Last year at this time as we were busily planning travel events and excursions, a previously unknown virus was emerging – and you know the rest. By mid-March, the pandemic was paralyzing most of the world. Soon travel beyond our local grocery store was off limits, and all of the BATW in-person meetings were canceled.
What did we grounded travel journalists do? We pivoted! Homebound we were, but we continued to publish and to meet in what became one of our most innovative years. Along with millions of others, Zoom became our meeting place and lifeline. Our BATW monthly meetings were more popular than ever, with a large and enthusiastic attendance zooming in from miles – and oceans – away, including New Zealand, Hawaii, and a half dozen states.
Among the wide-ranging meetings: a history and discussion of Black travel, “From the Slaveship to the Spaceship;” workshops on social media and on outdoor travel writing; a dialogue on responsible travel writing in a pandemic; and a discussion of the changing face of travel journalism. Editors and writers from a wide range of publications met with us to discuss their needs and the market. We heard from Afar, Sierra Magazine, Outside, Diablo Magazine, Smart Meetings, Hidden Compass, the LA Times and more. Our corporate members talked about their – and our — challenges and the “new normal” in tourism and destination travel.
Among the most popular were three hands-on events featuring staples of a journalist’s diet: coffee, cocktails and whiskey. Triple Coffee of San Francisco generously mailed samples to members for a guided at-home tasting of their gourmet coffee, and then, via Zoom, took us live to a coffee plantation and producer in Honduras. Giving SIP a new meaning, a taste and compare session with quality whiskey produced in the Bay Area and beyond was sponsored with donations by The Whiskey Shop, the 10th Street Distillery and JVS Imports. The following week, Geijer Spirits gave us a master class in cocktail mixology.
Throughout this rugged year, our membership continued to publish, and several used this time to publish or complete books. Your BOD was not idle: in addition to planning the innovative meetings, we oversaw a redesign of our BATW website, and produced a terrific new juried anthology of travel writing by our members, “Travel Stories of Wonder and Change.”
Just as important: In a time of isolation and deprivation, we stayed connected. Dozens of us tuned in for informal Zoom Chatty Hours, bringing each other up to date on activities and plans, and sharing how we were coping and finding sources of income.
As 2021 begins, we don’t know what to expect. There’s the good news that vaccines are in distribution–and the bad news that it will still be months before we meet in person. We’ve got meetings planned for whatever comes –speaking of which, our annual membership meeting is January 13, ZOOM link to come. Please plan to attend and to contribute your ideas for the year ahead.
With best wishes for a truly happy new year!