Writer of the Year accolade is the ultimate award for travel writers. Recognising excellence in the field of travel writing, past winners include some of the most respected travel journalists in the industry, and it’s always a hotly-contested category.

Travel Writer of the Year (Over 1,500 words) Shortlist

Name Title Publication Destination
Ianthe Butt (Second place!) Raj Against the Machine British Airways High Life Singapore
Amelia Duggan Let There Be Light National Geographic Traveller Malawi
Emma Gregg The trees have eyes National Geographic Traveller Zambia
Chris Haslam One for the road The Sunday Times Travel Magazine Namibia
Emma John Scotland Is Now Home to One of the World's Best New Road Trips Afar Magazine Scotland
Uwern Jong Ourika Moment - The Atlas Mountains, Morroco OutThere Magazine Morocco
Jane Knight Wild Borneo: a magical jungle adventure The Times Borneo
Jamie Lafferty World Nomad Games Culture Trip Kyrgyzstan
Anthony Peregrine (Third place!) Why our modern snowflakes would be wise to visit the D-Day killing fields Daily Telegraph Normandy
Adrian Phillips (Winner!) Land of the Brave National Geographic Traveller Nepal
Oliver Smith Frontierland Lonely Planet magazine Kosovo; Albania; Montenegro
James Stewart Set sail for a long weekend in the Arctic Sunday Telegraph Svalbard
Mark Stratton Awed of the Dance Wanderlust Chad
Martin Symington Inside El Salvador Wanderlust El Salvador
Emma Thomson Is Greenland the new Iceland? The Sunday Telegraph Greenland
Nigel Tisdall Could you cross the Antarctic Circle? National Geographic Traveller Antarctica

Travel Writer of the Year (Under 1,500 words)

Prize - £500 cash

The AITO Travel Writer of the Year accolade is the ultimate award for travel writers. Recognising excellence in the field of travel writing, past winners include some of the most respected travel journalists in the industry, and it’s always a hotly-contested category.

Travel Writer of the Year (Under 1,500 words) Shortlist

Name Title Publication Destination
Sarah Baxter Bush walking in South Africa In The Moment Magazine South Africa
Ian Belcher Red Alert: Jordan Brummell Magazine Jordan
Stephen Bleach Take a road trip - Oman style The Sunday Times Oman
Danielle Demetriou Is this the best way to see Japan? Sunday Telegraph Japan
Heidi Fuller-Love Wild at Heart - an African Safari by cruise World of Cruising Africa
Mike Gerrard Making Minny's Chocolate Pie in Mississippi The Travel Pages Mississippi
Emma Gregg (Winner!) Hot air ballooning over the herds National Geographic Traveller Kenya
Chris Haslam One night in Jerez The Sunday Times Jerez, Andalusia
Rosalind Jana Midnight Martinis and Magic SUITCASE Magazine Venice; Paris
Emma John On the Whisky Trail in Tennessee The Times Tennessee
Francisca Kellet (Third Place!) A spectacular road trip through the Scottish Highlands House and Garden Scotland
Jamie Lafferty Neccessity Bears Fairfax Traveller Svalbard
John Malathronas The forgotten Greek peninsula The Daily Telegraph Greece
Sarah Marshall You must meditate under waterfalls and jump over fires The Sunday Telegraph Japan
Stephen McClarence The slow passage through India Daily Telegraph India
Alicia Miller Power trips - Getting in shape The Sunday Times Travel Magazine St Lucia
Monisha Rajesh (Second Place!) All Aboard: Riding the Rails with Monisha Rajesh Culture Trip Japan; Russia; USA
James Stewart Desert rider Sunday Times Jordan

Young Travel Writer of the Year (aged 30 and under)

Prize - £350 cash, Sponsored by Discover the World

This award is designed to celebrate the achievements of younger travel journalists.

Young Travel Writer of the Year Shortlist

Name Title Publication Destination
Hugh Francis Anderson Isle of Arran Scottish Sporting Journal Scotland
Madeleine Barber Stepping it up a gear TTG Oman
Rae Boocock The Old Way SUITCASE magazine Kent, England
Greg Dickinson (Second Place!) What it's like to watch a solar eclipse The Telegraph Chile
Andrew Doherty Beyond the Beaches TTG Jamaica
India Dowley Treasure Island: Madagascar SUITCASE Magazine Madagascar
Amelia Duggan Pulse of the Jungle, Call of the Sea National Geographic Traveller UK Colombia
Bre Graham Sailing On The Winds Of Change N by Norwegian Cyclades Islands
Lottie Gross Forget Uber Eats: Mumbai’s 125-year-old food delivery system wins the day India
Andrew Headspeath Chasing the Dying Light of Bohol's Fireflies Culture Trip Philippines
Guy Kelly (Third Place!) Where eagles dare: The hidden treasures of Ethiopia Telegraph Magazine Ethiopia
Jennifer Morris Journey of Discovery TTG India
Beth Roberts Namibia: An Otherworldly Adventure House of Coco Magazine Namibia
Jonathan Wells All roads lead to Istanbul Gentleman's Journal Istanbul
Tamsin Wressell (Winner!) Can we save the coral reefs? National Geographic Traveller Australia
Farida Zeynalova A touch of spice National Geographic Traveller Tunisia

Blogger of the Year

Prize - £250 cash, Sponsored by Travel PR

This award recognises the increasing role of travel bloggers as key influencers in the travel industry and celebrates the skill used by many to illustrate their posts in inspirational, fresh and interactive ways.

Blogger of the Year Shortlist

Name Title Publication Destination

James Draven (Third Place!)

The evil saint of Guatemala Dearly Departures Guatemala
Stuart Forster A rhino walk in Zimbabwe's Matobo National Park Go Eat Do Zimbabwe
Heidi Fuller-Love (Second Place!) Pigging out with the Pata Negras Rough Guides Spain
Mike Gerrard Espolon Tequila Distillery Tour Travel Distilled Mexico
Mike MacEacheran The road to Valhalla Lonely Planet Online Canada
Kathryn MacLeod The Unspoken History of Spain's Valley of the Fallen Stories My Suitcase Could Tell Spain
John Malathronas Into the 'other' Amazon Brazil
Shafik Meghji An Antarctic voyage: becoming a "citizen scientist" Rough Guides Antarctica
Phoebe Smith (Winner!) Sex on the Reef Australia
Kerry Walker Cloudberry Culture in Finnish Lapland kimkim Finland

Travel Trade Writer of the Year

Prize - £250 cash, Sponsored by Dragoman

This award recognises the technical writing abilities of travel trade writers – not only their knowledge
of the industry but also their grasp of how best to clarify what can be complex issues across different sectors
of the travel world.

Travel Trade Writer of the Year Shortlist

Name Title Publication Destination
Meera Dattani (Third Place!) Wild West: Exploring undiscovered Sierra Leone Travel Weekly Sierra Leone
James Draven (Winner!) Ahead for Heights TTG Nepal
Laura French (Second Place!) Head in the Clouds Travel Weekly Kilimanjaro
Sophie Griffiths Fast Track to Thrills TTG Florida
Pippa Jacks Holidaying in Alonissos TTG Greece
Mike MacEacheran Back to the future in Taiwan TTG Taiwan
Natalie Marsh Into The Wild Travel Weekly Brazil
Katie McGonagle On top of the world Travel Weekly Svalbard
Jennifer Morris Journey of discovery TTG India; Nepal
Claire Walsh What to do in Queensland Travel Weekly Australia

To see previous winners, and AITO's other prestigious travel awards, click below.

Travel Writer of the Year+-


There has been an incredibly high standard of winners once again this year, and we’d like to thank all of the writers who entered the awards and, of course, to congratulate the worthy winners. It’s a tall order for the judges, but also a very rewarding exercise and a joy to read so many well-crafted examples of great of travel writing, where destinations are brought to life on a page and readers are taken on fascinating journeys and all manner of adventures. I would like to say a special thanks to the five sponsors who contributed the very welcome cash prizes for the first-place winners - Classic Collection, Explore, Inside Asia, On Foot Holidays and Pettitts. 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 six second-round judges, who, in teams of two, carefully read and re-read the shortlisted entries using the chosen judging criteria to come up with the top articles.

Award Category 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
Travel Writer of the Year
(Over 1,500 words)
Suzanne O'Sullivan
Going Off Grid on Indonesia's Forgotten Islands
The Telegraph Magazine
Adrian Phillips
The Hothouse Heart of the Jungle
National Geographic Traveller
Michelle Jana Chan
Primal Green
Vanity Fair
Travel Writer of the Year 
(Under 1,500 words)
Hannah McKeand
A World in a Grain of Sand
Ian Belcher
The Alternative to the Caribbean
Brummell Magazine
Matt Hampton
From Paris to the Sea on Two Wheels
The Times
Young Travel Writer of the Year Alicia Burrell
Emerald Miles
The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
Amelia Duggan
Chile: Patagonia Indomita
National Geographic Traveller
Guy Kelly
Finland's Northernmost Region
The Telegraph Magazine
Travel Trade Writer of the Year Sarah Gilbert
Scenic Safaris
Travel Weekly
Jessica Pook
Falling for Northern Japan
Selling Travel

Laura Gelder
Deep Blue Something
Selling Travel
Tamara Hinson
Singapore: Go Green
Travel Weekly
Travel Blogger of the Year Amelia Duggan
Port in the Storm
National Geographic Traveller
Kathryn MacLeod
An Afternoon Sail to the Shiants with Sea Harris
Stories My Suitcase Could Tell
Kerry Christiani
A Taste of Wales: stories worth savouring
Small World

The shortlist for the 2018 awards is below:

AITO Travel Writer of the Year (Over 1,500 words)
Sponsored by On Foot Holidays

Adrian Bridge, “Australia’s Greatest Train Journey”, The Daily Telegraph, Australia
Adrian Phillips, “The Hothouse of the Jungle”, National Geographic Traveller, Ecuador
Alicia Miller, “The Road Less Travelled”, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Australia
Chris Moss, “How to Discover your Inner Dancer in the Home of Tango”, The Daily Telegraph, Argentina
Emma Thomson, “Where Two Worlds are One”, National Geographic Traveller, Iran
Hannah Summers, “Mozambique”, The Daily Telegraph, Mozambique
Isabella Tree, “Land of the Gods”, The Economist - 1843, India
Johan Smits, “Travelling Through the Pamirs in Tajkistan”, Travel Begins at 40, Tajikistan
Michelle Jana Chan, “Primal Green”, Vanity Fair, Rwanda
Sarah Baxter, “Walking on Spice”, Walk Magazine, Grenada
Sarah Gilbert, “The Last Wilderness: Tracking Black Rhinos in Namibia”, Wanderlust, Namibia
Steve King, “Shanghai – Style, Smarts & Energy”, Condé Nast Traveller, China
Sue Bryant, “Lava Islands”, The Sunday Times, Galapagos
Sue Watt, “Zimbabwe – From Vic Falls to the Big Five”, The Times, Zimbabwe
Suzanne O’Sullivan, “Going off grid on Indonesia’s forgotten islands”, The Telegraph Magazine, Indonesia

AITO Travel Writer of the Year (Under 1,500 words)
Sponsored by Explore

Aaron Millar, “Train Through South America”, The Times, Peru
Adrian Phillips, “Fear Factor: Staying Afloat in Ecuador”, National Geographic Traveller, Ecuador
Amelia Duggan, “India: Discovering the Taj Mahal”, National Geographic Traveller, India
Ben Lerwill, “Why Armenians Love Strangers”, BBC Travel Online, Armenia
Claire Boobbyer, “Revolutionary Road: Che Guevera’s Last Days in Bolivia”, The Guardian, Bolivia
Duncan Craig, “The Back-Garden Route”, The Sunday Times, South Africa
Duncan Madden, “Uruguay: A Horse Trek into the Hinterland”, Travel Begins at 40, Uruguay
Gavin Haines, “Potato Poetry, Giant Dykes and a Rabbit”, The Daily Telegraph, Netherlands
Hannah McKeand, “A World in a Grain of Sand”, SUITCASE Magazine, Egypt and Sudan
Ian Belcher, “The Alternative Caribbean“, Brummell, Haiti
Jeremy Lazell, “St Helena”, The Sunday Times, St Helena
Jonathan Thompson, "The New Pioneers", Tatler, USA
Matt Hampton, “From Paris to the Sea on Two Wheels”, The Times, France
Richard Mellor, “In Search of Silence: Is This England’s Quietest Spot?”,, England
Yvonne Gordon, “Total Spanish Immersion”,, Spain

AITO Young Travel Writer of the Year
Sponsored by InsideAsia

Alicia Burrell, “Emerald Miles”, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Ireland
Guy Kelly, “Finland’s Northernmost Region”, The Telegraph Magazine, Finland
India Dowley, “Design Democratised”, SUITCASE Magazine, South Africa
Jonathan Wells, “Worlds Apart”, Gentleman’s Journal, Morocco
Jordan Kelly-Linden, “Getting a Taste for Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail”, Foodism, USA
Lucy Thackray, “Two to Tango”, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Argentina
Lydia Winter, “Old as the Hills”, Foodism, Peru
Peter Stewart, “Alsace on Two Wheels”, FRANCE Magazine, France
Tara Isabella Burton, “Glory Daze”, The Economist - 1843, Italy
Amelia Duggan, “Chile: Patagonia Indomita”, National Geographic Traveller, Chile

AITO Travel Trade Writer of the Year
Sponsored by Classic Collection Holidays

Jessica Pook, “Falling for Northern Japan”, Selling Travel, Japan
John Fitzsimons, “Peer-to-Peer Business”, ABTA Magazine, Analysis piece
Laura French, “Shine a Light”, Travel Weekly, Israel
Laura Gelder, “Deep Blue Something”, Selling Travel, Diving Destinations
Sarah Gilbert, “Scenic Safaris”, Travel Weekly, Kenya
Tamara Hinson, “Singapore Go Green”, Travel Weekly, Singapore

AITO Travel Blogger of the Year
Sponsored by Pettitts Travel

Abigail King, “Portugal: A Country with a Divided Soul”, Inside the Travel Lab, Portugal
Amelia Duggan, “Port in the Storm, Portugal”, National Geographic Traveller (UK) Blog, Portugal
Kait Reynolds, “Notes from Nepal”, Flaked, Nepal
Kathryn MacLeod, “An Afternoon Sail to the Shiants”, Stories My Suitcase Could Tell, Scotland
Kerry Christiani, “A Taste of Wales”, Lonely Planet Online, Wales
Phoebe Smith, “Wander Woman Wild(life) Swimming”, Wanderlust Online, Australia

Tour Operator of the Year+-

The prestigious AITO Tour Operator of the Year award is awarded annually to those tour operators with the highest ratings on, judged from AITO Reviews. The award is presented at an AITO members only event, the Annual General Meeting, in July. Below are the winners from 2015 to present.


Gold  The Mountain Company
Silver  Peter Sommer Travels
Bronze  McKinlay Kidd


Gold  Peter Sommer Travels
Silver  Expert Africa
Bronze  Absolute Escapes


Gold  McKinlay Kidd
Silver  Peter Sommer Travels
Bronze  Casas Cantabricas


Gold  Peter Sommer Travels
Silver  CICERONI Travel
Bronze  The Mountain Company