The judging panel for the TravMedia Awards comprises many of the most high-profile travel journalists and editors, PR professionals and travel industry executives in the UK today. Drawn from national newspapers, magazines, trade media, industry bodies, travel brands, and leading PR agencies, our judges possess the perfect credentials for making the big decisions.
Amanda is a well-known and respected face in the global travel industry, with more than 30 years’ experience in the business. Throughout her career, Amanda has specialised in strategy, communication and marketing with leading tour operators and the transport sector before founding one of Europe’s leading communication agencies - MMGY Hills Balfour in 1998. After such a difficult chapter, the power of storytelling and the role journalists will play as the world opens up has never been more important, so Amanda is absolutely delighted to be a judge on this year’s TravMedia Awards panel.
Andrew McConnell is the Head of Media at the UK Civil Aviation Authority. He has worked in the travel and transport sector for more than 30 years. Andrew’s career began in the rail sector during the British Rail era, later being involved in the launch of Eurostar at Waterloo International Terminal. Since 2007, Andrew has specialised in communications, with his first media relations role at Heathrow Express before moving on to be Head of Corporate Affairs for easyJet, which saw him involved in the company’s substantive growth and launch of a charitable partnership with UNICEF, which to date has raised over £11 million. Andrew has also worked at other high-profile organisations, including Flybe, Malaysia Airlines, Virgin Trains and The Department for Transport. His time at the UK Civil Aviation Authority has seen him lead the media and digital team through some of the biggest events in UK aviation, including the collapse of Thomas Cook and Monarch, the regulators’ Covid-19 response and the organisation becoming the UK’s spaceflight regulator.
Andy first joined the Association in 2006 after many years in the travel industry, including as a travel agent. Andy re-launched CLIA's travel agent programme in the UK and later extended it to European countries, during which time agent and cruise line membership reached record levels. CLIA now offers a multi-layered programme that encompasses blended learning to recognise different learning styles. Last year Andy was recognised by Travel Weekly UK for his outstanding contribution to the UK travel industry, and in 2021 was promoted to Managing Director.
Barry Neild is the Global Editor for CNN Travel, supervising all travel-related content across CNN's digital products. Based in London, he helms a team of staff reporters and international freelancers, working closely with CNN Travel's teams in New York, Atlanta, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Neild joined CNN in 2006, working for its digital news operations before switching to its Travel team in 2015. Prior to working at CNN he worked as a correspondent for the AFP news agency, reporting headline news stories from destinations including Afghanistan, Indonesia, China and Iraq.
Caitlin has built 11 years of experience working in PR across sectors including fashion, lifestyle, and travel. Caitlin has worked for VisitBritain for over six years, promoting the UK as a destination to visit today, connecting with partners to promote and develop the visitor economy to a global audience for the past 6 years. Currently she leads on creating, implementing and measuring global PR strategies, and defines how to extend the brand Britain story across owned channels to engage the best prospect audiences for Britain in order to drive immediacy to visit and drive economic growth across Britain.
Debbie Flynn is the UK managing partner and global travel practice lead for FINN Partners and has been in the UK travel sector for 35 years, 25 years' leading the agency she founded, Brighter Group before it became part of FINN Partners and 10 years at British Airways. Cited by the PR Week Power Book as ‘the well networked travel supremo', Debbie was listed as one of the top 10 PR influencers in the travel sector for the third year in a row this year.
Having worked in the travel and tourism industry since 1998, Esther Bell has directed PR campaigns for an enviable list of clients, including countries, US states, hotels, spas, bars and restaurants. Esther set up HELLOMrsBell, a boutique PR agency in 2012 and specialises in the luxury, lifestyle, and travel sectors, with a penchant for hotels - be they independents or global hotel chains. A graduate in business and marketing, and a driven optimist, she is passionate about truth in travel. Esther is a natural connector, with a black book filled with names and numbers of some of the most outstanding professionals throughout the UK’s travel and tourism industry.
Florian is Business Development Director of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chapter, a membership organisation comprising 70+ public and private sector members. His role sees him marketing the Caribbean across the UK and Europe. The CTO Chapter delivers over 40 activities annually, targeting media, travel trade, tourism stakeholders and consumers in the UK & key European source markets for the Caribbean region. Florian has organised high-level projects at the ministerial level. These include activations to the European Commission in Brussels and networking forums involving both government and non-government organisations for tourism ministers, executives, and media. Achieving a distinction for his master’s degree in International Affairs majoring in Tourism, and travelling the globe extensively working on international tourism projects in five continents, has made him a trilingual expert in Tourism Development. Florian's ultimate career goal is to contribute to the blueprint which will lead to a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable future for all through tourism.
Graeme leads ABTA’s external and internal communications, including PR and media relations, marketing communications, events and brand stewardship. Joining ABTA in 2020, he was previously Head of Communications for Waitrose & Partners. He brings to the role nearly 30 years’ experience of working with major organisations. www.abta.com
James Treacy leads the PR for luxury travel company A&K and its brands. Previous to this he held roles at Tourism Australia and a leading PR agency working on clients including Air New Zealand and L’Oréal. He was named as one of the top 10 travel PRs in the UK by industry magazine, PR Week.
Jane Dunford is Deputy Head of Travel at The Guardian and a freelance editor/writer (and yoga teacher). She has been working in travel for over 15 years and is particularly interested in sustainable, environmentally-friendly travel that supports nature and local communities, as well as wellbeing and adventure. She also helps run reforestation non-profit Forests Without Frontiers.
Jim is a founding Director of Black Diamond and over the past 28 years has led the company’s transformation from an extreme sports production company to one of the most respected full service travel and tourism marketing agencies in the UK. Jim is also a driving force in the creation of International Tourism Group, Europe's first fully integrated multinational tourism marketing and PR agency with seven offices across six countries.
Included in PR Week’s 2024 Power Book for the sixth year running, Jules is highlighted as “a leading figure in the travel comms space with particular expertise in tourist boards.” Jules is one of the most respected and well-known PR practitioners in the travel industry with almost 25 years in the field. She combines strategic consultancy and a commercial mindset with senior media relationships and a creative vision, leading a talented team devising bespoke solutions to deliver exceptional results. She has served on the PRCA Council, been vice-chairman of the PRCA Travel and Tourism Group and is a regular judge for the PRCA Dare and PR Week Awards. She has sat on the advisory committee of the Travel Media Awards since its inception.
Kate has been CEO of UKHospitality, the powerful voice representing the hospitality sector, since its inception in 2018. She previously worked as CEO and Strategic Affairs Director of the ALMR. Kate is Chair of the Tourism Alliance and co-Chair of the London Tourism Recovery Board, representing the needs of the wider tourism sector in discussions with Government and the Mayor of London. She sits on the Government’s Tourism, Hospitality and Food & Drink Sector Councils and has previously Chaired the London Night-time Commission. She is a Board member of Best Bar None, PASS and is a trustee at Hospitality Action. In July 2021, she was appointed as the first Government Disability Ambassador for hospitality, promoting inclusivity. Kate was also appointed co-Chair of the London & Partners’ Tourism Advisory Group in November 2022. Kate initially worked as a researcher in the House of Commons and European Parliament on food, employment and environmental policy before joining Whitbread in Strategic Affairs. She has extensive experience as a political and strategic communications consultant and is a graduate of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and Kings College London.
Kat is founder and Global Executive Creative Director of One Green Bean, a Big Little Network of award-winning earned-media specialists. The business first launched in 2007 in Sydney, Australia where it held the title of PR Agency of the Year for over a decade. Kat launched the London office in 2015 and more recently its Amsterdam presence in Spring 2021. Kat’s Big Little Agency philosophy sees clients benefit from both the unrivalled commitment to creativity and agility of a boutique operation, plus the reach, reliability and rigor of a global network, which it achieves via shareholder, Havas. Today its capabilities span creative, digital, communications strategy, social media and content production. In her role as Global ECD, Kat is actively involved in a range of UK, EMEA and Global clients and has a deep specialism in travel and tourism. Category experience includes Virgin Atlantic, Hotels.com, Expedia, TUI, Virgin Voyages, Tourism Australia, Visit Jersey and Qatar Tourism.
Lisa Minot is Head of Travel at The Sun - heading up the newly merged Sun Travel team and working across both print and digital platforms. She has been at the Sun since 1991, appointed Travel Editor in 1999 and appears regularly on TV and Radio as a travel expert.
Liz joined the TUI UK and Ireland communications team in September 2016, initially responsible for all proactive consumer communications. In 2020 her remit grew and she now assumes responsibility for all communications, including crisis communications, corporate and consumer PR, alongside leading the engagement and internal communications for the 12,000 strong workforce. She leads a team of 15 communication professionals. Liz is passionate about demonstrating the importance of effective communications to an organisation and is proud to have always worked in the leisure, tourism and travel industry for her whole career. Prior to joining TUI, Liz worked for Merlin Entertainments, looking after Public Relations for leading leisure brands, LEGOLAND Parks and Resorts, The London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park.
With over 10 years’ experience in luxury hospitality and international travel, Marine is Head of PR at Atout France, works with a team of 4 and is responsible for all internal and external PR work of the French Tourism Board in the UK & Ireland.
Mark Palmer is a Fleet Street veteran who has worked variously at the Evening Standard, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express and is currently Travel & Property Editor at the Daily Mail. He is the author of two books – one about football, the other a history of Clarks shoes. He lives in London and the Scottish Borders. His list of banned words for all journalists and PRs has become legendary.
Myriam, a Swiss national, worked in Singapore for five years before moving to London at the beginning of 2020 to pursue her master studies in luxury hospitality management. She joined Switzerland Tourism as Head of Media and Communications UK & Ireland the same year. Her career has been in corporate communications at large Swiss enterprises, international companies including PR agencies, and she has developed extensive experience in the travel and airline industry in recent years. She’s always trying to come up with a creative twist to promote Switzerland as a holiday, travel and conference destination!
Natalie has amassed almost 20 years’ experience in the industry. Natalie has worked in broadcast, agencies and in-house, and has experience across multiple disciplines including; PR, social, influencer, brand marketing, internal comms, experiential, sponsorship, partnerships and events. Natalie has led global and regional teams, and has international experience having worked in the US for three years. Natalie is passionate about travel and has specialised in this vertical for the last 13 years, working at leading brands such as Air New Zealand, VisitEngland, IHG, Trip.com and now Expedia Brands including; Expedia, Hotels.com and Vrbo.
Since embarking on his career in travel PR in 2001, Nat has built a deep knowledge of the travel industry and an extensive contacts book. Meticulous when it comes to meeting – and exceeding objectives, he combines great creative flair, a wordsmith’s passion for storytelling and a keen eye for brand synergies with a sharp analytical approach and acute business sense. Over 20+ years, Nat has led campaigns for mixed use and real estate developments, major tour operators, national flag carriers, iconic luxury spas and resorts, and hotel brands large and small. Nat’s career highs include ziplining in St Lucia and a white-knuckle helicopter tour of Réunion, while its lowest point was reached on a group trip to Jordan: floating in the Dead Sea 430m below sea level.
A former BBC News presenter, Virgin Atlantic and Eurostar Comms Director, Paul Charles is one of the global travel industry’s foremost leaders and analysts. He is founder and CEO of The PC Agency, a leading luxury travel and tourism consultancy, and is much sought-after by governments, travel and tourism brands for his industry insight. Paul was at the forefront of the coronavirus crisis, appearing as a leading commentator and adviser about the travel and tourism sector, offering vital data and insight into global travel decision-making and government policies. Paul and The PC Agency, which advises C-Group leaders, hotels, airlines, tourism boards, tour operators and cruiselines about their consumer, corporate, crisis and digital reputations, have been consistently named the Most Influential in Travel by PR Week, for six years running in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Paul has been named PR Professional of The Year, twice, by PR Week in 2004 and by the TravMedia Awards in 2022.
Although he finds it hard to believe, Phil has accrued 25 years of international travel PR and communications experience encompassing destinations, travel technology, mass market and specialist tour operating, aviation, cruise and more – both agency and inhouse. He is currently UK communications lead for global travel services provider dnata Travel Group, with responsibility for its corporate and internal communications, and its UK consumer portfolio of Travel Republic, Travelbag, Netflights, Sunmaster and the trade-only Gold Medal, Pure Luxury, Cruise Plus and Incredible Journeys brands. He lives in Brighton and enjoys making acerbic comments on social media.
Pippa joined TTG Media as features writer in 2006, later becoming Features Editor, and then Editor of the weekly magazine between 2014 and 2017. In her role as Editorial Director, she now steers a team of 16 editorial staff, across TTG Media’s print magazines, digital channels and events. TTG Media’s mission is to promote a smarter, better, fairer travel industry, with TTG magazine still at the heart of the business. Pippa appears regularly on TV and radio as a travel expert and was named Team Leader of the Year by the PPA in 2020. TTG magazine was named Trade Publication of the Year at the TravMedia Awards 2022.
Qin Xie is a freelance journalist and editor, specialising in food and travel. She was the acting travel editor at The Independent and led the digital travel desks at The Sun and Metro.co.uk before that. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in The Times, The Independent, CNN Travel, National Geographic Travel and others. Alongside her journalism work, she also writes Money Talk (heymoneytalk.co.uk), a personal finance newsletter for freelancers.
Rae is a freelance PR consultant with more than two decades' experience across travel, lifestyle and corporate comms. As well as her extensive in-house and agency experience in London, Rae has also held prestigious roles within the tourism industry in Asia, Australia and Canada. Her expertise spans domestic and international tourism boards, airlines, hotels, tour operators and cruise lines
Multi-national Serena founded the award-winning SUITCASE remotely while in her third year at NYU. Her accolades include being named as Forbes 30 under 30, 25 under 25 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard, winning a Woman of the Future Award for media and Natwest's Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is also one of the co-founders of the #CookFor movement and cookbooks which generated global awareness for Syrian and Ukranian crises and raised over £3m for Unicef and other charities.
As the Director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in the UK for the past six years, Sharon Ehrlich Bershadsky leads the marketing efforts to attract tourists from the UK to Israel. With a background in foreign affairs, media relations, and partnership building, Sharon has a track record of success in creating collaborations and managing teams. In her previous role as Marketing Coordinator for the European desk at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, Sharon managed diverse projects for events including pride week, fashion week and culinary expeditions, together with coordinating the execution of a new flight directive which enticed new carriers to begin flying to Israel.
Entrepreneurship, travel, and an intrinsic, inquisitive nature have always been the pillars of Sofia’s extensive career history. Sofia set up global production house NEEDaFIXER using her first-hand knowledge of the media industry. To this day, NEEDaFIXER produces 300+ films, documentaries, television shows and commercials annually: addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges including climate change, sustainability, and economic diversity. In addition to her media background, Sofia chaired the European Travel Commission in Asia for 3 years, overseeing the marketing campaigns of 28 European countries. Afterwards, she spent 7 years as the Head of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) in Japan and the UK. Capitalising on her experience in marcomms, Sofia established PRM Global Group, a leading creative marcomms agency. As CEO, she continues to produce consistent results for clients and brands worldwide, producing consistent and sustainable results in both the public and private sector.
Stuart is Tourism Australia’s PR Manager for the UK & Northern Europe and has worked in tourism marketing and PR in both Europe and his native Australia. He has previously led both inhouse and agency teams representing airlines, tourism boards, OTAs and global hotel and resort brands, among others. Originally a Sydneysider, he has called London home for the past nine years.
Tolene is originally from South Africa, where her career began in tour operations and hospitality. After moving to London, she progressed in key industry roles before becoming Hub Head at South African Tourism’s London office, heading up operations for five years and helping spearhead confidence-building campaigns that drove interest in South Africa from the UK and Irish markets. In 2019 Tolene joined the Malta Tourism Authority as Director: UK & Ireland, maintaining Malta’s high profile during the challenges of COVID, when she and her team worked tirelessly in adjusting, rebooking, shifting, and communicating changes on a daily basis. Presently she’s enjoying the fruits of Malta’s new-found success as a sustainable travel destination.
Having started her career in PR, Tracey has worked in the travel industry for over 25 years across multiple disciplines for both public and private sector entities. In 2000 She was a founding Director of an early digital marketing agency dotcom PR which won Docklands Business of the Year. In 2006, she set up the Gibraltar Conference Bureau which was amalgamated into the structure of the current Gibraltar Tourist Board, of which she is the current UK Head. As Chair of the Association of National Tourist Offices and Representatives- ANTOR, which consists of over 60 UK officially represented destinations, Tracey steers a global Board voicing the work of Tourist Board activity and development in the UK.
Uwern Jong (he/him) is Experientialist®-in-Chief and co-Founder at OutThere magazine, a multi-award luxury and experiential travel journal rooted in its brand values of diversity, discovery and discernment. A luxury travel expert, hotel aficionado and inclusive and intersectional tourism advocate, Uwern was recently awarded by the Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) as LGBTQ+ Travel Trailblazer of the Year and by Walpole (the association of British luxury brands) as one of the top 50 most influential people in British luxury.