One of our greatest assets is members’ wealth of knowledge. Here they share anecdotes, pose questions, discuss issues and launch controversy!

TravMedia adds to over a decade’s ASTW support


THE Australian Society of Travel Writers ( is delighted to announce that TravMedia, recognised as the travel industry’s primary online network for public relations managers to connect with journalists, editors and content creators worldwide has increased its sponsorship support of the ASTW for 2020.

Helen Hayes, President of the ASTW, said that the ongoing support of TravMedia is integral to the operation of the association and its ability to best serve its member database.

“The continued support of TravMedia is a vital support not only to the ASTW but also to the continued development of travel journalism and travel photography, and the encouragement it gives to a continued drive for excellence,” she said.

TravMedia already sponsor the Communicator of the Year, The ASTW Membership Cards, donate Their Appointment Scheduler to the AGM and this year will contribute ASTW writer member’s airfares, as part of their commitment to the success and growth of the ASTW AGM.

Nick Wayland, CEO of TravMedia reconfirmed their financial support of the Association saying, “The ASTW is an invaluable network of editors and journalists who are producing and sharing great content across TravMedia every day.  We are pleased to continue our thriving partnership into next year to foster great relationships within the travel industry.  The partnership between TravMedia and the ASTW continues to be a great resource for year-round support for some of Australian’s most prolific journalists”.

For more information about sponsoring awards, lunches or events; or for membership enquiries, please visit our website for more information or contact secretariat Justine White on

About the ASTW

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters and producers, 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. They must also adhere to a Code of Ethics. By ensuring that only bona fide applicants are admitted, the ASTW maintains its integrity and the professionalism of the travel industry.

About TravMedia:

Established in 1999, TravMedia is recognised as the travel industry’s network for public relations managers to connect with journalists, editors and content creators worldwide. TravMedia enables industry professionals in the travel space to share content, collaborate on campaigns and connect like never before. Providing digital solutions for the travel industry, TravMedia is evolving to become the must-have for public relations, trade and media experts. TravMedia currently operates in 10 countries Australia, United Kingdom, United States, China, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa – with a community of over 40,000 media and PR members.

Rising Star Award 2019

HKTB and ASTW annual “Rising Star” award

22 July 2019 – Following last year’s hugely successful launch of the Rising Star Award the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) have decided to collaborate again on this exciting initiative, aimed at enticing a new era of travel writers in Australia.

The ASTW, introduced the award to their Awards for Excellence programme last year to bolster writers looking to expand their expertise into the often daunting but aspirational travel writing industry.

The award is open to writers and digital influencers who have had their first paid travel story published in the past two years.

Entries will be reviewed by three judges, including ASTW committee member and former editor Jeremy Bourke, HKTB’s Regional Director – Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific, Andrew Clark, and award-winning freelance journalist and media industry academic, Lee Mylne. The travel editor for Australian media organisation, Nine, will review a shortlist of finalists to select the final winner.

The winner will receive a trip to Hong Kong, including return economy airfares; four nights’ accommodation; return airport MTR passes; MTR Octopus pass with HK$200 credit; dinner at Happy Paradise to the value of HK$830; Good Evening Kowloon walking tour; Tea House Theatre Experience at the newly opened Xiqu Centre; a HK$2,000 Klook voucher. The winner’s subsequent Hong Kong story will be published online by the Nine Traveller editorial team and will be considered for print.

Lastly, the winner will also receive a one-year Rising Star membership to the ASTW and will be invited to attend an ASTW Christmas lunch where they will be presented with their award.

ASTW President, Helen Hayes said “last year’s inaugural Rising Star garnered a great response and the winner’s story on was very well received. Justin Meneguzzi has since proven to be a valuable member.”

“With more than 300 members, the organisation holds a wealth of information, advice and talent which we want to share with those eager to craft a career in the travel writing industry,” Ms Hayes said.

HKTB’s Regional Director – Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Andrew Clark said “last year I was extremely impressed by the high calibre of entries. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the ASTW to support emerging talent.”

“The destination content created by the 2018 Rising Star Award winner really captured the spirit of Hong Kong and I’m excited to see what this year’s winner will produce.”

“Its many microcosms of culture, East meets West atmosphere and buzzing neighbourhoods make   Hong Kong the perfect destination for a travel writer with endless story opportunities.”

Last year’s winner, travel writer and photographer, Justin Meneguzzi said “Winning last year’s Rising Star Award was an incredible experience and learning opportunity. It gave me the chance to meet and learn from some of Australia’s top PR, editors and fellow travel writers at ASTW events, and then there was the prize famil to one of my bucket list destinations – Hong Kong. Having my article published on was hugely rewarding and a great addition to my professional portfolio. If you’re a budding travel writer and thinking of applying, I can’t recommend it enough. Take the plunge and enter.”

Award criteria

Award entrants are writers or digital influencers who have had their first paid travel story published in the past two years. The award submission must be a travel-related article published between 31 October 2018 and 30 October 2019. The article must be a paid commission and judges will need to see evidence of story payment, upon request. The article will have featured in a print publication with a minimum circulation of 20,000 or online publication with a minimum of 10,000 unique visitors per month.

How to enter

Entries are open from 1 August 2019 to 2 November 2019 via

The winner will be announced on 28 November 2019 on; and will also be notified via phone.

For more information on the award visit or for information about Hong Kong, visit

Notes to editors:

The Australian Society of Travel Writers Incorporated (ASTW) is the most highly respected travel media body in Australia. Founded in 1975 and incorporated in 2011, it is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting ethical and honest travel, and the unbiased reporting of it. On a day-to-day basis, the ASTW is run by an elected committee and a salaried Secretariat. The ASTW has more than 340 members who are freelancers and staff writers, travel editors, radio and television broadcasters, bloggers, guidebook authors, photographers and public relations (PR), social media and marketing professionals.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is a government-subvented organisation with the principal responsibilities of marketing and promoting Hong Kong as a preferred destination worldwide, as well as enhancing visitors’ experience once they arrive.

For more information contact:

Sarah McCarthy – / 02 8262 6810

Saskia Baker – / 0407 752 813

Mandy Dwyer – / 0417 133 374  

Writing and Photography Awards Calendar

CLIA – Media Award – Cruise Lines International Association

Awards held Feb 2019. Entries for 2020 TBC

AFTA NTIA Awards – Australian Federation of Travel Agents

Nominations open Jan each year. Awards held in July. (20th July 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize

Entries close around early March (6th March 2019) Winners announced in May (7th May 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

National Geographic Travel Photo Contest (Categories Nature, Cities, People etc)

Entries close around March, late entries accepted until May for increased fee. Winners announced around June.

Head On Photo Festival (Categories Portrait, Landscape, Mobile)

Entries close around mid-February. Awards held around May.

Tasmanian Media Awards

Nominations close around mid-March. Awards held around May. Dates for 2020 TBC

South Australian Media Awards

Entries close around March. Awards held around June. Dates for 2020 TBC

Fremantle International Portrait Prize – Biennial Award

Entries closed for 2019. Exhibition 13-27 October 2019

ASTW Awards for Excellence

Entries close around April (30th April 2019) Awards held around October (19th October 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

PATA Gold – Award – Pacific Asia Travel Association

Entries close around April. Awards held around September. (19th September 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

Travel Media Awards (For work published in print or online in UK)

Entries close around April-May. Awards held in September. (20th September 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC.

Australian Photography Awards (includes Landscape, Travel/Street, Wildlife, Portrait, Mobile etc)

Entries open June-Sept (1st June – 2nd September 2019) Dates for 2020TBC.

Kennedy Awards – Outstanding Travel Writing

Entries close 1st July each year. Awards held around August. (9th August 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

The Nature Conservancy 2019 Photo Contest

The global photo contest will open on 1st August 2019 and close 31st August. There will be a range of categories including one for Australia-based photographers, with fabulous local and global prizes you can win from a prize pool of $20,000!

Queensland Clarion Awards

Entries close around July. (12th July 2019) Awards held around September. (7th September 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

National Photographic Portrait Prize

Entries open around October (October 2019 for 2020 prize)

WA Media Awards

Entries open around June and close around August. (24th June- 2nd August 2019) Awards held around November (2nd November 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

NT Media Awards

Entries open around July and close around August. (2nd July-13th August 2019) Awards held around November (16th November 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC 

Walkley Awards

Entries open around July and close around August (1st July to 31st August 2019) Awards held around November (28th November 2019) Dates for 2020 TBC

Australian Travel Awards (Categories include Social Media & PR Campaigns, Tourism Boards etc)

Entries close around August (30th August 2019; late entries 6th September 2019) Awards held around November (29th November 2019)

Writing and pitching – what do editors want?

“The story is what creates beautiful writing…not the other way around.” Lisa Cron

Writing and pitching – what do editors want?

By Kerry van der Jagt

What do editors want? –  It may sound simple, but in my opinion, editors want the same thing – a great story. The human brain craves story, in fact, we are wired for story. Read the book by Lisa Cron called Wired for story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. It explains the science behind this, and how story has been necessary for human survival for thousands of years.

Days after the December 26 2004 tsunami, members of the ancient Jarawa tribe living in the Andaman islands emerged unscathed from their forest habitat. Drawing on 60, 000 years of culture, handed down through generations of storytellers, they knew how to react when the “sea monster” came. The take-home lesson is that storytelling is crucial to our evolution, not just for pleasure (that’s the sweetener) but for survival. The key is that the story must be irresistible.

Five steps to creating irresistible stories

1- Research like a pro

It all starts with an idea, something I’m curious about, such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I figure if I want to know more, perhaps my readers and editors might be interested as well. I then ask myself three questions. Where is the BEST place to see the festival? Can it be done alone or do I need to go with a tour group? Who offers the BEST tour, which will match my ethics and interests?

2- Do the maths

Your editor needs fresh, timely and dynamic ideas, your PRs appreciate multiple returns on their investment, and you need to make a good living. By applying these three variables I’ve come up with the magic ratio of 1:2. That is, I need one story for every two days I’m on the road (or seven stories for 14 days on the road). I’m not being arrogant or over ambitious, it’s what I need to make the dollars add up over a year of travel writing.

3- Build your babushka

Continuing with my Oaxaca example, once I had my dates locked in I built everything else around it. I asked: Are there any new flights to the US? Yes, United Airlines was set to launch a Sydney to Houston leg. Are there any major events happening in Houston? Yes, the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing. A chat with the PR for Texas gave me Mafa in favour of Austin, San Antonio in favour of Dallas, and Big Bend National Park, because heck, who’s been there? The PR for Amtrak told me about the Sunset Limited train from Los Angeles to Houston, a speed-dating event at the Cape Town AGM added a Tequila twist (the town and the drink), and Trump, with his ludicrous plans for a wall, brought me to numerous border towns.  Eventually, I worked with seven PRs to bring home more than a dozen stories. I could not have done this without their support.

4- Get to the point

When it comes to pitching, if you can’t explain your point in one sentence, you don’t have one. Travelling to Poland and visiting the Auschwitz Memorial is not a story, it’s just a series of events. Answering the question – Why I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp? – provided the angle I was looking for. If you’re struggling to find your focus have a go at writing the standfirst for your story, then use that in your pitch.

5- Make it personal

You may not be the first person to swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (insert any wild creature in a remote location) yet, just because it’s been written about doesn’t mean you can’t bring something new to the experience. I brought science to my story, spending days in the water with a researcher, others have tied in new accommodation, or focused on other species such as manta rays or whales. The trick is to draw on your strengths and bring something of yourself to the encounter (but there is a Catch 22 – don’t mistake your interests with the interests of your reader).

Three of the most original stories I’ve read lately include a self-drive trip through southern Japan in a tiny “camping car”, a horse riding safari through Patagonia and tackling the Trans-Siberian railway in WINTER (bonus points if you can match these stories to their writers).

Whatever you choose, know your editor wants you to mine your experience for gold. Nothing less.

 I’ll finish with a quote by Lisa Cron – “The more meaning you have to convey, the more beautiful the writing becomes.”

My mottos are:

Write the story that only I can write.

Make the editor’s job easy (source/provide images, ensure accuracy, meet deadlines).

Ask myself – Does this story serve the reader?

Keep up to date with travel trends.

Be generous – pass on trips you can’t do, share and brainstorm ideas with others.

Be grateful. A bad day in the travel industry is still a better day than many others are having.

And finally, recognise that editors want their writers to succeed. Yes, they really do.

* This is a summary of my contribution to the panel talk at the 2018 Bangkok AGM 

Kerry van der Jagt is a multi award-winning freelance travel writer and photographer based in Sydney. Specialising in nature-based, adventure and indigenous travel, Kerry’s work focuses on promoting tourism that encourages others to explore the planet in a sustainable and responsible way.

Travel Memoir Writing

Have you got a book in you?  With the exciting lives ASTW members lead, the answer is quite likely ‘yes’ but writing a book requires a whole different approach to that which we use for blogs or articles.

Here I share the lessons learned while developing my own memoir, and the long and winding process from concept through to publishing.

Travel Memoir Writing

By Laura Waters

Start with a story

We all know the value of an engaging story but nowhere is it more critical than in a book. It’s not enough to have a random bunch of interesting/quirky/funny moments; there needs to be a strong narrative arc that links it all together and makes the reader care about the protagonist.

Lisa Cron (author of ‘Wired For Story’) describes a story as: how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result. It’s about how the plot affects the protagonist.

This might strike you as more relevant to a novel but it applies just as strongly to memoir. Here’s an example:

Plot:  A woman walks from one end of New Zealand to the other and has a whole bunch of challenges, tears and laughter along the way.

Story:  A woman suffering from anxiety (and various other issues!) walks in the wilds for five months, during which time she learns to overcome her fears, loses her identity, reconnects with nature and emerges a new woman.

It’s all about developing a character that people will care about and ensure they keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, and it requires revealing the inner journey as well as the outer one.

 “Storytelling trumps beautiful writing every time” – Lisa Cron

Developing a structure

It can be overwhelming to know where to begin when writing a book.  I found it useful to create an excel spreadsheet to plot the key events that I’d need to cover to tell the story. Then I divvied those events up into chapters and set an allocated word count to cover each one.  Seeing the whole story like this allowed me to get a clear picture of what I was trying to achieve and how it would all pan out.


Only include the events that are critical to your narrative arc. You may have some favourite moments that you’d really like to include but if they don’t lead anywhere on the journey of your protagonist then they’re just a distraction.

  • Build strong characters and only introduce them if they add value to the story or help paint a picture or set the mood of a scene.
  • Use foreshadowing to build intrigue
  • Use backstory and flashbacks to fill in the gaps and paint a deeper picture.
  • Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. Go light on the scenery, setting, weather, etc. Because stories are about people, the things that happen to them and how they react to them.
  • You’ll get many more excellent tips from Wired For Story.


It’s really important to get a professional book editor to review your drafts. I had a best-selling author friend read one of my early drafts. He thought it was good to go and probably only needed a “light copy edit”, but once he’d referred me to his excellent editor I discovered that all I had was a “very good base to work from”! Needless to say, I was a little devastated to hear that I wasn’t in fact finished but in the following two edits I did with her, the manuscript developed into a far richer and more engaging tale. The moral of the story is: work someone who really understands book editing.

A good editor is like a sports coach. They’ll tell you what you need to do but they won’t do it for you. You’ll retain your style and voice while developing your story to be the best it can be.

Self-publishing or traditional

There are pro’s and con’s to each. Self publish and you can get your book out there tomorrow, have full creative control and reap 100% of the profits. You’ll also have to fund all the editing yourself, get a cover design, do all your own marketing, distribution, sales, etc.

Traditional publishing will only give you a fraction of the profits, you will have varying degrees of control over the final product (I have full say on the contents of my book – some publishers aren’t so generous – but the publisher gets to choose cover and title), and it’s a far longer process to publication – generally around a year.

There are many tales of best-selling authors who started out self-publishing their books only to have the rights purchased by traditional publishers once the success of the book had been demonstrated (Fifty Shades of Grey anyone?), so don’t discard this option if you have trouble finding a traditional publisher.

Having said that, there is still a little stigma around self-publishing and it appears easier to get mainstream publicity and support if you have a traditionally published book.

The traditional publishing process

  • Polish your manuscript as brightly as you can before approaching publishers. Apparently, most don’t have the time or money to invest in developing your idea into something publishable, so make sure it’s sparkling so that when you do get their attention you can seal the deal.
  • Find a publisher: It’s hard to get your manuscript in front of the right people so watch for literary speed-dating events where you get to sit face to face with publishers and agents to pitch your idea. This is how I secured my deal.
  • It will generally take a year from signing to release date. During that time the following steps take place:
    • Structural edit: to make sure the bones of the story are there and the general timeline and contents are all solid.
    • Copy edit: This is where an editor will go over your manuscript line by line and make minor amendments, fix grammar, point out any remaining gaps in your story that need explaining, or challenge any bits they think aren’t quite right. You will then be required to review and make changes as required.
    • Pages will then be typeset into book format
    • Proofreading takes place to make sure everything is squared away
    • Cover artwork is done, photos selected, etc
    • The manuscript will generally go to the printer around 6-8 weeks prior to the release date.
    • Distribution to sales outlets
    • The release of your book!
    • Fame, fortune, etc…

The process is lengthy but it’s hugely rewarding.

Good luck!

Laura’s book “Bewildered – leaving everything behind for 3,000km in the wild” is due for release 27 Aug, through Affirm Press.

Laura Waters is a freelance travel writer, author and speaker. A 3000km hike from one end of New Zealand in 2014 inspired her to quit her corporate job to pursue a long-held passion for writing and adventure.

Business Basics

DOs and DON’Ts of media famils

Learning to thrive