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AWTE 60 at 60 Dinner.jpg

The Association of Women Travel Executives began life as The Women’s Travel Club, and was founded in 1954 by Joan Richardson.

Joan wanted to belong to a sector-specific club but the existing ones were for men only. She was the first woman travel manager to be appointed in the marine engineering organisation for which she was working, and wanted a way of supporting her career and boosting women’s status in the travel industry.


Joan teamed up with another two ambitious female travel executives, Kay Holloway and Dilys Morgan McCrindle, and the first meeting of The Women’s Travel Club was held on 14 September 1954.


Below is a potted history of The Women’s Travel Club and its evolution to The Association of Women Travel Executives as it is known today.

  • 1954 – The first meeting of The Women’s Travel Club is held at the offices of James Burness in Piccadilly, London and increases its membership to 27 within the first month. The first Christmas Lunch took place on 14 Dec with 40 women and 35 men attending. This event has since established itself as the must-attend event of the travel industry to kick off the festive season.

  • 1959 – Janet Spence founds the Scottish branch of The Women’s Travel Club

  • 1967 – The London branch forms a Benevolent Fund in memory of Gillyan Shebbeare, to raise money to help travel women in difficulties. A chair, secretary, treasurer and three trustees are appointed to administer the fund

  • 1970 –The Women’s Travel Club of Great Britain becomes a charter member at the First Convention of the International Federation of Women Travel Clubs (IFWTO) in San Francisco

  • 1971 – Joan Richardson is elected president of all the British branches of The Women’s Travel Club

  • 1987 – The London Club changes its name to the Association of Women Travel Executives – London (AWTE)

  • 1995 – AWTE holds its first cocktail party on the evening of the first day of the World Travel Market (WTM), becoming a regular annual event and providing a unique opportunity to network, whilst hosting overseas and IFWTO Members attending WTM

  • 1997 – the AWTE first attends the Business Bazaar at the ABTA convention, to raise its profile nationally and internationally

  • 1998 – AWTE signs an agreement with Travel Industry Services to offer travel benefits to all members of the association

  • 1999 – AWTE launches its new logo and letterhead, cementing its status in the travel sector

  • 2000 – AWTE stages a successful ‘say no to child sex tourism’ campaign

  • 2001 – AWTE launches its first website, revolutionary, as it was the first Association of tis kind to have such an online presence in the UK

  • 2012 – AWTE unveils its new logo and website, bringing it into the 21st century and reinforcing its position as the association that helps develop the careers of women in travel

  • 2014 – AWTE celebrates it’s 60th anniversary. To mark this special occasion we asked the industry to nominate women over the past six decades who have made a difference and stood out as influencers in travel and tourism – we were proud to honour our “60 for 60″

  • 2017 – First International chapter launched in Ireland

  • 2022 Phil Gardner, Chief Commercial Officer at Ambassador Cruise Lines, who was the 2019 winner of the AWTE Male Ambassador Award, has been appointed as the new Male Ambassador. AWTE also announces a collaboration with ITT 

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