Q&A With Incoming SATW President-elect Elizabeth Harryman

Elizabeth Harryman is the incoming SATW President-elect who will begin her role for the organization in October 2020. Harryman has been a dedicated member of SATW since 1987 having served two years as Editors Council Chair, two years as Editors Council Secretary, Professional Development Chair for the Annual Conventions in Wenzhou, China, and Portland, Oregon and worked in various roles on the Professional Development Committee.

As President-elect Harryman will work closely with current SATW President Jane Wooldridge and incoming President Larry Bleiberg before her term as president commences for the 2021-2022 term. Harryman lives in southern California with her husband Paul Lasley, an SATW Past-President.

Harryman is a respected journalist, editor and travel industry professional who will bring a wealth of knowledge and perspective to the leadership of SATW. Learn more about Elizabeth Harryman and her vision for SATW’s future in this Q&A with SATW Internal Communications Manager Anietra Hamper.

What is your professional work?

With my husband, Paul Lasley, I produce and host two daily radio shows that are broadcast to a million listeners in 167 countries on the American Forces Network and air as podcasts at OnTravel.com. Paul and I also write the Travel Smart column for Westways, the magazine of the Auto Club of Southern California, where I recently retired after 21 years as travel editor but remain as a contributing editor. During my tenure, Westways won six Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards.

Paul and I have hosted radio shows on KABC and Public Radio station KPCC and for Discovery Channel Radio on XM Satellite. Our shows have won two Gold and one Silver Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. We wrote a travel-and-dining column that ran for 10 years in the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, and other newspapers, and we are former travel correspondents for NBC’s Today show.

What is your mindset heading into the President-elect position in the fall of 2020 and how do you think SATW can best position itself going forward when the travel industry and travel have taken such a hit?

SATW must position itself as the preeminent organization for professional travel communicators. Travel will come back, and when it does, consumers will need reliable, trustworthy information more than ever. SATW can provide that. We SATW members are really good at what we do, and talent, dedication, and professionalism will always be in demand.

What will be your top priorities as President-elect working with current President Jane Wooldridge, incoming President Larry Bleiberg and the Board?

I look forward to working with Jane and Larry and the Board to ensure consistency and a smooth transition and to support existing programs, such as the webinars, which have been an essential lifeline during the pandemic. I will start out by listening – to the Board and to our members – to get a deeper sense of their needs. We must adapt quickly and creatively to the constantly changing health and travel situations around the world; with my background, I hope to help in shaping a successful course forward.

What initiatives do you see as paramount for SATW to focus on in the next few years?

Professional Development and the work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee are paramount. Because being the best at what we do will be increasingly important, I believe the professional development programs we offer members are vital – not just at meetings, but also through webinars and other virtual-learning opportunities throughout the year. We also need to support decent pay in every aspect of travel communication. And the DEI Committee’s work is crucial. SATW should be a leader in standing for and supporting diversity in the travel and travel media industries, and I look forward to working with the committee on these issues.

How do you envision the role of SATW in an evolving COVID-19 pandemic era?

People are scared. By providing accurate information about what hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and other travel companies are doing to deal with the pandemic, SATW members can help consumers make informed decisions about when, how, and whether to travel. Right now, we all have to avoid non-essential travel – it’s the responsible and unselfish thing to do. SATW can help by counseling patience. And we can help keep the dream of future travel alive through evocative storytelling in all mediums.

What is the one thing you wish members took more advantage of with SATW?

Networking. Editors need freelancers; freelancers need editors. Both need expert public relations professionals, and we all benefit from the ingenuity of self-publishers. I wish members would take more advantage of our Member Directory to reach out to each other – by sending an email or text or by just picking up the (smart)phone.

What do you want members to know about you as a journalist and a leader?

I’ve striven for integrity and journalistic excellence throughout my career, and I believe in leading through consensus. Despite the current situation, I believe the future of travel and travel journalism to be rich with limitless possibilities. The current situation is dire, but out of the turmoil can come creative solutions and fresh ways of looking at things. As a recent New Yorker article pointed out: The horrible period of the Black Death in 14th-century Europe was followed by the Renaissance.