British Guild of Travel Writers
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (October 2014)|
The British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW) was formed in 1960. It is a membership organisation that admits authors whose work focuses on travel. It also includes among its membership many other professionals who generate travel-related content for print, broadcast and online media. The membership, which now numbers over 200 individuals, thus includes not only authors of travel literature and guide book writers, but also journalists, editors, photographers and broadcasters. Many BGTW members also contribute to blogs, websites and social media.
The Guild's registered office is at Salisbury in England. A small secretariat is based in London.
Membership and benefits
Membership is in principle restricted to travel media professionals who take a genuinely independent approach to the places about which they write and are not beholden to any national or regional marketing organisations, public relations companies or tour organisers. Members are, in the main, citizens of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland, or foreign writers resident in Britain and Ireland who work for or with British media. Would-be members are required to demonstrate that they are bona fide travel writers (or other content creators) who rely substantially on income from their creative work, and that their interest in and professional commitment to travel writing has been sustained over at least three years. Many members are self-employed, while others are employed by newspapers, magazines or other media.
As the premier UK-based organisation for travel media professionals, the Guild provides for collegial exchange of views between members as well as facilitating mutual support, a year-round programme of meetings for members, legal advice, and training and professional development. The British Guild of Travel Writers does from time to time contribute to public policy debates where it judges that the issues at stake may have an effect on the market for good travel writing or have implications for the well-being and interests of the Guild members. In 2009, for example, it highlighted the possible negative effects on reader choice of the decision of the British retail chain W H Smith to stock at certain of its stores only travel titles available from a single distributor.
The Guild holds an annual conference, restricted to members, which has latterly been held in the Scottish Highlands (2007), Malta (2008), York (2009), Tenerife (2010), Mussanah in Oman (2011), Boulogne on the north coast of France (2012) and Zakopane in Poland (2013). The most recent AGM took place in Weimar in Thuringia. It was sponsored by the German National Tourist Board and its regional partners in Thuringia.
A monthly restricted circulation newsletter – with the title Globetrotter – is prepared and distributed to members. The BGTW Yearbook, usually published in February each year, is circulated widely within the UK travel trade and is also available for purchase by the public.
Members in good standing are eligible to stand for office on the Guild's committee, which consists of about ten members elected by the full membership. Members who are no longer so actively professionally involved in travel writing, whether by virtue of having retired or for other reasons, are able to retain an affiliation with the Guild through the organisation's Associate Membership scheme. All full members are required to show each year that they still satisfy the criteria for full membership.
Scope of members' work
Texts, broadcasts and images created by BGTW members appear virtually daily in the UK media and on the Internet, and to a lesser extent in non-UK print and broadcast media, with Guild members reporting on travel and tourism issues from across the world. Many Guild members are established writers of guide books and narrative travel books, others frequently lecture on their specialist areas, while yet others comment critically on the history of travel or travel writing or on contemporary issues in transport and tourism.
BGTW members write about destinations; they write about journeys, and they write about travel issues. The latter routinely include public transport, civil aviation, overland travel, ecotourism, slow travel, travel technology, consumer protection in the travel industry, medical tourism and travel medicine, and the development of and prospects for travel literature.
With the opportunities in travel writing shifting further away from print journalism, a diminishing number of BGTW members would describe themselves as journalists per se. But there are nonetheless still many members contributing to mainstream media, and their work is generally cited on the Media Standards Trust website journalisted.com. Narrative travel books written by current BGTW members have won the Dolman Best Travel Book Award and the Wales Book of the Year. The BGTW considers applications from those who "weave words with style, take wonderful pics or cut a dash in other travel media genres."
The British Guild of Travel Writers requires that its members subscribe to a code of conduct. That code of conduct precludes members from seeking or accepting complimentary or reduced rate flights or accommodation in exchange for a gratuitous mention of the providers of such facilities. The acceptance of any assistance is thus on the understanding that members will report freely and fairly on their travels, never allowing their judgement to be swayed by any assistance offered or accepted. Many individual members adhere, as part of their day-to-day work, to much stricter guidelines, such as those detailed in Clauses 147 thru 151 of the New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism. Under that code, travel writers "may not accept free or discounted services or preferential treatment from any element of the travel industry." Under this, and many similar codes of conduct, travel writers do not reveal their identities as such, thereby ensuring (as the New York Times puts it) "that they will experience the same conditions as an ordinary consumer." The credence that might be given to such codes is a matter for debate within the British Guild of Travel Writers, but all members subscribe to the Guild*s requirement to "report objectively and fairly."
To maintain their membership of the British Guild of Travel Writers, members are required to demonstrate each fall that, within the preceding twelve months, they have reached a minimal threshold of continuing professional activity. This is presently defined as a minimum of twelve properly remunerated full-length feature articles (not snippets) or one full-length book.
BGTW awards for innovative developments in tourism
Through its annual Tourism Awards, the Guild recognises innovation and excellence in the tourism industry, not just in the British Isles but also more widely. The awards are reserved for projects that make a creative contribution to the experience and understanding of travellers. The project or idea must be environmentally and socially responsible.
Tourism initiatives that have won a BGTW Tourism Award include Turner Contemporary in Margate, England, the New Acropolis Museum in Athens and the Haida Heritage Centre in British Columbia, Canada. The recipients vary considerably in size and stautus, ranging from major international initiatives to small communitz ventures. One round of awards recognised Switzerland Mobility, an initiative to promote activity-based explorations of Switzerland (viz. in particular cycling but also hiking, skating, canoeing, etc.); ConCERT Cambodia, a non-profit ínitiative in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which encourages socially responsible tourism in Cambodia; and the former home of Charles Darwin at Down House in Kent (England) which has been sensitively restored to create an engaging educational experience exploring aspects of Darwin's life and work.
The award presentations are made each November at an annual awards dinner in London hosted on the eve of the World Travel Market (WTM).
At the annual awards dinner, the Guild also makes awards to its own members, recognising excellence in various categories of travel writing, as well as for travel photography, radio and television programmes related to travel, etc. The leading award is for the Travel Writer of the Year, based upon a portfolio of about half a dozen published articles and evaluated by an independent panel of assessors.
There are about ten other awards made each year.
The Guild may also, from time to time, make a Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who has made, over a sustained period, a notable and positive contribution to the development of worthwhile travel, either through published work or other initiatives. Previous recipients of the BGTW Lifetime Achievement Award include Hilary Bradt, the founder of the pioneering travel guidebook company Bradt Travel Guides, and the distinguished British travel writers Eric Newby and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Each year, the Guild supports the work of one, or sometimes two, charities. The charity adopted by BGTW for 2010, its fiftieth anniversary year, is The Travel Foundation, a UK-based charity that works with local communities to ensure that tourism initiatives are sustainable.
Since 2009, the British Guild of Travel Writers has run an annual travel writing competition to encourage new writing talent.
Notable present and former members
Over more than half a century, the total number of writers (and other travel media professionals) who have, at one time or another, been members of the BGTW exceeds 1000. Notable members, past and present, include Somerset Maugham (the Honorary President when the Guild was founded in 1960), Maeve Binchy, Egon Ronay, Charlie Connelly, Bill Birkett, Duncan J. D. Smith and Hilary Bradt.
- "BGTW Bloggerati". BGTW Website Announcement. 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- "BGTW Members on Twitterati". BGTW Website Announcement. 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- "W H Smiths misguided on travel guides". BGTW Press Release. 7 June 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "BGTW Yearbook". BGTW Yearbook Announcement. 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "About Us". BGTW Website. 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "BGTW Code of Conduct". BGTW Website. 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism" (PDF). New York Times Company (NYTCO) Website. 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- "BGTW Code of Conduct Clause 1". BGTW Website. 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "Tourism Awards Criteria". BGTW Tourism Awards Criteria. 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- "Tourism awards winners 2009". BGTW Press Release. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- "BGTW 2010 Charity". Travel Foundation Announcement. May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010.