2021-2022 Active-at-Large Candidates (2 seats)

Rebecca Bingham

Rebecca Bingham2

“After all these years traveling together, give me one good reason why you don’t belong to SATW,” says Diana Lambdin-Meyer, peering at me over the top of her glasses, during dinner somewhere in Germany. Diana’s gentle nudge folded me into a herd of friends that quickly became family at my first national conference in El Paso, where you may have seen me shooting party pics at the opening reception or sharing why I wear pearls at the storytelling event.


A few weeks later, Freelance Council members took up the orientation mantle in Japan, coaxing me to get naked with strangers at a hotel onsen and to gulp oysters lifted fresh from the briney depths of Matsushima Bay. Since then, I’ve been working with the professional development committee to translate our collective nerdiness into a buffet of practical education during this time of cultural transformation. And each Monday, I pop up on the SATW Facebook page with a quote and an invitation for writers to share their recently published work. Your new board will govern during one of the most precarious years in our history.


As a former marketing director for two different cities, I smell the fear of uncertainty; yet I sense the strength of community. As a full time travel writer since 2008, I feel the tremors of change; yet I know the promise of hope. Right now, every tourism destination needs a soothsayer. Every crisis manager needs a storyteller. Every travel writer needs a segue. And every decommissioned traveler needs inspiration. I want to help structure SATW strategies to increase our support for the struggling, and to expand our visibility as a go-to source for industry solutions. Collaboration and cross-promotion are part of my professional DNA. Selling sponsorships is my superpower. And brainstorming is my drug of choice.

Jim Byers

After 13 years as a full-time travel writer, I think it’s time to give back. I spent five years as Travel Editor at the Toronto Star, which ran two sections a week when I was there and was the largest newspaper in Canada, with the most travel coverage.


I know what editors need. But I also know the pressures writers face as I’ve been freelancing the last eight years for publications in both Canada and the U.S., including National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, AARP magazine, Postmedia in Canada, the Chicago Tribune, and many more. I’m also very active on social media and have worked directly with destinations to help get their word out. I do a great deal of radio work and a fair bit of TV, despite not looking even remotely like Brad Pitt. And I’ve appeared on many professional panels, including the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Go Media in Canada.


This is a challenging time for us all, but also one that’s filled with opportunities. I think I can help members do their best work and make the most of the situation we find ourselves in, and I’d love the opportunity to dig in, and to give back to the industry and to this great organization. Thank you for taking part in SATW and in the SATW elections.

Mary Jo Manzanares

I’m a traveler, content creator, and digital publisher, and I’ve been a member of SATW since 2014. Since joining, I’ve served on the Professional Development Committee, was the Co-Chair of Professional Development for the El Paso Convention, and currently serve as the Co-Chair of the new Digital Publishers Council and as Parliamentarian for the Board of Directors.


While travel seems to be looming on the horizon, our business and careers are likely still playing catch up. We’ve stepped back; we’ve pivoted; we’ve looked at new revenue streams. Most importantly, we’re still here. And while our business models and plans may be different, we all share a common goal of sustaining successful travel communication careers and businesses. As an Association, we still have significant challenges ahead of us as we emerge from the pandemic – both professionally and practically.


Now is the time to double down on understanding and meeting member needs, and those needs may have changed over the last year. Membership in SATW should provide a solid return on investment. We need to remove barriers from membership involvement and tap into the strength of our diversity. We can keep an eye on the budget while still expanding on successful initiatives and can let go of processes and projects that no longer serve us well. And we must do it all while focusing on our core mission – inspiring travel through responsible journalism. I’m up to the task. I think you’re up to the task, too. As a representative voice of DPC, I’m ready to roll up my sleeve and get to work. I ask for your support and your vote.

Lavanya Sunkara

Hi, I’m Lavanya Sunkara, a NYC-based freelance writer who has lived in three time zones and traveled within six continents. In my decade-long career, I have written for top publications and brands, authoring inspiring stories that bring about positive change.


I am seeking the Active-at-Large position on the Board, an appointment that I believe suits me well, as I am extremely action-oriented. When I notice a problem, I immediately try to make things better. When the pandemic hit last March and we were all grounded, I created a virtual travel writers group and hosted weekly Zoom calls to keep writers connected and motivated for an entire year. I produced three successful SATW webinars on topics including: the future of travel held last fall, being an ally for BIPOC in the travel industry in the winter, and advanced networking tips to gain clients this spring.


I have also started two virtual book clubs with SATW members, one focused on anti-racism discussion and another on books written by authors from around the world. I currently chair the Recruitment Committee and have successfully on-boarded many members over the years. I am a natural connector who strives towards helping others succeed. I find this work extremely rewarding and look forward to the opportunity to assist members in their endeavors. If elected, I will listen to the needs of travel industry professionals, develop solutions, and work collaboratively with the Board to implement them. Learn more about me at www.nature-traveler.com. Thank you for your consideration.