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

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.