Tom Robbins

Financial Times

A huge proportion of newspaper travel pieces originate with the PR departments of hotel companies, tourist boards and airlines: we have this new product, why not come to review it and see the area? Tom Robbins’ work isn’t like that. A former news journalist, he seeks out the nub of a good story first, then brings it to life with descriptive writing that is deeply evocative but never overblown.

So his piece on a visit to a remote Scottish bothy, for example, is a feature about a live issue (the first of these venerable institutions to move to a new charging model in response to mounting problems of vandalism), but it is also a moving portrait of a place and its former inhabitants - and a look our growing yearning for remote places. In the Italian Dolomites, the local PR actually tried to dissuade him from the piece, saying it would be impossible to complete the route he was attempting. Luckily she was wrong, and the resulting feature is a resonant description of an area (its history, food, language and landscapes) brought to life by the news, unreported elsewhere, that it now offers the world’s longest continuous ski run. Issues around post-pandemic recovery and sustainability – and how those often contradictory ambitions relate to each other – have meant that travel is newsworthy as never before, and travel journalists can look beyond merely suggesting places to go on holiday. Robbins has returned to these subjects multiple times, including a rallying call for the positive affects of tourism on the occasion of the resumption of international travel in May 2021. In June 2021, he became the first journalist in the UK to fly in a fully electric plane – something most readers would have assumed was still years aware. The first flight device (the result of independent research rather than an invite from a PR) creates a tangible and entertaining framework for a piece looking at the technological developments that might otherwise feel dry and theoretical.