The 2023 Judges
Alessandra Alonso - Women in Travel
Alessandra is the pluri-nominated, award-winning founder and MD of Women in Travel cic and a professional with 20 years of experience in travel and tourism.
Alessandra started her career as a trainee in Tourism at the European Commission and later gained senior roles in companies including The World Travel & Tourism Council and KPMG. She subsequently pursued her passion for supporting women and diversity more generally by setting up consultancy Shine and co-founding the Shine Awards for Women’s Achievement in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality in 2004.
Recognised as a trailblazer in the sector and an expert in gender empowerment and mentoring, Alessandra is also a keynote speaker and regular contributor to publications.
Alessandra has won multiple awards and accolades including TOP 100 women in social enterprise Europe, Forward Ladies and Journey Woman Awards She has also been named one of 9 women transforming travel by the Matador Network and one of 50 ‘most important women in travel’ by Wanderlust Travel.
Graham Boynton - Boynton Travels
Graham Boynton is an award-winning international journalist and author who has a frequent contributor to magazines such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and has written for major newspapers including UK’s The Times and the Daily Telegraph and The New York Times and Financial Times. He has written several acclaimed books including Last Days in Cloud Cuckooland, which was one of the Washington Post’s Books of the Year, and Wild: The Life of Peter Beard, which has been put up for a Pulitzer Prize. The biography could, according to the best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith, “have been scripted jointly by Blixen and Hemingway. A brilliantly enjoyable read – a triumph.” Boynton was a friend of Peter Beard for more than 30 years and arguably knew him better than anyone.
Debbie Flynn - FINN Partners
Debbie Flynn has been in the travel industry for over 30 years and was the founder of travel specialist PR and marketing agency Brighter Group after spending the first 10 years of her career at British Airways. After 23 years as one of the UK ‘s leading tourism PR agencies, she sold her agency to FINN Partners in January 2018. Now in her role leading FINN Partners travel teams globally, Debbie continues to be at the forefront of global travel communication and once again listed in the PR Week PowerBook as one of the top 10 influencers in travel PR in the UK.
Debbie is also an observer to the board of the Advantage Travel Partnership (the UK’s biggest leisure and business travel consortia), on the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council, an advisor to WTACH (World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage) and one of the founding circle for WXO (World Experience Organisation).
Debbie also leads the way in giving back to the industry in her roles as a trustee of travel industry water aid charity Just A Drop, Chair of the Anglo Jordanian Society, and a pro bono advisor to Tourism Cares.
Mike Kelly - Coral Tree Travel
I first visited Africa in 2005, travelling independently around Uganda. I was hooked.
Several years later, I moved to Mozambique to run a PADI dive resort at a world-class marine life destination on the Manta coast.
I then moved to Zanzibar to manage the exclusive Mnemba Island, during which time I met Tess and explored East Africa extensively. Five happy years later, Tess and I returned to the UK to begin our journey as family safari specialists.
I’ve been helping families plan incredible journeys to Africa and Indian Ocean destinations ever since.
I love nothing more than experiencing all that Africa’s wild spaces have to offer. Passing on this enthusiasm to our own daughter, as well as other families, is truly rewarding.
Rachel Lewis - South African Tourism
I am a bit of a long haul travel geek, I've been working in this field since 2008 although travel has been front and centre of my life for much longer. From front line sales to leading tours, from 5*+ to overland camping, I have covered a lot of ground - I love this industry so much.
Jim Millward - Spruce Marketing
Jim is the founder of Spruce, a marketing consultancy for SME travel businesses, with clients across the tour operator, DMC and accommodation sectors. Jim's experience includes heading up the marketing team at Audley Travel for 15 years. He also has a strong interest in sustainability and wrote and implemented Audley's sustainability policies.
Byron Shirto - Inspire Global
Byron grew up in Zimbabwe and had the privilege of working in Victoria Falls through the booming 90s. He moved to the UK in 2000, and worked for Abercrombie & Kent, before setting up a marketing and communications agency, offering bespoke representation and PR, events and creative design for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Byron has served as committee member, and as Chairman of the Latin American Travel Association (LATA). He also served as a Trustee for the association's charitable arm, the LATA Foundation. Byron has been a judge for media awards, marketing awards and is
often requested as a speaker at travel industry events. In 2020, in the midst of the global the pandemic, Byron sensed a growing appetite for positive impact travel, and a travel community willing to share best practice. He created Inspire Global, and leads the organisation as CEO pursuing its mission of building a community focused on education, advocacy and promotion of positive impact tourism. In 2023, Byron launched the Cheltenham Travel Festival, a consumer event to promote sustainable travel.