Australia's top travel writers and public relations professionals were honoured at the annual ASTW Awards for Excellence at a gala awards ceremony held at Durbanville Hills in Cape Town. The top writer accolade, Travel Writer of the Year, which is judged from a selection of three stories by the writer, was awarded to John Borthwick. John, has been a member of the ASTW since 1990 and his award-winning stories were published in both the travel sections of The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald's Traveller section.

Finalists in the hotly contested award were Kerry van der Jagt and Craig Tansley. John was also named the winner of the Best International Story over 1000 words.

While having received awards in the past, John was particularly thrilled to receive the awards this year thanking the sponsor South African Tourism, the editors for their support in publishing his stories, the PRs and tourism boards for getting him to the places and congratulated his fellow finalists saying it was an honour to be on any step on a podium with them.

Photographer of the Year went to Dan Avila for images published in Vacations & Travel magazine and on Dan was delighted with his win, saying “ I am extremely excited to have won this award - it is a huge honour.”

The top PR Accolade, Communicator of the Year, was awarded to Klick Communications. Kim McKay Founder and Director was in Cape Town to accept the award, saying “Klick Communications is honoured to be recognised by the esteemed Australian Society of Travel Writers. Communications Team of the Year is a prestigious award that we are so proud to call ours for 2016”.

These prestigious awards are now in their 23rd year and are a highlight of the annual ASTW Convention for the ASTW, with over 70 guests travelling from across Australia to attend.

Other categories included Best Family Travel Story, Best Travel Broadcaster, Best Australian Story and Best Food Travel Story. Categories, winners and finalists are detailed below.

“The ASTW members represent the leading writers, editors, publishers, content creators and public relations professionals of the Australian travel industry.  Over 300 entries were received across the 17 Award categories with an exceptional calibre of entrants,” said ASTW President Danielle Lancaster. 

“There were 3 finalists for each category, and being named a finalist is an absolute honour in itself. I would like to congratulate all who were named as being the best in their field and I would also like to thank each of the sponsors together with South African Tourism, who were the major sponsor of this year's convention. We also thank the many judges who gave their time to judge the awards. This year, we had esteemed judges from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and the USA with many commenting on the high quality of work.”

The Jack Butters Award is an honorary award given to someone who has made an important contribution to the ASTW and this year was awarded to the team that created and ran the ASTW Trivia Night for the past 20 years – Mike Smith, David McGonigal, Glenn A. Baker and Laura Spiers.

Jack Butters, was the founding president of the Australian Society of Travel Writers in 1975 and a Life Member, who championed the need to define the ethics that govern responsible travel writing.

Now, 41 years later his vision, aspirations and ambition for the future of the ASTW have been more than realised and continue to flourish and gain global recognition. While the travel industry has changed dramatically over the years, members have learned to adapt to the ongoing challenges of a profession, and an industry, that is constantly evolving, especially in social media.