AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

AITO Awards

Our awards recognise outstanding quality within our membership and also the wider travel industry.

AITO Travel Writer of the Year 2018: Winners+-

Final Winners Announced
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 two separate categories for this award: firstly, Travel Writer of the Year for articles of Over 1,500 words, for those articles that deliver a longer read, as briefed by the commissioning editor and, secondly, Travel Writer of the Year (TWOTY) for articles of Under 1,500 words (for pieces that are commissioned to be shorter and punchy).

AITO TWOTY Over 1,500 words
The AITO Travel Writer of the Year Over 1,500 words award went to Suzanne O'Sullivan for her piece Going Off Grid on Indonesia's Forgotten Islands for The Telegraph Magazine. One judge commented that "it gave a real feeling of the joy of exploration". Another described it as “beguiling and sensitive; a beautiful piece of writing”. Suzanne received £500 in cash together with a bottle of champagne.

In second place was Adrian Phillips for his piece The Hothouse Heart of the Jungle, published in National Geographic Traveller. It was an atmospheric, evocative piece about a journey into the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.

In third place was Michelle Jana Chan for her uplifting and incisive piece, Primal Green, on the gorillas of Rwanda, published in Vanity Fair.

AITO TWOTY Under 1,500 words
In first place, winning the AITO Travel Writer of the Year Under 1,500 words award, was Hannah McKeand for her piece A World in a Grain of Sand for SUITCASE Magazine. A first-time win for the polar explorer, her reflective piece on The Selima Sand Sheet, the vast desert spanning the borders between Egypt and Sudan, was described by one judge as “a heartfelt, highly personal piece, transcending the norm for travel journalism". Another judge said it was “haunting and wonderfully descriptive”. Hannah received a cash award of £500 together with a bottle of champagne.

In second place, for his perceptive and balanced view of modern-day Haiti, was Ian Belcher for his article The Alternative to the Caribbean, published in luxury title Brummell Magazine.

In third place was Matt Hampton for his article From Paris to the Sea on Two Wheels, published in The Times. It was a witty article charting the Veloscenic, a continuous cycleway stretching from Paris to Mont St Michel on the Normandy coast.

AITO Young Travel Writer of the Year
This award celebrates travel writing talent in the under-30s.
In first place was Alicia Burrell for her article Emerald Miles in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, about setting off solo along the west coast of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. One judge said that “with a lightness of touch, this writer captures the wilderness, colours and water of Ireland's Atlantic coast”. Another described it as “a well-worded, lyrical read". Alicia received a cash award of £350 together with a bottle of champagne.

In second place, with her article Chile: Patagonia Indomita, in National Geographic Traveller, was Amelia Duggan.

In third place, with his article Finland's Northernmost Region, in The Telegraph Magazine, was Guy Kelly.

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 Sarah Gilbert for her piece entitled Scenic Safaris in Travel Weekly. Judges described the article as “a panoramic but detailed overview of wildlife conservation that allows the experts to speak; outstanding” and “inspirational.” Sarah received a cash award of £250 together with a bottle of champagne.

In joint second place were Jessica Pook for her article entitled Falling for Northern Japan, featured in Selling Travel, and Laura Gelder for her piece Deep Blue Something, which described her top diving destinations and was also published in Selling Travel.  

In third place was Tamara Hinson for her article Singapore: Go Green, featured in Travel Weekly.

AITO Travel Blogger of the Year
This category recognises the burgeoning influence of travel bloggers and their role within the travel writing community.
In first place was Amelia Duggan for her blog post, entitled Port in the Storm, from the National Geographic Traveller blog, which took the reader on a journey through Porto. One judge said "very atmospheric: I was travelling with the writer." Amelia received a cash award of £250 together with a bottle of champagne.

In second place was an article entitled An Afternoon Sail to the Shiants with Sea Harris by Kathryn MacLeod, written for her blog Stories My Suitcase Could Tell.

In third place was Kerry Christiani for her piece A Taste of Wales: stories worth savouring, published on her blog Small World.

Chaitman's Comments
Chairman of AITO, Derek Moore, said “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.”

AITO Travel Writer of the Year 2018: Shortlist+-

The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) has today announced the shortlist for the prestigious annual AITO Travel Writer of the Year awards.

Author (alphabetically by first name), title of article, publication, destination

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

The winners will be announced, and the awards presented, at this year’s AITO Meets the Media Event on Tuesday 16th October at 3pm. Please RSVP to before 5pm on Wednesday 3 October.

If you are a bona fide journalist and would like to attend AITO’s Meet the Media event, please apply for an invitation, quoting your usual outlets and your interests, by emailing

Please use the following hashtags on social media:
Meet the Media: #AITOMTM18
Travel Writer of the Year: #AITOTWOTY18

Our Sponsors+-

AITO Travel Writer Awards

Many thanks to our 2018 sponsors of the AITO Travel Writer Awards. They will be offering cash prizes to our well deserved winners and will be there to present the awards on the night. All sponsors are members of AITO, click on the member name to find out more about the tour operator.

Travel Writer of the Year – long (over 1,500 words) - On Foot Holidays

Travel Writer of the Year – short (under 1,500 words - Explore

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

Travel Trade Writer of the Year - Classic Collection Holidays

Blogger of the Year - Pettitts