Southern writer and Auckland photographer scoop the top prizes at the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards

19 August 2016 – Auckland: Julie Orr-Wilson of Clinton won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award and Ilan Wittenberg of Auckland took the Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award, presented tonight at the Travel Media Awards Gala Dinner at the Heritage Auckland’s Grand Tearoom.

The Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards are organised by Travcom (New Zealand Travel Communicators) to celebrate excellence in travel writing and photography.

Orr-Wilson took top spot with her story Getting by without Language published in the Otago Daily Times.

The writing judge was Alastair Carthew, a New Zealander who has lived in Thailand for the last 15 years, working as a journalist in newspapers, magazines, radio and television and as an airline business executive, lecturer and consultant around Asia. He has written on travel for international magazines such as Tatler and Prestige and national newspapers, such as The Nation (Thailand), edited and written industry websites and run newsletters in the tourism and hospitality industries. He has contributed to and edited books on journalism and the environment in Asia and lectured on public relations New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. He is a former chief parliamentary correspondent for Television New Zealand and New Zealand correspondent for Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor.

Carthew said “this story stood out for its humour, some of it self-deprecating; generous and creative use of quotes, its objectivity toward the subject, its feeling of being there and its human element. The writing is spare, not overly descriptive or dramatic, yet vividly illustrates a story full of colour and clever use of words to describe the most normal of events. It was not just a travelogue, more an evocative journey by the writer who displays an enticing ability to take the reader with them in pursuit of an end objective.”

Alastair Carthew judged all travel writing categories excluding the New Travel Writer of the Year Award, which was judged by NZ Herald staff writer Steve Braunias. Braunias has won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award three times. The winner of the AA Directions New Travel Writer of the Year Award is SimonCalcinai for Maybe We Were the Seals. Braunias said: “Throughout the awards the standard of the 2016 entries was the highest I can remember. There was a lot to like and admire. The story I have judged first, Maybe We Were the Seals, was so good and so original and so striking. It takes the reader to Cape Kidnappers, back in time, then returns to the present, and along the way makes a detour to a lake in Russia, where there are said to be a lot of seals. A lake in a distant continent, a cape with a gannet colony on the edge of an island in the Pacific – the writer somehow manages to join the dots, in writing that includes bursts of te reo. The story tells a story. It moves towards a moment. It’s a strange and singular piece of writing and it’s the absolutely deserving winner of the 2016 Travcom new travel writing award.”

The winner of Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award is Ilan Wittenberg of Auckland.

The photography awards were judged by a panel of three: Rob Lile, Director of One Shot Image Library (formerly photonewzealand)., Jenny Nicholls, Art Director for North & South magazine and Tessa Chrisp, a commercial, editorial, architectural & travel photographer. She’s also a past winner, runner up & people’s choice winner of the Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award.

The Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award was judged on the entire portfolio of published images entered in every award category (not including the Best Unpublished Travel Award entries).

Rob Lile said: “This year a clear and unanimous favourite appeared amongst the many images put forward for the scrutiny of a tough judging panel. While there were many images that caught our eye and invited second and third viewings, one series stood out, indicating the work of a master visual storyteller. Ilan’s images transported us to centuries-old locations to examine modern lives intertwined with layers of time. They displayed patience and sensitivity as a storyteller becomes immersed in the worlds of people going about their ordinary daily lives, as unobtrusively as possible. His presence is accepted; images are not overtly posed nor awkward and each subject is entirely comfortable with the interaction. The creative journey continued through careful post production, printing and mounting, all reflecting the skills of a professional determined to present his vision as perfectly as possible. This was a powerful series that will live in our minds for a long time.”

The winner of the Christchurch Airport Award for Best Travel Blog 2016 is Liz Carlson, who blogs as Young Adventuress. This is the second year this award has been given, and the second year that Liz has won it. The judge, Metro magazine's editor-at-large Simon Wilson, said: “Liz Carlson's blog again stood out for the entertaining quality of the writing, for its infusion with her own engaging personality, and because she has things she wants to say. Unlike so many travel bloggers, Liz doesn't merely record the places she has been and the events she has taken part in. She tells us about facing up to her fears, she interrogates her own values and she puts the whole process of travel in larger social, cultural and environmental contexts. She's an enthusiast and she cares, and all those things make her good to read.

Runner up Melanie Dower provides a charming outsider's commentary on her adoptive city, Helsinki, while the other runner up, Megan Singleton, has an inquiring mind and an assiduous commitment to sharing her experiences.”

Julie Orr-Wilson and Ilan Wittenberg each win double tickets to Madrid flying Cathay Pacific.

Liz Carlson wins $2000.

The awards were MCed by comedian Te Radar. (Andrew J Lumsden) an award winning satirist, documentary maker, writer, stage and screen director, failed gardener, television presenter and amateur historian.


Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year

Winner: Julie Orr-Wilson
Runner Up: Yvonne van Dongen

Ngāi Tahu Award for the Best Travel Story over 1000 words

Winner: Julie Orr-Wilson
For Getting by without Language
Published in Otago Daily Times

Runner up: Bruce Ansley
For Kurow to Burkes Pass
Published in Wild Roads – a New Zealand Journey book by Random House

Runner up: Yvonne van Dongen
for In the Home of the Rastas Page 1 and In the Home of the Rastas Page 2
Published in The Press

Runner up: Jill Worrall
For Joining the Marching Season in Derry
Published in The Timaru Herald

Spark Award for the Best Travel Story under 1000 words

Winner: Alice Galletly
For the Definition of Cool
Published in AA Directions

Runner up: Ewan McDonald
For Sailing in Nero’s Wake
Published in the NZ Herald

Runner up: Paul Rush
For Hanging Out in the Hunua Ranges
Published in the Waikato Times

Heritage Hotels Award for the Best Travel Story about New Zealand

Winner: Geoff Chapple
For Travels Through our Landscape Page 1 and Travels Through our Landscape Page 2
Published in Sunday Star Times

Runner up: Jill Malcolm
For Hanging Out in the Hunua Ranges
Published in Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations

Runner up: Diana Noonan
For How to feed the Tourists of Mt Nicholas
Published in NZ Lifestyle Block

Interislander Award for the Best Story about a Journey

Winner: Yvonne van Dongen
For Going to Hell and Back and Going to Hell and Back Page 2
Published in the Sunday Star Times

Runner Up: Sharon Stephenson
For On the Right Track
Published in the Sunday Star-Times

Runner Up: Peter de Graaf
For Moved by the Spirits Page 1 and Moved by the Spirits Page 2
Published in the Northern Advocate

British High Commission and Tourism Ireland Award for the Best Travel Story about Britain and/or Ireland

Winner: Paul Rush
For Haunting Tales of the Moor
Published in the Northern Advocate

Runner Up: Mike White
For Taking a Punt
Published in North & South magazine

NZ Maori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Story about a Maori Experience
Winner: Justine Tyerman
For Fiordland
Published in Destinations magazine

Runner Up: Peter de Graaf
For Godson to the Queen page 1 and Godson to the Queen page 2
Published in Northern Advocate

Runner Up: Aaron Smale
For Toa Rangatira
Published in Mana Magazine

Treadright Foundation Award for the Best Responsible Tourism Story

Winner: Alexia Santamaria
For Flat White, Long Black
Published in AA Directions magazine

Runner Up: Gillian Vine
For Bringing Books to the Yasawas
Published in the Otago Daily Times

Runner Up: Elisabeth Easther
For Whakatane: Souvenir Trap
Published in NZ Herald

Christchurch Airport Award for the Best Travel Blog of the Year

Winner: Liz Carlson
For her blog

Runner Up: Melanie Dower
For her blog

Runner Up: Megan Singleton
For her blog

AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best New Travel Writer

Winner: Simon Calcinai
For Maybe We Were the Seals

Runner Up: Caroline Barron
For Ocean Bay

Highly Commended: Nic Frame
For Mysore

David Rewi
For Netball Trip

Kelly Marsden
For The King Watches

Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year

Winner: Ilan Wittenberg

Heritage Boutique Collections Award for the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand

Winner: Kurt McManus
For his image published in Destinations Magazine
Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand, the cloud-piercing sun exposes the boat up ahead

Runner Up: Kurt McManus
For his image published in Destinations Magazine
Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand, being dwarfed by the sheer vastness of the giant fjords

Air Vanuatu and Mangoes Resort Award for the Best Travel Image taken Outside New Zealand

Winner: Richard Moore
For his image published in the Bay of Plenty Times
Selfie Heaven: Battling the crowds in front of the Mona Lisa is not easy. In a heaving hall in the Louvre museum, this was the best way to capture the crush of people wanting to see and photograph her.

Runner Up: Richard Moore
For his image published in Let’s Travel magazine
Solomon Islands: A warrior, his mouth stained red by betelnut, issues a challenge on Savo Island, to the north of Guadalcanal.

Runner Up: Joshua Donnelly
For his image published in D Photo,
A Buddhist monk stands outside a small part of the enormous complex that is Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Highly Commended: Thomas Seear-Budd
For his image published in Destinations magazine
Iceland, ice valley at the geographic centre of Iceland, illustrating the tension between the melting ice and the expanding black desert- scape

AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best Travel Image with People

Winner: Ilan Wittenberg
For his image published in D Photo
A merchant is smoking his Shisha while his apprentice is cleaning the fish at Acre street market, Israel

Runner Up: Ilan Wittenberg
For his images published in D Photo
Photo essay of Israel

NZ Māori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Image that Captures the Essence of Māori

Winner: Peter de Graaf
For his image published in the Northern Advocate
Kaihoe (waka paddlers) share a hongi during Waitangi Day commemorations at Te Ti Bay, Waitangi

Runner Up: Peter de Graaf
For his image published in the Northern Advocate
Warriors share a light hearted moment during commemorations of the 170th anniversary of the battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa, Northland

NZ Herald Travel Award for the Best Unpublished Travel Image

Winner: Giora Dan
For: Lake Dal, Kashmir, India: pre-dawn floating market on Lake Dal

Runner Up: Giora Dan
For: Varanasi, India: early morning and late night images at the holiest city to Hinduism

Runner Up: Lynn Clayton
For: The interior of Hotel Seward is full of stuffed animals, so very Alaskan

For further information or to source winning photographic images contact Travcom administrator Helen Davies

Ph: (09) 624 5707 or email

To see the winners’ photographs and stories click here

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