ASTW Announces 2018 Convention Key Dates, Hotel & Airline Partners

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) announces key dates and event partners for the 2018 Convention, ahead of registrations opening next week. Sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand, the convention will be held in Bangkok from 16-19 August at Anantara Riverside Hotels and Avani Riverside with an exclusive flight offer available from Thai Airways International.

Registration and flight bookings open 5 March via Key dates include:

  • Convention registration: 5 March-15 April
  • Flight bookings: 5 March-30 June
  • Members notified of famils: from 4 May
  • Convention: 16-19 August 

The 2018 Convention consists of a three-day program of events; including speaker sessions and workshops, the annual general meeting, and events culminating in the Awards for Excellence gala dinner.

Award sponsorships and speaking opportunities are available for members and non-members. For sponsor enquiries, please contact For speaking opportunities, please send a pitch to

Tourism Authority of Thailand’s 2018 messaging “Open to the New Shades of Thailand” showcases the depth of Thailand’s tourism as a land of amazing diversity worth discovering further. A comprehensive pre and post famil program for media and PR members is themed around “Unique Thai Local Experiences” with a selection of 11 itineraries, from hillside villages to national parks and island retreats.

Set on the banks of the grand Chao Phraya River, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort is a thriving oasis offering a unique way to experience the City of Angels. Majestic palms swaying in the breeze. Spa treatments hidden within lush tropical gardens. Luxurious suites lit by the twinkle of the city skyline. Delectable meals fusing tastes from around the globe.

At AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel, wake up in rooms and suites with arresting views – each and every one looks over the river and the city skyline. Wine and dine sky high and toast to the City of Angels taking in the panoramic views of the city’s skyscape. Treat yourself to a spa day or lounge by the rooftop infinity pool.

During 2018, Thai Airways International celebrates 58 years flying travellers from the heart of Asia across the world and 47 years connecting Australians with the world’s favourite Asian city, Bangkok. THAI now flies 39 times a week from Australia with daily services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and connections through its global hub, Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport, to popular destinations in Thailand and across Asia to India and Europe.

For more information about ASTW or to become a member, visit or contact Secretariat, Justine White, on


Learning to thrive

Entries for ASTW Awards for Excellence Closing Soon

Calling all ASTW writer and PR members to enter the 2018 Awards for Excellence before 1 May to showcase your best story, blog, photograph, PR campaign or organisation. The 20 award categories are inclusive of members working across traditional, digital, specialist or boutique media and tourism organisations.

Award winners and finalists will be celebrated by industry peers at the gala dinner held on 18 August, 2018 in Bangkok and will receive a new logo to include on their digital and print material to highlight the calibre of their work to editors, clients and colleagues. A prize and trophy will be presented to category winners.

The awards are judged by a panel of three independent, international and national industry professionals. Seventeen awards are open to writer members and three to PR members. Nominations for the Communicator of the Year Award have now closed, with writer members to receive an email to vote on finalists.


  • ASTW Travel Writer of the Year
  • ASTW Travel Photographer of the Year
  • Best Adventure Travel Story
  • Best Australian Story under 1000 words
  • Best Australian Story over 1000 words
  • Best Cruise Travel Story
  • Best Family Travel Story
  • Best Food Travel Story
  • Best Instagram Photograph NEW in 2018
  • Best International Story under 1000 words
  • Best International Story over 1000 words
  • Best Responsible Tourism Story
  • Best Trade and Tourism News Story
  • Best Travel Blog
  • Best Travel Blog Post NEW in 2018
  • Best Travel Photograph
  • Best Travel Story about the AGM host destination – Sunshine Coast
  • PR – Campaign of the Year (Digital or Traditional)
  • PR – Communicator of the Year Now nominated by writer members
  • PR – Best Tourism Organisation or Travel Product

TO ENTER: See 2018 Awards for Excellence

COST: $25 per entry


  • Entries must be received no later than 23:59 (11.59pm) on 1 May 2018
  • Finalists announced – Monday 9 July 2018
  • Winners announced at Gala Dinner – Saturday 18 August 2018

The Awards for Excellence is an annual celebration of outstanding travel writing, photography, and tourism communications. Established in 1992, this is a closely contested competition among peers, focusing on the very best published work of the year.

For more information about ASTW or to become a member, see Who can join or contact Secretariat, Justine White, on

Terms & Conditions:

The ASTW Awards for Excellence are only open to financial writer members, including full writers, associate writers, photographers and digital influencers; and PR Members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers. All entries must have been published for the first time in print or online, in Australia or overseas, between 1 May 2017 and 30 April 2018. If you have a story that is published on 30 April 2018, you can enter the story without the proof of publication. Please send the proof of publication within a week of being published. New members can only enter awards that have been published after their joining date. Please read all terms and conditions on the entry form.

ASTW Calls Members to Substantiate for 2018-19 Membership

The Australian Society of Travel Writers committee invites current members to substantiate for 2018-19 memberships. Writer, PR and Digital Influencers are required to complete the online substantiation form between 1-30 April. Prospective members are invited to apply via the online registration form.

Members substantiate annually to demonstrate they are actively involved in the travel industry. This ensures the credibility of the ASTW as an association that represents travel media professionals. All members must satisfy strict criteria to join and provide details of their published output or industry participation.

Life Members, Friends of the ASTW and new members who joined from 1 May, 2017 are not required to substantiate.

For more information, please see Substantiation Guidelines or Frequently Asked Questions on the ASTW website.

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters, digital influencers, bloggers, guide book authors, photographers and travel industry public relations professionals whose work appears regularly in major newspapers, magazines, airwaves and websites across Australia and the world.

Member benefits include networking with like-minded industry professionals at regular events in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne; professional development seminars; the ASTW Awards for Excellence; access to member contact details and TravMedia; and travel industry discounts and deals. The highlight of the ASTW calendar is the annual convention and famil program held between August and November in Australia or overseas.

For more information about the ASTW or to become a member, please visit How to apply or contact Secretariat, Justine White, on

Registration and Famil Preferences Open for 2018 Thailand Convention

Registration for the Australian Society of Travel Writers 2018 Convention in Thailand is now open. The program, sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand, features an array of inspiring speaker sessions, the annual general meeting, Awards for Excellence gala dinner, and an impressive choice of famil destinations.

Providing excellent value, the cost of $950 for writer members and $1,050 for PR members includes flights with Thai Airways International; accommodation at a choice of two 5-star hotels, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort or AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel; the convention program; networking events; plus a three day famil itinerary, available to both writer and PR members.

Tourism Authority of Thailand’s comprehensive pre or post famil program is themed around “Unique Thai Local Experiences” with a selection of 11 itineraries that span the country – from hillside villages to national parks and island retreats.

Explore Chiang Mai’s beautiful temples, local arts and crafts and the award-winning Mae Kampong Eco Village on the “Cultural Treasures, The Highest Summit, The Best Eco Village” itinerary. Tour Phrae and Nan, historic towns known for Lanna temples, beautiful teak mansions and tranquil lifestyle on the “Tranquil Old Towns with Unique Thai – Laos Culture” itinerary. Or discover white sandy beaches, dramatic rock features and turquoise waters dotted with shallow coral reefs on the “Krabi’s Green and Local Tourism & Bangkok’s All Time Favourites” itinerary.

Convention bookings and famil preferences close on 15 April, 2018 with members notified of their allocated famil from 4 May. Flight bookings close 30 June.

To register for the convention and submit famil preferences, visit 2018 ASTW Convention bookings.

Non-members interested in joining the ASTW can join this month and may be eligible to attend the convention.

For more information about the ASTW or to become a member, visit How to apply to join the ASTW or contact Secretariat, Justine White, on

Kris Madden

Vale – Kris Madden

It is with the deepest sadness The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) announces the unexpected passing of Kris Madden.

Kris was a multi-award-winning travel writer and editor, past president, secretariat and beloved member of the ASTW.

Kris held a Master of Applied Science in Communication Management and a special interest in wildlife tourism having studied Zoology at university. She also worked as an expedition leader and guide in Antarctica, the Russian Far East and the South Pacific.

Her travels have taken her to more than 60 countries and led her to be the respected editor of magazines including Traveltalk and TravelBulletin along with founding Eco Media Group. Her work appeared in a variety of print and online publications including National Geographic, Traveller, The Australian, Australian Geographic, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Sun Herald, Sunday Telegraph, Cruise Passenger, Vacations & Travel, Get Up & Go, Discovery Channel, Flight Centre Travel Ideas and Yahoo! among many others.

Kris, a full writer member of the ASTW was also a member of the Foreign Correspondents Association and a judge in the annual HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence and the Exhibition & Event Association of Australia awards.

Kris will be missed by our members and we send our prayers and condolences to Tony, her family and friends.

ASTW 2019 Convention Tender available to all destinations

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) committee invites all destinations to tender to host the 2019 convention and famil program. This is an unparalleled media opportunity to comprehensively showcase the destination to highly sought-after editors, writers, digital influencers, photographers, broadcasters and PR professionals.

The 2019 convention is themed around sustainability and will be held over a weekend between late August and October, with robust and varied pre and post famil program on offer. Convention hosts receive significant media exposure in leading Australian and international traditional and social media outlets.

Peter Hook, PR Representative for 2017 host Visit Sunshine Coast, said: “The media famils held in conjunction with the convention have already delivered numerous stories in print, broadcast and online media, and feedback suggests the region will be a major feature for articles and other media for a considerable time, with our timeframe estimating a two-year window of coverage across all platforms.”

ASTW President, Danielle Lancaster said: “The convention host is the ASTW’s most prominent and showcased sponsor across the calendar year. The committee will work with destination teams to maximise the sponsorship opportunity and resulting exposure.”

The ASTW has been Australia’s peak travel writing body for more than 30 years. Members must satisfy strict criteria to join and are obligated to substantiate their membership annually by providing details of their published output or industry participation.

To request a copy of the tender document or for further details, please email ASTW PR Representatives, Saskia Baker and Angela Thompson, at Tender submissions are due by 30 January, 2018.

For more information about the ASTW, visit our website or contact Secretariat Justine White on

ASTW Member Wins at British Guild of Travel Writers’ Awards

ASTW Member wins at British Guild of Travel Writers’ Awards

Penny Watson, a member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers, has won the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Kenneth Westcott Jones Memorial Award for Best Transport Feature for her Meals on Wheels story, which was published in Australia’s Sun Herald newspaper and online at Fairfax’s Traveller.

The award, sponsored by Jules Verne, was presented at the Guild’s gala annual November 5 Awards Dinner in London’s Savoy Hotel. Attended by more than 300 top travel industry and media representatives, the dinner was sponsored by the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau and preceded by a Champagne Reception featuring tea-based cocktails prepared by the Dilmah Tea Company‘s mixologists, Sri Lankan beer, and Arrack-based cocktails.

Melbourne-based Watson said she was thrilled to be recognised at such a prestigious awards ceremony. “I’m touched and humbled by this award. It’s such a big accolade, especially given Britain’s high regard for and history of quality travel writing and travel writers,” she said.

Highly Commended in this category were Londoner Paul Wade, for The Curious Story of the World’s First Bicycle, published in the Sunday Telegraph, and Ben Lerwill, for The Balkan Express: from Belgrade to Bar by Railway, published in London’s Observer Magazine.

The Kenneth Westcott Jones Memorial Award was one of nine presented on the night. The winners, all Guild members, were selected by an outside-the-Guild jury for their anonymously presented work.

Founded 55 years ago, the Guild consists of professional travel writers, editors, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers. Members of the BGTW provide stories and images for a huge variety of publications and organisations not only in the UK and Ireland but also in other parts of the world.

Watson has been both a Guild member and an ASTW member for more than 10 years and is currently an ASTW committee representative.

For more information about the ASTW, please visit our website or contact Secretariat Justine White on

About the ASTW

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters, bloggers, guide book authors and photographers (as well as travel industry public relations and marketing professionals) whose work appears regularly in major newspapers, magazines, airwaves and websites across Australia and the world. All ASTW members must satisfy strict criteria to join and are obligated to substantiate their membership annually by providing details of their published output or industry participation.

Here’s an ear’s out to our Aussie bilbies

Here’s an ear’s out to our Aussie bilbies

Each year The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) donates $1,000 AUD to a worthy cause and
this year, at the AGM on the Sunshine Coast, Emma, a very cute baby Bilby, willingly accepted on behalf of the Save the Bilby Fund.

CEO, Kevin Bradley (he is the one with the beard), told the membership some rather outstanding facts and statistics about Australia’s wildlife such as it is estimated that 7.5 million native Australian animals are killed every night by non-native animals and that Australia has the highest extinction rate in the world.

Members quickly realised their opportunity to be up close with an extremely endangered native Australian animal such as Emma who had no trouble quickly gaining everyone’s attention.

To learn more about bilby visit:

Five Fast Bilby Facts

  1. Bilbies breed quicker than rabbits with only a 12 to 14-day pregnancy
  2. They are omnivores and eat small lizards, mice, spiders, insects, roots and seeds but drink very little water
  3. Of the two bilbies once found in Australia, the Greater Bilby is the only living species and is currently rated as endangered
  4. Bilbies have a sharp ‘spike’ on the end of their tails and large transparent ears.
  5. Many Australians buy the Easter Bilby instead of the Easter Bunny but not all chocolate manufactures contribute to the fund so always check the fine print or refer to the Save the Bilby website.





The ASTW Awards of Excellence for 2017

Australia’s top travel writers and public relations professionals were honoured at the annual ASTW Awards for Excellence gala held at Novotel Twin Waters Resort, Sunshine Coast, Queensland on 19 August, 2017.

The top writer accolade, Travel Writer of the Year was awarded to Catherine Marshall who was judged on three stories published in Qantas magazine, The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section. Catherine was also awarded Best International Story Over 1000 words.

“This is indeed a tremendous honour and an event to be celebrated with gusto. This accolade hinges on so many people: my editors; the operators who so kindly hosted me; the panel of judges; and the ASTW committee. A great big thank-you to Visit USA for sponsoring the Travel Writer of the Year award. I also thank AccorHotels for sponsoring the Best International Story Over 1000 Words category and Anthony Dennis for publishing my story,” said Catherine Marshall.

Photographer of the Year, with entrants judged on five images, went to Dan Avila: “It’s an extreme honour to receive this award for the second year in a row. The ASTW is a fantastic organisation of hard-working professionals who care deeply about the travel industry. It’s through these relationships that wonderful opportunities to take photos and write stories come about.”

The top PR Accolade, Communicator or Communications Team of the Year, was awarded to Donna Campbell and Pip Macken from DC&A Worldwide – Destination Canada.

“This award would not have been possible without the hard work of the team in Canada and Australia, who work together to curate the essence of Canada for Australian journalists, so they can experience the destination through their own eyes and tell their passionate stories,” said Donna Campbell.

These prestigious awards are now in their 24th year and are a highlight of the annual ASTW Convention, with over 140 guests travelling from across Australia to attend.

Other categories included Best Family Travel Story, Best Travel Broadcaster, Best Australian Story Over and Under 1000 words and Best Food Travel Story. Categories, winners and finalists are detailed below.

“ASTW members represent the leading writers, editors, publishers, content creators and public relations professionals of the Australian travel industry. Over 390 entries – a record breaking number – were received across the 19 Award categories with an exceptional calibre of entrants. Being named a finalist is an absolute honour and I congratulate you all,” said ASTW President Danielle Lancaster.

“I would also like to thank each of the sponsors, in particular with Visit Sunshine Coast, who were the major sponsor of this year’s convention. Finally, thank you to our esteemed judges from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the USA who gave their time to judge the awards, all commenting on the high quality of work.”

For more information on the ASTW or to become a member visit


1) Best Story about AGM Host Destination 2016 Cape Town, South Africa – Sponsored by ASTW

 Safari Surprises – Mamamia

Aleney de Winter – Bites and Sites on the Streets of Stellenbosch – BoyEatsWorld
Shirley Sinclair – Drink in the Rugged Beauty – Sunshine Coast Sunday

2) Best Family Travel Story – Sponsored by Bound Round

Bound Round to sponsor major ASTW travel award


Angkor Away – Holidays with Kids magazine


Penny Watson – Rolling with the Kids  – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Tiana Templeman – Land Ahoy – Flight Centre Travel Ideas
Julie Miller – Jumbo Tales – Flight Centre Travel Ideas
Sheriden Rhodes – Family Face Time – Traveller/Fairfax Media

3) Best Travel Presenter – Sponsored by TFE Hotels  


Ben Groundwater – Flight of Fancy – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Pamela Wright – radio broadcaster

4) Best Australian Story under 1000 Words – Sponsored by Tourism Australia

A little Night Music in Sydney  – The Australian

Ben Groundwater – A taste of the original Australia – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Mark Daffey – Luck Be a Lady– Escape/News Ltd

5) Best Australian Story Over 1000 words – Sponsored by Tourism Australia 

On the Dreaming Track – Qantas Magazine

Craig Tansley – It’s a Long Way to the Top – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Andrew Bain – Camel trekking in the Flinders Ranges – Traveller/Fairfax Media

6) Best Food Travel Story – Sponsored by Outrigger Hotels & Resorts

Arctic Jewels – Nourish

Julie Miller – Eating in New Orleans– Traveller/Fairfax Media
Catherine Marshall – Great Southern Land – Qantas Magazine 

7) Best Responsible Tourism Story – Sponsored by Intrepid Travel

Lighting Up Kolkata’s Slums – Momentum.Travel

Mark Daffey – Thunder on the Mountain – Wild Magazine
Ben Groundwater – Poverty as a tourism attraction: Can travel to a developing country really make a difference?  – Traveller/Fairfax Media

8) Best Adventure Story – Sponsored by G Adventures

Tracey Croke – The Revival of Mavrovo – Adventure.Travel
Jayne D’Arcy – A Sacred Journey – Jetstar Magazine

Andrew Bain – Test your limits – Qantas magazine
Catherine Marshall – Africa’s Great Bat Invasion – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Andrew Bain – Grampians Peaks Trail  – Traveller/Fairfax Media
9) Best Tourism Organisation or Travel Product – Sponsored by Nugggit 


Kyoto Tourism – Alison Roberts-Brown
Glasgow Tourism – Laura Speirs 

10) Best Cruise Story – Sponsored by Cruise Lines International Association 

Passage to Paradise – Weekend Australian

Christine Retschlag – Beyond Bali – Holidays for Couples
Helen Hayes – She Sells the Seychelles – Vacations & Travel
Jocelyn Pride – A Voyage for the Soul – Cruise Passenger      
John Borthwick – Lao and Now – The Australian
11) Best International Story Over 1000 words – Sponsored by AccorHotels

On Board the Eastern & Oriental Express – Traveller/Fairfax Media

Louise Southerden – Morocco Unplugged – Traveller/Fairfax Media
John Borthwick – Maldives Surfing – Trailblazers’ Incredible Legacy – Traveller/Fairfax Media

12) Best International Story Under 1000 words – Sponsored by Sarawak Tourism

Mongolia’s Milk of Human Kindness – Traveller/Fairfax Media       

Belinda Jackson – Of Pharaohs and Heroes – Luxury Travel Magazine
Kerry Van der Jagt – Ice and Isolation – Luxury Travel Magazine      

13) PR Campaign of the Year – Sponsored by ASTW

Arrival of Ovation of the Seas to Australia – Gail D’Arcy/Royal Caribbean
Experience Aloha – Hawaii Tourism Oceania/Walshe Group – Janaya Birse

Relaunch of the Ultimo Hotel – Kim McKay – Klick Communications

14) Best Tourism and Travel News Story – Sponsored by ZOIK 

Hot travel destinations FOR 2017 – Weekend Australian     

Christine Retschlag – All Things Spice – Travel Bulletin
Mark Daffey – Let the Games Begin – Vacations & Travel

15) Best Travel Blog – Sponsored by Beyond Travel

WINNER – BOY EATS WORLD – Aleney De Winter

Have Wheelchair Will Travel – Julie Jones
The Global Goddess – Christine Retschlag

16) Best Travel Photo – Sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand 

Richelieu Rock star – Boat International

Mark Daffey – Usual Suspects – Get Lost Magazine
Dan Bannister – Ancient Stepwell in Jodhpur – Holidays for Couples
Dan Avila – Miles Away – Club Marine Magazine
Mark Daffey – Mirror Image – Lonely Planet Asia

17) Communicator or Communications Team of the Year – Sponsored by TravMedia


Janaya Birse – Hawaii Tourism/The Walshe Group, Sabi Sabi Private Reserve

18) ASTW Photographer of the Year – Sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent

Vanishing Warmth – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Spa Pool – Caravan and Camping with Kids Magazine
Snowy Istanbul – Just Luxe
Ranger Sarah – Kimberley & Pilbara Holiday Planner 2017
Washed Stones – Vacations & Travel Magazine

Mark Daffey
Winter Wonderland – The Johnnie Walker House Edit
The Usual Suspects – Get Lost Magazine
Perahera Partying – Lonely Planet Asia
Mirror Image – Get Lost Magazine
Bo-Kaapster – Lonely Planet Asia

Danielle Lancaster
Badlands Sunrise – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Sand Dunes – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Lester – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Solomon Islands – Travel2Next
Whale Tail – Where Gold Coast

19) Travel Writer of the Year – Sponsored by Visit USA Australia 

Great Southern Land – Qantas Magazine       
After the Big Chill – The Australian
Africa’s Great Bat Invasion – Traveller/Fairfax Media


Penny Watson
Meals on Wheels – Traveller/Fairfax Media 
A Taste for Incognito – Vacations & Travel
Rolling with the Locals – Traveller/Fairfax Media    

Mark Daffey
The Avocado Canoe Club – Wild Magazine
Polar Opposite – The Johnnie Walker Edit
Here be Dragons – Great Walks

Kerry Van der Jagt
On the dreaming track – QantasLink Magazine
South Pacific Spring – Nat Geo Traveller        
Life in the Deep Freeze – Traveller/Fairfax Media

Jack Butters Award – Honorary award given to someone who has made an important contribution to the ASTW
WINNER –   Rama Gaind