IN THE end, choosing the winner turned out to be a piece of cake. Cutting down more than 1,500 entries to a shortlist of 16 was rather more of a challenge. At 400 words per entry, this left us more than half a million words to read.

The Reluctant Tourist Award was a writing competition designed to expose the best and worst of tourism. It clearly captured the imagination of readers, who lived up to the high standards displayed in previous essay competitions.

There was some repetition (we think we've probably read enough about loggerhead turtles to last us a little while) but generally the entries covered a wide range of environmental subjects and a list of destinations that spanned the world.

The shortlist of 16 gives an idea of the breadth of coverage: Cuba (Nicola Carrol); Bhutan (Lesley Reader); Switzerland (Michael Woods); Bolivia (Julian Ashford); Sabah (Sandra Corrie); Turkey (Margo Sheridan); France (Roger Williams); India (Peter Sender); Fiji (Neal Wright); Ecuador (Barbara Brierley); Indonesia (Geoff Pope); Australia (Kent Gilges); Malawi (Jenny Kay); Sri Lanka (Gwen Ingram); the United Kingdom (Richard Patterson); and Greece (Paul Millichip).

The judges included Patricia Ewing, the controller of Radio 5; Irene Mallis, the head of BBC radio's travel unit; Mark Ellingham of Rough Guides; Anne-Marie Barrett of STA Travel; and Anne Spackman, Weekend pages editor of the Independent.

The shortlist was reduced to a final three: Geoff Pope on the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia; Michael Woods on the Jungfrau region of Switzerland; and Lesley Reader on a remote region of Bhutan.

Lesley Reader's piece was chosen as the winning entry for the crispness of the writing and the beautifully concise manner in which she set out the paradoxes involved in Western tourists visiting a poor country like Bhutan. The gentle humanity of the piece made it a clear winner.

Lesley Reader, 37, is an English teacher with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and has been in Bhutan since 1986. As she is still in Bhutan, four weeks away from the nearest phone, Lesley has yet to hear the news of her success.

Her prize will be a chance to make a radio feature on a subject of her choice on Radio 5. STA Travel will provide her with an air ticket to fly anywhere in the world.