Millennium Magazine speaks with Jessica Blotter, the CEO + Co-Founder of Kind Traveler.
How did you come up with Kind Traveler? Was there a catalyst that led you to create the company?
During a vacation to Belize witnessing families living in shacks next to polluted swamps and emaciated dogs roaming the streets, my partner, Sean Krejci, and I had an experience that changed us. We were on a bus with other travelers winding through the backroads as we headed to the Mayan ruins. The bus had never been so quiet. How could we get excited about visiting the Mayan ruins nearby and ignore the devastation around us?
WE MADE A CHOICE TO HELP.
When the bus stopped as a last chance to grab snacks or water before the hike, rib-protruding dogs approached us, begging for food with eyes of despair. As animal rescue volunteers in America, we simply decided to buy food to feed the dogs. Unintentionally, this action inspired the other travelers to do the same thing. Rather than do nothing and live with the sadness of the situation, people acted and suddenly the moment went from somber to joyful – just by doing something. The other travelers wanted to help… they just needed a catalyst.
And it turns out, we weren’t alone. 70 percent of travelers want their travel dollars to positively impact the communities they visit as identified as the ‘Impact Awakening’ trend in Booking’s 2021 Global Research Study. However, of those that want to travel more sustainably, half don’t know how, and one-third find it confusing. Furthermore, as cited by the UNWTO, only $5 of every $100 spent by travelers in developing countries stays in that country.
The feeling from our small act of kindness stayed with us for a long time and we wondered how we could use our entrepreneurial skills and passion for travel to make it easy for travelers to make a positive impact to the communities they visit– and in turn, be filled up with a sense of purpose and happiness from their travels resulting in a more meaningful and memorable vacation.
After many years of research and development, the answer was KindTraveler.com, the world’s first socially conscious Give + Get hotel booking and media platform that empowers travelers to positively impact the communities they visit.
What types of charities does Kind Traveler Contribute to? How much choice does the patron have over which charity they help?
Kind Traveler’s Give + Get hotel booking model is simple: Travelers get exclusive rates and perks from curated Kind Hotels upon a $10 donation to a locally vetted charity that positively impact the local community, or to a charity of choice. 100% of donations go to charity.
All Kind Traveler charities are aligned to address the UN Global Goals, working to fight poverty, advance environmental sustainability, or reduce inequality. While travelers may donate to any charity, the local charity that addresses challenges in the community visited is always highlighted and is the default charity. To date, Kind Traveler is partnered with 90 charities in 22 countries.
It’s also important to mention that a $10 donation can go a long way! For example, a $10 donation to the Russian Riverkeeper in Sonoma County, California, will help clean up 250 lbs. of trash out of the Russian River; provide 40 nutritious meals to families in need with New York City’s City Harvest; or provide two months of care for a kitten rescued by the Cayo Animal Welfare Society in Belize.
Tell us about the experiences your travelers can enjoy when booking on Kind Traveler and what sets your bookings site apart from other sites in the same space?
When it comes to being set apart from other sites in the same space, Kind Traveler is the only hotel booking platform that provides a way to give back to local charities in the communities you visit in exchange for unlocking exclusive rates and perks from curated Kind Hotels. The psychological benefits of giving, whether it be through donation or volunteering, include evoking feelings of connectivity, happiness, and a greater sense of purpose (Cleveland Clinic: Giving is Good for Your Health). This is the perfect storm for the conscious, responsible, and sustainable traveler who wants to ensure that their travel dollars are optimized to support and regenerate local communities and the environment, while feeling a sense of satisfaction and deeper meaning from their travel experiences.
When it comes to experiences, travelers can learn about any short-term volunteer experiences or activities associated with the local charities. On the charity microsite, there is a section on ‘how to travel kindly’ which offers activity suggestions that go beyond the donation. For example, with the Sonoma Land Trust, you can learn more about joining a docent led hike in learning about local flora and fauna or with the Russian Riverkeeper in Sonoma County, perhaps join a local river clean up event.
Lastly, the way in which Kind Traveler tells the hotel story is also different than any other platform. Kind Traveler shares how each hotel is advancing kindness through its Kind Factors – initiatives in place to advance community impact, sustainability, and individual wellness. Every hotel is also profiled with a local neighborhood guide that shares conscious activities and experiences that support local mom and pop shops, restaurants, and tour operators, as well as local offerings that are nature-driven and/or enhance individual wellness.
Tell us about a personal experience one of your patrons shared after booking on Kind Traveler?
A full circle moment happened for us when Actor Jon Huertas of NBC’s This Is Us went to Belize with his wife, Nicole Huertas, and stayed at Ka’ana Resort and visited with CAYO Animal Welfare Society (CAWS). They were able to spend time with the rescue animals and learn about CAWS’ rescue work of homeless dogs and cats of San Ignacio. Since our journey started in Belize yearning for a way to help the animals in need that we witnessed, it was deeply gratifying to see our efforts make a full circle in seeing this pathway for positive impact come to life on Kind Traveler.
Can you reveal more about current and future initiatives you’re working on at Kind Traveler?
For the last six months, we’ve been working on Kind Traveler 2.0 that will include many new enhancements to create the best possible UI/UX experience for travelers. With the launch of 2.0, we have about 30 new hotel and charity partners – and new opportunities for positive impact — that will be going LIVE with us to include nine of the Six Senses properties, Wynn Las Vegas & Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, our first partner in Switzerland, Cervo Mountain Resort, properties in North Lake Tahoe and in The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, Charleston Place, a Belmond Hotel, The Tides Inn, a Chesapeake Bay Resort, along with many other hotels in destinations currently not represented on Kind Traveler.
We are excited to continue growing our collection in creating opportunities to empower travelers to make a positive impact in the communities they visit around the globe. This November, we will be going to Switzerland as Kind Traveler was selected as 1 of 15 startups to participate in the World Tourism Forum Lucerne Innovation Camp and World Tourism Forum in Andermatt, Switzerland.
We noticed you’ve won many awards with the recent one being from Travel & Leisure as the winner of the 2020 Global Vision Award. What is your vision for Kind Traveler over the next 5-10 years?
In awareness of the world’s greatest challenges, Kind Traveler’s vision is to transform the incredible collective of everyday travelers (the 1.4B travelers who took trips pre-Covid-19) into a financial force that furthers the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Before Covid-19, the tourism industry contributed $10 Trillion GDP. It’s the world’s largest service industry and employs 1 out of 10 people worldwide. It has tremendous potential to be a financial force in addressing the world’s greatest challenges if positioned in a way to create meaningful community impact and advance environmental sustainability.
When you consider the looming threats of the climate crisis (the largest threat to the travel industry), a world where more animal and plant species are going extinct faster than ever before, and the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has erased all poverty alleviation efforts over the last three years pushing 60M individuals at-risk of extreme poverty (World Bank), there’s never been a more pivotal time to consider how our collective actions and every day decisions can be used promote the health and wellbeing of others, animals, and the environment.
Do you have anything else to share with our readers at Millennium?
I encourage Millennium readers to visit us at KindTraveler.com and join our newsletter to find inspiration in planning their next getaway that gives back and makes a positive impact. I am also personally happy to share tips or itinerary suggestions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those on Instagram, find us at @KindTraveler, Twitter @KindTraveler, Facebook, or on LinkedIn. I look forward to connecting with you – let’s #DoMoreThanTravel and #TravelKindly together!