Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Manta Trust
Many mainstream travel agents still emphasize low prices and profit, treating both travelers and destinations as commodities; but Kind Traveler challenges the viability of such a model within an industry increasingly shaped by more conscious travelers.
It was a trip to Belize that changed the way Jessica Blotter and her
partner, Sean Krejci, seriously considered the positive potential of
tourism. As animal-rescue volunteers in the US, they decided to feed begging
dogs on the street and “unintentionally inspired other travelers to get
involved,” Blotter told Sustainable Brands™. Back home, she and Krejci
wrestled with a way to combine their love of travel and entrepreneurial skills
to help travelers easily have a meaningful impact within the communities they
visit, just as they did in Belize.
The result was Kind Traveler — a socially conscious
hotel booking and media platform. Initially launched in 2016 by Blotter and
Krejci, Kind Traveler’s Give + Get
allows travelers to unlock exclusive hotel rates and perks with a minimum $10
donation to a vetted local charity that positively impacts the community visited
or to a charity of choice. With a significant upgrade and relaunch in January
2022, Kind Traveler now provides travelers with an option to plant trees with
Arbor Day Foundation and access to a positive impact report, which details
the exact impact of the donation with the chosen charity.
If these socially focused add-ons seem like overkill just to book a hotel room,
consider the fact that not only are people becoming more conscious
but also more mindful
According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel
83 percent of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital — a finding
confirmed by Kind Traveler’s own recently released Impact Tourism
which found 96 percent of travelers want the money they spend to make a positive
impact in communities. And yet, according to a commonly cited 2014 report from
the UN World Tourism
only $5 out of every $100 spent by tourists from developed countries in
developing countries actually stays in the developing-country destination’s
In other words, people increasingly say they want to maximize their positive
impact when they travel; yet, the infrastructure and business model to focus
beyond cheap prices and the bottom line has not been prioritized.
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“Historically, the tourism ecosystem has been about price and deals. OTAs
(online travel agencies) compete with a merchant model, pre-buying projected
distressed inventory from properties and then offering to a willing audience,”
said Richard Bangs, a member of the founding executive team at Expedia
and an advisor to Kind Traveler. “Kind (Traveler) is turning that proposition on
its head: inverting the decision pyramid, and offering up the chance to make a
positive difference in travel purchases — which pays a psychic dividend and
rewards all links in the value chain.”
Using the Kind Traveler platform is a markedly different experience than other
mainstream OTAs. When people search for a property on Kind Traveler, they see
the price for the nights selected — which is the key selling point for most
platforms. However, they also clearly see the local charity receiving 100
percent of the donation, key wellness features such as sleep programs and
eco-friendly food options, environmental initiatives such as use of cruelty-free
products and composting, community impacts such as local mentorship programs and
employee volunteer hours, and relevant certifications.
Kind Traveler currently has more than 140 hotels and more than 100 charities
across 22 countries listed on its platform. As part of its recent relaunch, Kind
developed a custom interface that provides access to the global distribution
system where the company has potential distribution with more than 250,000
hotels. Despite this deep well from which to access and list properties, Blotter
noted Kind Traveler will intentionally grow its collection with curated hotels
aligned with the company’s values and efforts to advance sustainability,
community impact and wellness initiatives. It will also continue to create local
charity alignment within each community.
“This process is often time-consuming and laborious,” she said. “When new local
charities are identified through a community-based decision where Kind Traveler,
the hotel, and sometimes the local tourism board weighs in; it can sometimes
take multiple meetings and many weeks and months before an official partnership
is established to allow Kind Traveler to legally market and fundraise on behalf
of the non-profit organization.”
This is one of the reasons why, as new hotel partners come on board, they are
encouraged to designate existing Kind Traveler charity partners. This also
allows the company to grow its impact in a deeper way versus simply expanding
its pool of charitable beneficiaries. Quality, not quantity, is at the heart of
the Kind Traveler model — one that clearly resonates, especially as people seek
ways to travel more sustainably.
“When it comes to being a more responsible traveler, Kind Traveler helps me pour
back into the communities I visit,” user Amanda H. wrote for the company’s
survey. This echoes responses from partner companies in the same survey: “Kind
Traveler understands an industry insight, which is that travelers are
motivated by doing good and spending their dollars with businesses that share
their values,” wrote a representative from MacArthur Place in Sonoma,
Mainstream OTAs may continue to emphasize low prices and profit, treating both
travelers and the places they visit as commodities; but Kind Traveler challenges
the viability of such a model within a changing ecosystem.
“Education creates positive change,” Blotter says. “Travelers must become keenly
aware of how their impacts can help or harm the
and learn to vote with their dollars by supporting brands creating sustainable
and equitable futures.”
Published Apr 12, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
JoAnna Haugen is a writer, speaker and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for her entire career. She is also the founder of Rooted — a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact and storytelling. A returned US Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer and intrepid traveler, JoAnna helps tourism professionals decolonize travel and support sustainability using strategic communication skills.