2020 MEA winners

The British Guild of Travel Writers announced the winners of the 2020 BGTW Members’ Excellence Awards in a special online event, BGTW’s Really Big Reveal, on 18 April 2021.

The BGTW Members’ Excellence Awards (MEAs) recognise the very best work of members in travel writing, photography, blogging and broadcasting, in a series of 13 categories judged by UK and international travel industry professionals.

This year the awards feature several new categories that represent the continuing evolution of travel coverage and the travel landscape. Congratulations to all the winners!

The winners

Travel Feature of the Year – UK

Nigel Tisdall, for ‘Breakfast with Breugel’, in Timeless

The judges said that this feature would make them all rush to book. The combination of Scotland’s incredible scenery, the art, and the hotel and area’s history is utterly compelling, and the description of the way the hotel came into being is fascinating and entertaining.

Travel Feature of the Year – non UK

Adrian Phillips, for ‘Mountains, Myths and Monsters’, for National Geographic Traveller

The judges said that the writer took them on a beautifully written and engrossing journey through the mountains and villages of Austria, cleverly weaving local myths and legends, history, pop-culture and humour into a story that never ventured into cliche, instead exploring a side of this region far from the travel writer tropes of storybook villages and beautiful alpine scenery.

Travel Feature of the Year – Regional and Specialist Media

Meera Dattani, for ‘Arctic Roll’, for Travel Weekly

The judges were unanimous in their choice, saying that the article delivers a sense of place that puts the reader right in the action, creates a clear picture of the Canadian Arctic town of Churchill, and vividly depicts engagement with local wildlife, particularly beluga whales.

The judges enjoyed this ‘portrait of place’ as built up through accurate information, good pace, active voice sentences, historic detail and direct quotes. They said the smart use of descriptive phrases resulted in a bright and concise read that does what you want a piece like this to do: inspire the reader to come and visit. 

Specialist Travel Feature of the Year – the Bryn Frank Award

Sue Watt, for ‘Pangolins in Peril’, for BBC Wildlife Magazine

The judges said that despite this being a sad story, the writer keeps it hopeful and gives the pangolins personality. The judges liked the lines about them rolling about in fresh zebra dung, and their tongues looking like elongated worms. It makes the reader care for them even more.

The judges made the point that although they might not go there and visit these pangolins, they already feel like they are there with the writer. They said the writer had packed in excellent detail about the ecology and hard work that has gone into saving these creatures, and that it was just the kind of first-person piece they’d enjoy on a Sunday morning with their coffee.

Special congratulations go to Ellie Cobb, whose article ‘A deep dive on the Great Barrier Reef: Can science and tourism save the reef?‘ for BBC Travel, wins Highly Commended.

Transport Feature of the Year – The Kenneth Westcott-Jones Award

James Stewart, for ‘Wacky Races from Tbilisi to the Caucasus’, in The Telegraph

The judges said this was a fun tale, with some inspired writing. The story began with humour and intrigue and good use of conflict – will they make it? – to drive the narrative along.

The judges said they enjoyed its crisp, pacey content, great anecdotes, and fresh, cliché-free descriptions, commenting that the writer employed great use of quotes and dialogue, and there was an entertaining undercurrent throughout the story. The judges summed everything up by saying they felt like they were along for the adventure!

Travel Book of the Year – The Adele Evans Award

Emma John, for Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical Journey in the American South published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson

The judges said the winning writer has a wonderfully light, amusing style, and yet she gets so much arcane, interesting material into the book. A whole world revealed, and it’s made us all want to visit the southern states more than ever. 

Travel Photo Feature of the Year

Simon Urwin, for ‘Another Eden’, published by Sidetracked Magazine

The judges said this outstanding winner told a story with the images, leaving you wanting to find out more, shot with an understanding of the landscape and its past. There was a flow of movement through the shoot, an originality in the way the landscapes were taken, which gave a strong sense of place.

The images concerning people and how they lived within that landscape, were shot with great sensitivity. The judges commented that this was a photographic shoot which gave the feature editor a great deal of choice on how to present the article to its best. For the non-travellers who might read articles to gain a great understanding of the world, the photography in this feature was informative, creative and original and would enrich one’s knowledge of that place.

Travel Blog Post of the Year

Bella Falk, for ‘Visiting the Falkland Islands on an Expedition Cruise’, in her blog ‘Passport & Pixels’

The judges said that this was a blog post that does everything a blog post should – and does it well. There’s plenty of personality from the author, some great humour, vivid descriptions and an original approach, but there’s also useful information for travellers.

It’s an excellent combination of the blogger’s personal story with the bigger picture, something that not many blogs do well, and it’s also visually appealing and of high quality overall.

Travel Broadcast of the Year

Cassam Looch, forHow to Take the Perfect Summer Road Trip in Italy’, broadcast for Culture Trip

The judges agreed that the winner of this category was clearly the standout entry. They commented that the broadcaster brought new interest and even a touch of enthusiasm and freshness to a subject like visiting Italian towns by car. The judges went on to say that the broadcast made it into a viewing experience that grabbed your interest as if never seeing Italy before.

Piling into the Fiat 500 with the broadcaster at the wheel would reveal an Italy of lifetime memories. Basing the whole broadcast on ‘The Italian Job’ provided a subtle reference point, continually revealing Italy in new and fresh ways with a narration that provided fresh insight.

BGTW Travel Blogger of the Year

Richard Collett, for ‘Travel Tramp

The judges said that the winner’s blog is, all round, a fantastic blog. Each post shows originality and creativity, the subject matter and angles are new and surprising, and the blogger’s personality and enthusiasm for travel shine through in every paragraph.

The blog has a high visual appeal and easy navigation, and incorporates useful information for travellers well. One judge said: “It’s the first time in years of judging that I’ve immediately subscribed to a blog while judging!”

BGTW Travel Broadcaster of the Year

Aaron Miller, for his podcast Armchair Explorer

There was a unanimous verdict from all three judges saying that the winner’s podcast work is compelling. Each program is a combination of guests and information strung together with a story that leads you through the podcast.

A trip down the Yukon is indicative of his storytelling talent. The Yukon is a long river, and the story carries you along, each section getting you ready for the for the next part of the narrative. Production value is excellent and makes it an easy listen.

BGTW Photographer of the Year

James Rushforth, for photography on destinations including Iceland, Italy and Romania

The judges, all professional photographers, said that the winner stood out because the images were all well composed, showing a great deal of technical skill and an awareness of atmosphere. The photographer had managed to capture a location, conveying a sense of place and originality.

The judges commented that the winner’s portfolio contained two of the best images in the competition; The ice cave, and a building lit with a golden light, set within a dramatic landscape. The judges said that for a picture editor images like this are a gift because of their quality and the way in which they convey an atmosphere which has instant appeal for the reader. They are images that are both intriguing and informative.

BGTW Travel Writer of the Year

James Stewart, for articles in the Sunday Times, the Saturday Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph

The judges said that from swimming in the Arctic Circle to journeying in Marco Polo’s footsteps in Tajikistan, our winner is an intrepid traveller and a formidable journalist.

If the art of travel writing is making the reader imagine they’re in on the journey, then anyone devoting time to our winner’s work will quickly decide they have a favourite new travelling companion. 


Travel Feature of the Year – UK

  • Sue Watt, for ‘Lake District: Saddle up and fall for the Fells’, in The Telegraph
  • James Stewart, for his piece ‘End of England’, published in Which Travel
  • Helen Ochyra, for ‘Over three months, I let Scotland slowly resuscitate me’, in The Telegraph
  • Jessica Vincent, for ‘A journey along England’s most picturesque river on a glorified lilo’, in The Telegraph
  • Mike Unwin, for ‘How to have a safari holiday in your back garden’, in The Telegraph Online

Travel Feature of the Year – non UK

  • Ellie Cobb, for ‘An extraordinary landscape at the edge of the world’, for BBC Travel
  • Jessica Vincent, for ‘Indigenous Women Are Publishing the First Maya Works in Over 400 Years’, for Atlas Obscura
  • Jon Holmes, for ‘Divine Comedy’, for The Sunday Times Travel
  • James Stewart, for ‘A Highway for a modern Marco Polo’, for The Sunday Telegraph
  • Claire Boobbyer, for ‘How to discover the thrilling side of Havana that inspired Graham Greene’, for The Sunday Telegraph

Travel Feature of the Year – Regional and Specialist Media

  • Lisa Kjellsson, for ‘Arctic Bath’, published in Sleeper
  • Rudolf Abraham, for ‘Montagnes du Jura’, for Outdoor Enthusiast
  • Ben Lerwill, for ‘What to do on the Inner Hebrides’ island of Mull’, for Travel Weekly
  • Gillian Thornton, for ‘Treasure Island’, for France Today
  • Emma Gregg, for ‘Protecting our Wildlife: Benson Kanyembo’, for Travel Africa

Specialist Travel Feature of the Year – the Bryn Frank Award

  • Simon Urwin, for ‘Pig ear sandwich: An iconic dish of the American South’, for BBC Travel
  • Ellie Cobb, for ‘A deep dive on the Great Barrier Reef: Can science and tourism save the reef?, for BBC Travel
  • William Gray, for ‘The Green Heart: Trees of Life’, for Travel Africa Magazine
  • Michael Unwin, for ‘The most amazing birdwatching in the world’, for The Times
  • Mark Andrews, for ‘Here in Shanghai, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel’, for The Telegraph

Transport Feature of the Year – The Kenneth Westcott-Jones Award

  • Jeannine Williamson, for ‘An exhilarating Atlantic crossing on the world’s largest square rigger’, in The Telegraph
  • Tristan Rutherford, for ‘From New York to Miami on James Bond’s favourite train’, in The Telegraph
  • Michael Howorth, for ‘Lickety Split’, published in On Board, from Plumb Publications
  • Simon Parker, for ‘Cycling Safari’, in The Saturday Telegraph
  • Emma Thomson, for ‘Life on the longest river’, in National Geographic Traveller UK

Travel Book of the Year – The Adele Evans Award

  • Helen Ochyra, for ‘Scotland Beyond the Bagpipes’, published by The Book Guild
  • Lindsay Sutton, for ‘Sands of Time’, published by Great Northern Books.

Travel Photo Feature of the Year

  • Michael Unwin, for ‘Elephants at the sharp end’, published by Travel Africa Magazine
  • Peter Ellegard, for ‘Impressions from Cambodia’, published by PlanetGolfReview.com
  • William Gray, for ‘Lemur Loving’, published by Wanderlust Magazine
  • Nori Jemil, for ‘In Pictures – Turkey’, published by National Geographic Traveller UK
  • Bella Falk, for ‘An abandoned British Island reclaimed by nature’, published by BBC Travel

Travel Blog Post of the Year

  • Richard Collett, for ‘The Long Read: The Last Cigar Rollers of Suchitoto’, in his blog ‘Travel Tramp’
  • Tim Bird, for ‘Finns don’t talk much and they don’t like crowds’, in his blog ‘Hands on Helsinki’
  • Susan Schwartz, for ‘My Unrequited Love for Harry’s Bar & the Bellini’, in her blog ‘Lush Life’
  • Stuart Forster, for ‘A Rhino Walk in Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park’, in his blog ‘Go Eat Do’
  • Paul Healy, for ‘Three Mohammeds and changing life in a Berber village’, in his blog ‘Anywhere We Roam’

Travel Broadcast of the Year

  • Jonathan Thompson, for ‘Billionaire’s Guide to Dubai’, for Tatler.com
  • Heidi Fuller-Love, for herBA Meet The Locals’ podcast to Malta, broadcast on British Airways inflight and off-board podcast
  • Aaron Miller, forGorilla Trekking in Rwanda with World-Leading Conservationist Praveen Moman’, broadcast on the Armchair Explorer Podcast
  • Adrian Phillips, for ‘James Martin’s Saturday Morning travel slot, broadcast on James Martin’s Saturday Morning, on ITV
  • Shafik Meghji, forA trip to the South Atlantic’, broadcast on The Rough Guide to Everywhere Podcast

Travel Blogger of the Year

  • Paul Healy, for ‘Anywhere We Roam’
  • Bella Falk, for ‘Passports & Pixels’
  • Alastair McKenzie, for ‘Mechtraveller’
  • Stuart Forster, for ‘Go Eat Do’
  • Claire Robinson, for ‘Weekend Candy’

Travel Broadcaster of the Year

  • Sarah Lee, for broadcasts on LiveShareTravel, RCI and Captivate
  • Heidi Fuller-Love, for broadcasts for British Airways
  • Susan Schwartz, for her podcast Lush Life
  • Simon Parker, for broadcasts on the BBC World Service

Photographer of the Year

  • Karoki Lewis, for photography on destinations including Ethiopia, India and Tibet
  • Simon Urwin, for photography on destinations including Japan, Qatar and South Sudan
  • Diana Jarvis, for photography on destinations including France, India and Zambia
  • William Gray, for photography on destinations including Botswana, California and Iceland
  • Tim Bird, for photography on destinations including India

Travel Writer of the Year

  • Emma Thomson, for articles in National Geographic Traveller UK and The Telegraph
  • Jon Holmes, for articles in Sunday Times Travel and The Telegraph Travel
  • Tristan Rutherford, for articles in Mojeh Magazine, Camper & Nicholson’s Magazine, The Telegraph, and Boat International
  • Adrian Phillips, for articles in National Geographic Traveller, The Telegraph and Kidding Around: Tales of Travelling with Children
  • Claire Boobbyer, for articles in Bellhop Magazine, Sunday Telegraph and CubaSí Magazine