2020-2021 President Elect Candidates

Kim Foley MacKinnon

My 10th year as a member of SATW will be in 2022, and I can’t think of a better way to give back to an organization that has so significantly shaped my career, than to serve as its president. The travel industry will still be digging out from the devastation of the pandemic for years to come. I want SATW to be a part of that rebuilding.

 

And as we rebuild, I don’t want us go back to the way things were—I want SATW to have a clear vision of how to make travel better for everyone. I want us to be leaders in making the travel industry a fair and equitable place, one that reflects the world around us, and celebrates its differences with respect and thoughtfulness. Almost since I became a member of SATW, I have served in one capacity or another, first doing two stints as the Eastern Chapter First Chair, and currently as its Chair, with a place at the table on the Society board level. Having learned the ins and outs of how the board works at the Chapter level, as well as at the Society level, makes me qualified to be president.

 

I’ve been a part of many important votes to move SATW to a more modern, nimble, and outfacing organization, something we need to continue to work on to remain relevant in an ever-changing landscape. As a freelancer, being nimble and able to adapt to changing times, has been a hallmark of my career. I started out in the old-school way of journalism, writing obits on the late shift at the Boston Globe. Since those days, I’ve done everything from editing books to writing them, to serving as a columnist for a number of newspapers, to writing online content and running websites. I’ve been a staff writer and an independent business owner. I know how to juggle multiple projects, meet deadlines, and get things done.

 

One of most important things I have been a part of in this past year is the DEAI committee that former president Jane Wooldridge appointed me as liaison to in 2019. It has been an eye-opening and absolutely impactful experience for me. As ambassadors, witnesses, documentarians, and gatekeepers of the travel space, I feel we need to keep in mind what that means and the responsibility we have to ourselves and to the audiences with which we want to engage. Sure, much of our work is about pleasure, discovery, escapism, and fun, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look deeply into our methods and choices. On that same note, how we treat each other internally in SATW, whether we are a print journalist, digital publisher, independent public relations owner, glossy magazine editor, DMO, photographer, or blogger, should not be modelled on some sort of clique system, better left to high school.

 

We are a professional organization that should lift up all members, regardless of job description. I am passionate about seeing SATW be a more welcoming body to all qualified travel professionals. And our industry is always, always changing. We need to at least keep up, and ideally, be at the forefront in a unified manner. It’s hard to say the pandemic was positive in any way, but one thing that I have found fascinating is how much engagement I have seen from SATW members, with Zoom webinars, workshops, cocktail parties, meetings, and conferences. Virtual connections actually allowed many people who would not otherwise be able to attend or be engaged to feel connected.

 

In some fashion, I want to make sure we continue these options in the future so we can be accessible to all members. I will always be grateful for the friendships, connections, opportunities to learn, and chances to stretch myself that I have found within SATW. I would be honored to serve as your president and hope you’ll give me your vote.

 

5 Questions for Kim Foley MacKinnon

 

Q: The next few years will pose many challenges for our members — and in turn, for our Society. What specific ideas do you have for increasing membership value and giving members more bang for their buck?

 

One of the most impressive things the Society has done in the past year is offer extremely useful and consistent webinars each month. I think these were of immense value to our members and helped us stay connected in extremely trying times. And while our annual convention and various chapter and council meetings are important for face-to-face interactions and building relationships, they are not always within reach for every member, whether due to cost, convenience, accessibility or scheduling issues. I want to see the webinars continue to allow everyone a chance to benefit from the breadth and depth of knowledge SATW offers. I also approve of charging a fee to nonmember to attend the webinars as a revenue stream, and perhaps more importantly, as a recruitment tool. Professional development is one of the reasons many people join SATW and offering it on a year-round basis to all, rather than one or twice a year to a few, will benefit us all.

 

Q: No one knows what the situation will be for travel communications two years from now, when the next President Elect takes office. But we likely will need to rethink the ways we do some things. What specific experiences have you had that demonstrate your ability to think flexibly and out-of-the-box?

 

My entire career has been about being able to adapt to new situations, from being able to switch largely from print to digital, to roll with the punches when publications disappear overnight, to learning how to navigate more CMS iterations than I care to remember. At one time it was unthinkable that a writer would provide their own photography, but that became the norm, so I learned how to get by. Having an open mind and trying new things has to be the hallmark of anyone, or any organization, that wants to successfully move forward, including SATW.

Last fall and this spring, the Eastern Chapter (like others) held its chapter business meetings via Zoom, allowing more people access than would be had at an in-person chapter meeting. I would like to see that continue even when there is no pandemic keeping us at home. I think the Society as a whole, and all of the chapters and councils should adopt this practice going forward. I am not saying that I don’t want in-person meetings—I do! But at least some of our business can and should be conducted in a way to allow the largest amount of people to participate, which is undoubtedly in an online format.

 

Q: The digital transformation of our business and the world at large is continuing at a rapid pace. How has your own business changed in the digital age, and how will that help you lead our organization and its members?

 

The sheer speed of our ever-changing technology is exciting, but can be tricky to navigate and understand at times. Being able to report in real time is amazing, as is the opportunity to update our audiences as soon as something changes or needs to be updated. Personally, I’ve managed to navigate a wide range of media, continuing to write for print publications, as well as a variety of online ones. Embracing it all, and learning as much as possible about new tech, is simply good business. SATW has members conversant in all types of media and I want to see us help each other be better at all of it. We can share our strengths and tap into the expertise we have in our midst.

 

Q: What specific business experience have you had that will help you in this job, (such as team leadership, strategic planning, financial forecasting, marketing, project management)?

 

I have been a successful, independent freelance journalist for more than 20 years, which as any other freelancer knows is a juggling act between writing, marketing, financial planning, self-motivation and self-discipline. I’ve also served on the Eastern Chapter board for six years, first as the First Vice-Chair (twice), and now as the current Chair. My duties have included everything from scouting meeting sites to meeting planning to working with my board to benefit Eastern Chapter members. This year, my board has managed to schedule a couple of in-person meetings through incredible teamwork and creativity, with safety the utmost priority.

 

Q: Partnerships with other travel organizations have become increasingly important. But all successful partnerships involve boundaries. In your opinion, what SATW values, traditions and practices should be most closely safeguarded?

 

In the end, all each of us has is our reputation to stand on, no matter what our job or what industry we are in, but as communicators, we have to vigorously protect ours at all costs. Maintaining our well-earned reputation as the standard-bearers of responsible journalism is vital. It is something to be proud of and to convey to the world. Our qualifications for membership should be a badge of honor to those who pass muster and a symbol to all that we are the best in the business. Working with other organizations can be a huge benefit, easily achieved without relaxing our values, and I would strive to increase our industry partnerships.

Toby Saltzman

Being elected to the position of SATW President would be both a privilege and honor. The position is a challenge at the best of times, more so during the pandemic. However, I feel optimistic that travel and tourism will eventually rebound; that SATW and the benefits of membership will be more valuable than ever for networking, education and securing effective media outlets; and that I can lead SATW through the challenge.

 

If elected as President Elect, I would dedicate myself to serving the Board and each of the Freelance, Editors and Associates Councils as needed. Over my 35-year writing career, I have consistently volunteered to benefit writers, photographers and the tourism industry. Shortly after joining SATW in 1991, I became involved in the Canadian Chapter, organizing sponsored lunches and professional development programs. In 2001, while researching a business travel assignment, I learned that the Canadian Tourism Commission was mandated to assist only foreign journalists, not Canadian. Intent on changing the CTC protocol, I organized a CTC focus group that lead to the creation of GoMedia in 2005, which ultimately engaged both Canadian and international media.

 

I participated in creating the GoMedia website and served as Managing Editor, English content for the first three years. During that time, I also served with TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) as Ontario Chapter Chair. Meantime, I continued volunteering for SATW. In 2009, I joined the Phoenix Award Committee. I organized locations for SATW Canadian Chapter meetings, including those held in Miami and Puerto Vallarta. In 2012, I joined the SATW Board as Canadian Chapter Chair. In 2013, after organizing the Canadian Chapter’s Sarasota meeting site, I was unable to attend, as five days before the meeting my late husband was diagnosed with cancer.

 

In 2014, I became Chair of the Phoenix Award Committee, and I remain committed to its recognition for conservation, cultural and environmental preservation. Recently the conscientious Phoenix Committee members broadened the scope of nominees and rewrote the online form to encourage more nominees.If elected as SATW President Elect, I would spend the term supporting President Elizabeth Harryman in her endeavors. As President, I would aim to elevate the SATW brand as the ultimate source for accessing the world’s most qualified, articulate travel media and tourism marketing professionals. I would aim to see SATW accrue the values of membership by expanding on the already outstanding professional development and mentorship programs.

 

I would aim to enhance interaction with members of the Global Travel Media Alliance and the Australian Society of Travel Writers. I am totally committed to supporting SATW’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion program, as well as fighting racial and cultural discrimination. For upcoming conventions and Council meetings, I am eager to assist SATW organizers and hosts in the best possible ways. The position of SATW President would be my privilege and honor. I would work to deserve it. I hope I can count on your support.

 

5 Questions for Toby Saltzman

 

Q: The next few years will pose many challenges for our members — and in turn, for our Society. What specific ideas do you have for increasing membership value and giving members more bang for their buck?

 

As the travel industry returns to a changing global landscape, Associate and Active members will be keen to validate their investments in SATW for both time and budget. Besides continuing and expanding on the established roster of benefits and excellent webinars presented during the pandemic, I propose specific networking sessions geared to helping each other by sharing best practices, be they for unique ways to promote destinations and tours, or innovative ways to have work published. In a world where social media is saturated with exaggerations and untruths, I believe SATW must assert itself above other, similar organizations.  It will be a key member advantage to elevate the SATW brand as the ultimate global source for accessing the world’s most qualified, articulate, credible, truthful travel media and tourism marketing professionals. Elevating the brand will take focused discussions, meantime one idea to increase SATW recognition is to expand on publicity of the Phoenix Award – which recognizes places and people for substantial conservation and preservation – and promote it in a way similar to the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” as, say, “SATW’s Special Place or Person of Recognition and Approval.”

 

Q: No one knows what the situation will be for travel communications two years from now, when the next President Elect takes office. But we likely will need to rethink the ways we do some things. What specific experiences have you had that demonstrate your ability to think flexibly and out-of-the-box?

 

When outlets for published articles became scarce due to publishing cutbacks, I embarked on a series of lectures that were initially so popular that I was asked to repeat each lecture twice. From October 2020 to this month, I presented virtual lectures with images focusing on culture in Tuscany, Portugal, Belgium, Caribbean islands, Germany, and Winnipeg’s  WAG and new Qaumajuq Gallery. As all the destinations had evolved since my last visits, I involved representatives of the various tourism boards for the latest information and images. As for thinking digitally out-of-the-box: In 1999, before online sites proliferated, I incorporated and launched my travel e-zine, travelterrific.com and hired many SATW members to write for it. A few years later, I launched canadaluxury.travel. About two years ago, I closed the sites and I have recently re-designed the sites and am preparing to re-launch them with current content and information.

 

Q: The digital transformation of our business and the world at large is continuing at a rapid pace. How has your own business changed in the digital age, and how will that help you lead our organization and its members?

 

From the start of my writing career, my business revolved around producing feature travel articles for print newspapers and magazines, and later for writing content for my own websites. Starting in 2000, when tourism organizations were gauging the prospects of Internet marketing, I was hired as keynote speaker by several organizations (including ANTOR, Association of National Tourism Office Representatives, and various local Canadian groups) to speak about the value of the Internet. Over time, I independently produced six destination supplements geared to the meetings and incentive market that were initially published in hard copy and later published digitally. About eight years ago, I started contributing to various websites. Meantime, I broadened my scope to present book reviews to a group of 200 members. When I worked to create the Canadian Tourism Commission’s GoMedia program (see the following question re: business experience), and subsequently became Managing Editor of English Content for the bilingual GoMedia website, I learned the value of maintaining fair standards of equity and diversity in assigning writers, as it was essential to give voice to both Francophone and English writers. As a member of SATW since 1991 (my name appears in the 1992 directory), and as Past Chair of the Canadian Chapter, I have institutional knowledge and experience with the workings of SATW that will help me lead the organization.

 

Q: What specific business experience have you had that will help you in this job, (such as team leadership, strategic planning, financial forecasting, marketing, project management?

 

  • In 1999 I created and incorporated my own Internet travel e-zine and hired qualified writers.
  • In 2001, while researching a business travel assignment, I learned that the Canadian Tourism Commission was mandated to assist only foreign journalists, not Canadian. To change the CTC protocol, I organized a CTC focus group that lead to the creation of GoMedia in 2005, which ultimately engaged both Canadian and international media. I participated in creating the GoMedia website and served as Managing Editor, English content for the first three years, taking pride in equitable hiring of Francophone and English writers.
  • I served as Ontario Chapter Chair for the Travel Media Association of Canada for two terms.
  • In 2012 I served as SATW Canadian Chapter Chair and organized the meeting location in Sarasota.
  • When plans for two different Canadian Chapter meetings fell apart, I organized meeting locations in Miami and Puerto Vallarta.
  • I served on the Phoenix Award Committee several years before becoming Committee Chair in 2014. This will be my last year in that position.
  • Over time, I demonstrated volunteer leadership and fundraising skills for several charitable organizations, each with thousands of members. Notably, as Vice President of the Auxiliary of Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and as President of the Sisterhood of a prominent Toronto synagogue.
  • As for project management: I researched and created several complete meetings-and-incentive-travel supplements. Notably, three different supplements focusing on Ireland for prominent Canadian and American magazines, and three different sections on Canadian destinations for two national Canadian newspapers.

 

Q: Partnerships with other travel organizations have become increasingly important. But all successful partnerships involve boundaries. In your opinion, what SATW values, traditions and practices should be most closely safeguarded?

 

SATW’s key value worth safeguarding and promoting is the status of its brand for honesty in travel reporting. As well, the traditions of gathering at an annual society-level convention and holding a media marketplace are greatly valued, and – global travel permitting – it would be beneficial to alternate North American and foreign destinations.

It is essential to maintain SATW’s traditions of dignified behaviors, including acting respectfully, responsibly, fairly and without discrimination during all SATW gatherings, be they virtual or in person. Although the DEAI Committee is new, SATW’s positive stance on diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion must be upheld as notable journalistic standards. While maintaining discretion of SATW programs is important, it is significant to enhance interaction with the Global Travel Media Alliance and the Australian Society of Travel Writers.  While the SATW Directory is a significant asset for members only, it may be useful to consider how it can be used or shared to add value to Associate and Active members.