AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

AITO Awards

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

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

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