BGTW AGM & Convention Report

Eighty members of the BGTW travelled to Malta in March as guests of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).

Eighty members of the BGTW travelled to Malta in March as guests of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA). Staying at the Radisson Blu hotel in St Julian’s, a coastal town situated some 20 minutes north of the capital, Valletta, members enjoyed a full programme of fam trips and other events, all aimed at highlighting the many different reasons for visiting the islands.

The quality of the hospitality offered to the Guild by MTA was exemplary, with Tolene van der Merwe (UK and Ireland Manager with MTA), Amy Skelding (Account Director with MTA’s UK PR agency Finn Partners), Carina Dimech (Valletta-based Marketing Manager with MTA) and their respective teams really delivering a special experience.

But equally, there was an awareness that not everyone who had hoped to travel to Malta had been able to do so. A summary of the reasons that led to that is shown below.

On the first full day in Malta, a morning round-table discussion, held in the hotel, gave members, both in person and via Zoom, the opportunity to discuss a range of topics that affect the Guild. The key points arising from these discussions are being collated and will be circulated in due course.

A presentation by Guild member Sarah Tucker offered a timely reminder that Edward de Bono, the physician, psychologist, author, inventor and broadcaster who is said to have originated the term lateral thinking, was born in Malta. Sarah, who has been researching his life, highlighted de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ as a way of promoting parallel thinking.

The formal Annual General Meeting of the British Guild of Travel Writers Limited took place in the afternoon. Twenty-two members joined the meeting via Zoom. Here’s a run-through of the main elements of the AGM agenda.

The reports highlighting the work carried out by the ‘old’ Board of directors, namely Meera Dattani, Antonia Windsor, Sarah Siese, Kav Dadfar, Diana Jarvis and Stuart Render, were approved. Thanks were given to the ‘old’ Board for the work they had achieved.

A Special Resolution increasing membership fees by £10 for full members and £5 for associate/academic members, the first increase since 2015, was approved. However, one member queried why fees should increase when member benefits, in terms of events and other activities were fewer, and one member queried why the increase wasn’t higher, noting that an increase of £10 per person would only bring in a modest £2,500 a year in additional income. Joint Chair Sarah Siese and Stuart Render both highlighted their commitment, and that of the ‘new’ Board, to bring the Guild back on track after a few bumpy years caused largely by the pandemic. They stressed that in having a full Board, including the new roles of Sponsorship Director and Director of Communications, together with a new Board Secretary, the Guild was arguably its strongest for some time.

Each year the Board proposes an honorarium to be paid to the directors and off-Board executives who deliver the work of the Guild. Noting the need to be financially prudent as the Guild emerges from the hiatus caused by the pandemic the Board had reduced the overall amount from £13,500 in the previous year to £7,800. A discussion noted that honoraria is in no way a reflection of the hours put in by directors and off-Board executives, more a small reward for that time and commitment. The honoraria was agreed.

Members heard that one of the objectives of the new Joint Chair and Board is to review the processes and procedures used by the Guild to ensure effective and professional governance. A number of Special Resolutions were proposed by the Board as part of this. These included changing parts of the Guild’s Articles of Association to reflect the arrival of a Joint Chair. Talking to this, both Sarah Siese and Stuart Render noted the tremendous benefit of the shared role, especially with a full Board of directors and the time needed to manage the raft of governance and member issues currently on the ‘to do’ list. All the Special Resolutions relating to this were approved.

The Board had also proposed strengthening the Guild’s Regulations. The Articles of Association provide the legal framework on which the Guild operates. The Regulations are the detail.

Changes to Regulation C relating to the Code of Conduct of members were approved, as were changes to Regulation D, Procedures of the Disciplinary Sub-committee. In the latter case, the revised wording strengthens the action to be taken should any member(s) bring, or be likely to bring, the reputation of the Guild into disrepute. These Special Resolutions were approved.

A Special Resolution introduced by former Chair Meera Dattani added a new sentence to strengthen part of Regulation C, Code of Conduct. The resolution was approved and now includes the following:

The BGTW is an equal opportunity membership organisation with a zero tolerance policy to any form of discrimination, bullying, intimidation or harassment (online or offline).’

A question from the floor asked what the zero tolerance policy was and where it could be read. It was noted that this is a policy of approach rather than a defined document.

Two proposals by member Stuart Forster, one to abolish honoraria payments and one to introduce payment to members when undertaking tasks or projects, generated much comment. After much discussion, the voting resulted in both proposals not being approved.

Under general topics, Diana Jarvis, former Board director and now Sustainability Lead working with the new Board, updated members on the Glasgow Declaration pledge proposals. The Guild has signed the Glasgow Declaration and Diana will be circulating a document in due course to offer guidance on how the Guild and its members can carry out their work with due regard for sustainable travel.

Peter Rosenfeld introduced a topic asking whether directors are aware of their legal responsibilities when accepting a directorship.

Full details of all of the elements of the AGM, together with a breakdown of numbers of those who voted for, against or abstained on each item on the agenda, will be in the AGM minutes. The Secretariat advises these will be online by the end of April.

Renate Ruge
By: Renate Ruge Journalist, photographer & content provider
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Renate is a specialist in quality content creation in the travel and lifestyle space. This highly experienced and well-travelled freelance editor and journalist has excellent publishing credentials and an international background, working in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Toronto, and New York. Renate is now based in the North of England’s Ribble Valley near Manchester and is frequently in the capital for work.
Renate encapsulates the essence of what’s special about the places she visits, both in her creative images and descriptive writing style. She especially enjoys meeting the people that make places great to bring her travel pieces alive, passionate about revealing local insider tips about the destinations she visits and giving the reader a sense of ‘being there’.
Previously editor of Food and Travel and more recently Journey magazine, Renate specialises in travel writing and photography, often with a foodie focus. You can see her work in: The Telegraph, The Times and Sunday Times, Sainsbury’s Magazine, Supper, Compass, Journey, Cunarder, Visit Britain magazine, France magazine and Saga Magazine.
Renate describes herself as a ‘quasi-Aussie’ and has dual nationality after living in Australia for 14 years, where her work has also been published in The Sunday Telegraph, Renegade Collective, Qantas The Australian Way magazine, Vacations & Travel, Australian Traveller, Woman’s Day, Spa Life, Sydney Morning Herald Traveller, Easy Jet, and box magazine.
Growing up with a German father, Renate’s love of travel started early, spending summer holidays in Germany and a gap year in Berlin, while at London university. She’s since travelled to over 50 countries and counting. Adventures include trekking in the snow, spotting wolves in Yellowstone National Park USA, paddling with reef sharks in Far North Queensland, cruising around Ayers Rock on a Harley Davidson in Australia, riding a camel across the desert at sunset in Dubai, camping on safari in Tanzania, sailing up the Nile, spa hopping in New Zealand and making her own wine in Portugal's Algarve.
Follow her on social media or get in touch by email as Renate is always up for new adventures and exciting story opportunities and collaborations.