2022-2023 President Elect Candidates

Jason Frye

Watch Jason’s President-elect video here


Hi SATW, I’m Jason Frye, an Active in the Eastern Chapter, and I’d like to serve you and the organization as the next President of SATW.


As I write this, I’m on the road, or rather, on a ship, sailing the Mediterranean to Türkiye. This trip – an incredible journey from Jordan to Greece – has nearly erased 2 years of virtual travel, Zoom meetings, and vicarious-living-through-Instagram moments, replacing those (thankfully) temporary measures with the real thing. And it feels good. I’d missed the markets; the smells and flavors of dishes foreign to my own dinner table; the languages and accents of locals, guides, the crew and my fellow passengers. I missed the connection to others – and the deeper connection to ourselves – that travel provides and I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in Bogota and beyond in the coming years.


It’s those coming years that brings me here to lay out a vision for SATW that I hope you share and will help make a reality.


In a word what I want for SATW is action.


Action in expanding our membership base.

Action in increasing opportunities for members.

Action in outreach to the communities that so graciously host our communities.

Action in growing the diversity of our membership and in Chapter, Council, and Board representation.

Action in welcoming new voices, identities, and modes of travel communication to our organization.


At all levels of SATW we have committees, sub-committees, and ad hoc committees that have developed plans, delivered webinars, made presentations, and dished up some outstanding ideas that support these points of action. But presentations don’t drive membership. Ideas don’t always translate into welcoming others into the fold. And a quick, “You know what we should do at the next convention…” conversation doesn’t create the programs that leave a lasting and positive impact in the communities we visit.


It’s time for us – all of us, from the Marco Polo members to the first timers, from the leaders and perpetual volunteers to the waiting-in-the-wings next generation of SATW – to step up and help our organization achieve a common vision.


To expand our membership base, I propose an aggressive outreach plan to send regional representatives out to recruit cities, states, territories, major destinations and attractions, and Public Relations firms and welcome them as Associates. As part of this we would target locations/firms in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, but also Mexico and Central America along with other international destinations.


For Actives, I propose a similarly aggressive recruitment drive. SATW members gather at IPW and other travel trade shows, and by expanding these meet-and-greet cocktail hour get togethers we put our organization, reputation, and vision in front of more travel communicators. Targeted outreach to award winners; writers and photographers who impress us with their stories and vision; to TV and new media producers, hosts, and content creators aligned with our idea of travel and storytelling; and to the best of the next generation of travel storytellers whether they work in traditional print spaces, purely in the digital realm, as visual communicators, and the ones pushing the boundaries with Augmented/Virtual Reality storytelling will leave us with a wealth of potential members who have the potential to enrich SATW’s community and communication in untold ways.


And for editors, we need the same. SATW is the premier group of travel communicators in this hemisphere, yet editors from marquee outlets like Travel + Leisure, Afar, National Geographic, and major newspapers across the US and Canada are absent from membership rolls and meetings. The same stands for powerful regional and city-specific outlets. Where are these editors? Our members know them, we write for them and pitch them and send them invitations to join us on press trips, so it’s time to make clear to them the value of SATW membership and again invite them to the table.


At our Chapter, Council, and Annual Convention meetings, SATW needs to be a force for positive change in the communities that host us. To that end, I propose a philanthropic push unlike anything we’ve done to date. Picture a group of SATW members working at a homeless shelter or refugee center. Picture each of us bringing a small bag of items to donate to domestic violence shelters, afterschool programs, and other groups serving our host communities. Too often we – as individuals and as an organization – only take from the communities we visit, but it’s time we give back and leave a positive impact in the wake of our meetings.


We need to continue the excellent Professional Development webinars that blossomed during the pandemic, but they too need to grow. Webinars can and should be used as recruitment tools and revenue generators in addition to delivering the PD messages our members need, so expanding on the successes we’ve already had is critical. To the teams that are already doing such great work, bravo and thank you, but also apologies as I intend to ask more from you and empower you with the funds and technology you need to achieve this element of the vision.


Within the travel industry there’s a real need to increase diversity, and SATW is in the position to be an exemplar to our peers and to the reading/viewing/consuming public. Diversity in racial and ethnic backgrounds, diversity in sexual and gender identity, diversity in national origin, and diversity in modes of storytelling are sorely lacking within our current membership. As with Associate and Active member recruiting, an aggressive program of outreach to organizations for LGBTQI, Black and Latino Journalists and Broadcasters, and to other underrepresented communities will only improve our potential membership base and improve the overall atmosphere of SATW. I would like to see members of all races, creeds, identities, and styles of travel communication welcome at our meetings, but to do that, we need to extend the invitation.


5 Questions With Jason Frye


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?


Membership Growth: increase overall member numbers with an emphasis in digital mediums ‎and “new” media (an evolving term and therefore a moving target). Increase the diversity of ‎our members (in terms of race and ethnicity, sexual and gender identity, background, ‎nationality) so that SATW more closely resembles the world in which we travel and live. Ideally, ‎growth in these two areas would inject SATW with the “new blood” and new ideas we need to ‎stay relevant and potentially ahead of the curve in terms of storytelling and our individual ‎business practices.‎


Partnerships: pursue new partnerships with organizations who share our values and goals, and ‎foster the continued development with existing partnerships, deepening those relationships. In ‎‎2019, SATW was forging partnerships with travel writing groups in the UK and Australia, and I’d ‎like to deepen those relationships (perhaps by inviting dignitaries from those groups to our ‎annual convention and securing invitations for a delegation of SATW members to theirs) so we ‎can share ideas on organizational growth, fundraising and budgetary challenges, and ‎membership development. New relationships – with organizations like NAJH (National ‎Association of Hispanic Journalists), NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists), NLGJA ‎‎(National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association), as well as others like OWAA (Outdoor ‎Writers Association of America) and travel-adjacent organizations – could foster member ‎growth and offer new perspectives on the work we produce and the way our businesses ‎operate. ‎


Sponsorships: we need to continue the aggressive push for sponsors and sponsor monies that ‎the current board is undertaking. But we need more. We need to think outside the box and ‎pursue sponsors and partners who go beyond the airline or the destination. We need to seek ‎out publishers (like Hachette/Moon, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Reedy Press), software/service ‎providers (MuckRack, Cision, Google, WordPress), luggage and gear (Travelpro, Patagonia, The ‎North Face), and equipment/technology (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Keen, REI, Vasque) sponsors. In ‎our agreement with sponsors, we should ask for both financial or material support as well as ‎deep discounts on member purchases/subscriptions.‎


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?


I’ve always played games – poker, gin, rummy, Dungeons & Dragons, competitive strategy and ‎real-time video games – all of which require on-the-fly flexibility in strategy. My old Dungeons ‎& Dragons group called this “thinking around corners” and this idea has served me beyond the ‎gaming table or video game lobby, it’s served me in my business. Outside the travel space, I ‎work as a developmental editor for novelists, dissecting the issues with story and character, ‎and offering solutions, workarounds, and rewrites while navigating the ego and personal ‎investment these authors have put into their stories. It’s a delicate process, but one where ‎creative and flexible thinking pays big rewards (one client was named Georgia Literary Author ‎of the Year in 2020 and his fifth novel hit shelves in spring 2022).‎


In the travel space, I, like everyone else, was left holding an empty bag in early 2020, so I got ‎creative, worked my contacts, and pitched my travel writing storytelling services in new ways. ‎This outreach turned into a huge project for the Outer Banks of North Carolina and I wrote ‎more than 30,000 words in blog posts and in web content, diving into the histories and ‎characters of the villages on the Outer Banks and helping drive a website overhaul that’s now ‎serving visitors better than before. ‎


Additionally, I’m a former middle school teacher: Language Arts, grades 7 and 8. This job was ‎an exercise in creative thinking and flexibility. Not only did I need to teach to the lowest and ‎highest achievers in the classroom, I had to ensure I wasn’t leaving anyone behind, which ‎forced me to change teaching methods mid-class or to individualize the help I provided ‎students. Between typical classroom management duties and the job of delivering on the ‎subject matter, I was preparing students for standardized tests, supporting them as they ‎pursued extracurricular activities, and doing the hundred unsung things that teachers do ‎throughout the school year. ‎


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?


Like SATW, I’ve been woefully slow to adapt and adopt a prominent digital presence. This is in ‎part because my series of travel guides (to date I have 16 guides under my name with four more ‎to be released in fall 2022; they include Moon North Carolina, Moon North Carolina Coast, ‎Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip, Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Moon ‎Spotlight on Asheville) sell better in print than in digital format. But that’s an excuse covering ‎up the fact of the matter: there are times I feel I’m late to the digital party and have an ‎insurmountable hill to climb if I want to get on level ground with my peers. Like many of my ‎print-journalist peers, I suffer from some professional jealousy on the digital side: some stories I ‎want to tell have yet to find an editor or an outlet, but digital publishers have the freedom to ‎pursue the stories that spark their passion (so long as it makes sense to their business model). I, ‎like the majority of SATW’s member body and like the organization itself, need to learn. I need ‎to move past my own fear of failure (intellectually – how do I code? Can I learn to? How does ‎keyword research work? – and professionally – can I be profitable while I get up to speed? Can I ‎strike a balance between print and digital output that’s still profitable?) and develop the skills ‎that will keep my own brand of travel storytelling relevant and in front of a receptive audience ‎for years to come.


I believe that I – and SATW – can move past this and into a more current mode of travel ‎storytelling by listening to our Digital Publishers, by committing to and remaining diligent in ‎our efforts to learn more about the digital space and produce quality digital content, and by ‎being more action-oriented (rather than reactionary) when it comes to new mediums and ‎modes of travel storytelling. ‎


Part of this solution for SATW lies in the speakers we bring in for webinar and in-person ‎sessions. Futurists, next-generation technology and software producers, boundary pushers who ‎are delivering on a travel or travel-adjacent promise have ideas, methods, and viewpoints to ‎share that could give one of us the key to unlocking the next big thing in travel communication. ‎


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 my former career I was a middle school teacher. From classroom management to lunchroom ‎duty, that job is a living lesson in conflict management and resolution, organization, and cat ‎herding. As a middle school teacher, I was on the county-wide Curriculum Development ‎Committee, charged to undertake high-level views and in-classroom use/application of ‎textbooks and ancillary materials. This involved budgets (textbooks and materials are quite ‎costly), balancing the needs and desires of classroom teachers and subject matter experts, and ‎navigating the politics of schools, teachers, principals, and the school board. ‎


In my current business I deal with financial forecasting, calendaring (juggling deadlines, pay ‎schedules, incoming jobs, pitches…), and project management. I work to promote and market ‎myself, my series of travel guides, my brand, my services, and, sometimes, the services or ‎brands of clients. ‎


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 sets a high bar for membership qualifications and we expect a lot from members ‎‎(professional behavior, constant production, a high ethical standard), and these expectations ‎and qualifications should be most closely safeguarded. To me this means we don’t give these ‎up, we never settle for “less” from prospective or current members. What it doesn’t mean is ‎that our standards and expectations are secret or are guarded from non-member eyes. On the ‎contrary, if there’s a like-minded organization curious about our member standards, we should ‎share the reasons behind our demand for high standards and help them see the value in having ‎a select membership. ‎


Many of the other “traditions” are ones SATW needs to shed if we want to grow our member ‎numbers and remain relevant. For too long we’ve disrespected digital and held digital ‎storytelling at arm’s length. Time to drop that “tradition” and embrace our fellow travel ‎communicators in every medium. Travel, and travel writing, is a thing of privilege, and I believe ‎we need to acknowledge this privilege and embrace welcoming more folks to the table, ‎dropping what’s left of antiquated attitudes and traditional travel gateways.‎

Lydia Schrandt

Watch Lydia’s President-elect video here


For those of you who I haven’t had the pleasure to meet, my name’s Lydia and I joined the SATW in 2015. At my first SATW event—the Editors Council meeting in Denver—I asked the incoming Editors Council chair how I could be more involved. It was the best decision I ever made as an SATW member. Since then, I’ve served as Secretary, First Vice Chair, and Chair of the Editors Council, Recruitment Committee Chair, Membership Officer, Bogotá Convention co-chair, and as a member of the DEAI Committee.


My biggest value and guiding principle in deciding to run for President-Elect ties directly to the work I’ve been doing in the society for the past several years: to make our organization welcoming, equitable, accessible, and valuable to all—every skin color, religious or secular affiliation, age, and business model.


Much of what I envision for the SATW is an extension of work I and countless other members are already doing. I joined the organization’s DEAI committee in its early days, championing DEAI issues on the SATW Board of Directors and representing our organization as part of the Travel Unity Association DEI Working Group.


Together, under the leadership of Vickie Ashford-Thompson and Megan Padilla, we’ve accomplished a lot: numerous well-attended webinars on timely and key topics for our industry, a two-part implicit bias training, more diverse and representative PD and conventions, and the signing of the Travel Unity Association DEI Pledge. But there’s more work to be done; just as I see my own allyship as a lifelong commitment, so too is the work of ensuring our organization is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible.


Part of our commitment in signing the Travel Unity Association DEI Pledge was to conduct an audit on our own practices. The results of such an audit will reveal multiple opportunities for growth, and I’m committed to carrying on the work started by Jane and continued by Larry, Liz, and soon Kim on this front.


Our organization is nothing without our members. I was honored to be tapped to take over the role of Membership Officer in 2020—a role I was elected into the next year. It’s been a difficult couple of years for all of us, yet our membership numbers are bouncing back. In addition, we’ve added new Organizational membership categories to allow travel publications and DMOs to join with multiple people, as well as the option for Associate members to transfer their memberships upon leaving their organizations during the pandemic, a move that has helped maintain continuity within this vital segment of our organization.


With the help of the team from Kellen, I’ve also been able to reduce the time between when someone submits an application and when they’re welcomed from several weeks or months to days (sometimes within 24 hours). The new member welcome letter now not only congratulates members on joining our ranks, but directs them toward ways to start engaging right away. I plan to expand this into an email series that gradually introduces new members to all the excellent resources now available to them: Chapters and Councils, the Writing Coaching Program, webinars, member benefits, and volunteer opportunities.


We surveyed the membership in 2021 about our qualification and requalification standards, and one of the initiatives I believe is overdue is to overhaul the points system to make it better reflect the media world we live in. Our standards should remain high, but figuring out if you qualify shouldn’t be complicated.


Another area of opportunity for the SATW is with our newest council, the Digital Publishers Council. The organization took a big step toward embracing and promoting digital communicators with the absorption of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA) in 2020. But while our membership now includes a wealth of talented and knowledgeable digital publishers and storytellers, we haven’t adapted on an organizational level to ensure these members are receiving equal benefit and that we’re operating in such a way that makes sense for all members, not just those who come from traditional publishing backgrounds.


As the travel media landscape continues to evolve, so too should our organization. Not every element of how we’ve operated in the past makes sense for the world we now navigate and who we are as travel communicators. Now that previous Boards have set us up with revamped bylaws and an operations manual that allows us to be more nimble, it’s time to examine each element of what we do for opportunities to operate in ways that are more efficient, relevant, and valuable to our members.


I hope this gives you a glimpse at who I am and who I’ll continue to be within the SATW, regardless of the outcome of this election. Please reach out to me if you have questions or issues you’d like to discuss, and I’d appreciate your vote.


5 Questions With Lydia Schrandt


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?


We need to make our annual convention more affordable. Members have a choice of other events, many of them much cheaper, where they can go for networking and PD. The choice of whether or not to attend a convention shouldn’t come down to whether or not someone can afford to pay several hundred dollars, plus the cost of a flight. On the board, I’ve pushed for more aggressive sponsorship goals to help offset the costs of our meetings. We should be able to get the types of sponsorship lineups you see at other industry events, and this could not only subsidize core convention costs, but the costs of pre and post tours as well.


I’d also like to see Chapters and Councils work more closely and collaboratively on meetings. For an organization of our size, hosting 8-9 meetings each year is a lot. We’re competing against each other for hosts and resources at that point. If Chapters and Councils could pair up on a rotating schedule, we could reduce the total number of meetings and the cost and volunteer hours associated with planning them. 


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


During my time as First Vice-Chair of the Editors Council, we were looking for ways to make some money off our event, as we had literally nothing in the bank account. For our Editors Council meeting in New York just before IMM, I had the idea of trying to host a technology marketplace, where vendors– SEO, easy video conversion, photography equipment, video editing, etc– who may be interested in getting their products in front of editors could buy a table. While the full idea didn’t pan out due to timing issues that year, it did mean that we reached out to some potential sponsors outside the typical destinations. Through this outreach, we were able to secure a $5,000 sponsorship from GoPro.


More recently, I came into the role of Editors Council Chair just before the pandemic. We were literally weeks away from our meeting in Toronto when we had to cancel due to COVID restrictions. Instead of just waiting for the next year, we instead planned an entire calendar of online events to keep the council engaged during the pandemic. We hosted PD sessions, networking events, trivia games, and some fun storytelling sessions where we showed off our favorite travel souvenirs, for example.


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?


I began and have spent most of my career working in the digital space. Like many, I was forced to pivot during the pandemic. During that time, I left my long-time editing job with USA TODAY 10Best and starting building my freelance portfolio. I’ve since written and published a guidebook and started working in SEO and content marketing on the side. We live in a world where being nimble isn’t just a benefit, it’s a necessity. I apply the same mindset to the SATW. If we keep doing things the same way we always have, we’ll become irrelevant.


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)?


During my time in the SATW, I’ve volunteered at just about every level of the organization. I’ve held positions at the council, committee, convention, board, and executive committee level. Outside of the organization, I’ve led strategic planning and content marketing efforts for a major edtech company while leading a team of other content marketers. 


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?


I’ll start by saying that I don’t believe “That’s how we’ve always done it” is ever enough of a reason to continue doing something. Part of the healthy evolution of any organization involves letting go of practices and traditions that no longer work and innovating new ways of doing things that work for everyone. Too often, groups of people get excluded or left behind in the name of tradition. I wholeheartedly believe we should safeguard and adhere to the SATW Values as currently written. Values like integrity, professionalism, diversity, respect, and sustainability should continue to guide us long into the future.