When I first discovered Kind Traveler at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show I knew it was a game changer. Allowing people to travel the way they want, while still being able to give back… that’s golden! Kind Traveler is the first ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking platform that transforms travelers into a financial force that benefits communities, the environment, and animals. Travelers ‘give’ to a local or global charity; as reward for their donation, they ‘get’ an exclusive rate to book directly with the world’s best hotels and unique properties.
When you book your hotel through Kind Traveler, you can donate to one of their local or global charities and lock in exclusive Kind Hotel rates that are discounted up to 25% off the hotel’s normal rates. Their charities benefit the local communities, animals, and the environment, and 100% of your donation goes to the charities.
Jessica Blotter, CEO and Cofounder of Kind Traveler, is sharing her insight in this #littleBIGthings interview on how travel can be used as a force for good.
1. How can travelers make a positive difference on their trip without actually doing any sort of volunteering?
Kind Traveler’s mission is to transform travelers into a force for good that benefits communities, animals, and the environment. When travelers use KindTraveler.com to book Kind Hotels, a $10 donation to their local or global charity of choice on the platform will unlock exclusive hotel rates to book direct with Kind Traveler’s curated properties. 100% of donations are given back to the charities, making it a triple win for the traveler, charity, and hotel.
Since every Kind Traveler hotel is paired with a local charity in its community, the traveler has an opportunity to make a positive difference locally by donating to its local charity. Travelers can also give back to national and global charities, divided into 10 different causes—ranging from animal welfare to the environment, disaster relief and more. Some of our global charities include American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, World Food Program USA, WildAid, Animal Defenders International, The Arbor Day Foundation, Global Green USA, Little Kids Rock, and Keep A Breast Foundation.
2. Does a donation have to be a lot of money to make an impact? How can travelers who book through Kind Traveler know that they will actually be making a difference?
To unlock Kind Traveler’s exclusive hotel rates, a minimum of a $10 nightly donation is required. We use the metric of “What $10 Can Do” across the website, offering specific examples of what a $10 donation can offer. This makes it easy for travelers to see exactly what kind of impact they will make. For example, if you make a $10 donation to Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter, you can help cover the cost of supplies for a group beach clean-up event.
Kind Traveler’s global charities are required to have at least a 3-star rating on Charity Navigator, a public website that rates the financial accountability of non-profits. A 3 or 4-star rating ensures that the charity is top-performing and making a significant impact on the cause of its focus.
3. What inspired you to start Kind Traveler?
There were quite a few things that inspired Kind Traveler, but there was one tipping point:
After a trip to Belize in 2012, my partner and I had an experience that changed us. As our tour bus wound its way through the back roads of rural villages, we witnessed heartbreaking poverty, families living in tiny shacks near polluted swamps, and emaciated dogs wandering the streets for food. 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 back home in Los Angeles, we simply decided to buy food to feed the dogs. Unintentionally, this action inspired other tourists to do the same thing. Rather than do nothing and live with the sadness of the situation, people took action and suddenly the moment went from somber to joyful. The smiles on the other traveler’s faces and the feeling of satisfaction knowing that we tried to make things better in a small way stayed with us for a long time. The other travelers wanted to help… they just needed a catalyst.
This experience led us to brainstorm how we could use our entrepreneurial skills and passion for travel to help more animals and people, too. We asked ourselves, “What if we could create a way for travelers to easily make a difference locally or to a cause they were passionate about when they traveled?”
We were personally craving a deeper level of meaning in our travel experiences as we discovered our travel dollars were not supporting the local community or environment in any way. Besides voluntourism, there wasn’t anything in the market that provided an easy way for mindful travelers to make the place they were visiting better than before they arrived or a way to connect with something beyond sightseeing and selfies.
The answer to that question became KindTraveler.com.
Last year alone, more than 1 billion trips were taken. That’s 1 billion opportunities for travelers to become a force for good.
4. When selecting hotels, how can travelers determine whether the hotels are socially responsible and benefit rather than harm the local community?
Kind Traveler invites hotels that demonstrate initiatives towards wellness, sustainability, and community impact. We then organize each initiative (a hotel’s Kind Factors) for the traveler to easily see what types of efforts it has in place as it relates to wellness, sustainability, and community impact.
Because Kind Traveler helps to align each hotel with a hyper-local charity in its community, we can ensure that by nature of this alignment, that the hotel is committed to community impact. Because travelers can also donate to global charities as a way to unlock a hotel’s exclusive rate, the hotel is also contributing to the greater good on a global level by its affiliation to our global charity network.
5. What makes Kind Traveler different from other hotel booking sites?
Kind Traveler is completely different than an online travel agency (OTA), primarily because of the booking process and the manner in which they profile the hotel. In terms of booking, the Kind Traveler development team created unique technology that sends the traveler’s information from Kind
Traveler’s site directly to the hotel’s booking engine to complete the transaction. This direct booking provides a significant value for the hotel and traveler, allowing them to communicate directly with each other – before, during and after their stay. In terms of the hotel profile, Kind Traveler highlights the property’s local charitable affiliation and ‘Kind Factors’ – the term they use to explain how the hotel is impacting individual wellness, sustainability, and community. This unique way of telling the hotel’s story communicates a commitment to corporate social responsibility, at a time when transparency is expected from today’s travelers and consumers.
Another major distinction between Kind Traveler and other travel booking sites is our desire to educate. According to Phocuswright “three of 10 giving travelers were prompted to volunteer or donate because of something they read, heard, saw or experienced.” Kind Traveler’s blog provides stories that inspire travel while underscoring the importance of giving back, living consciously, and choosing with purpose.
6. What advice would you give someone who wants to travel sustainably but isn’t sure how to do so?
We’ve created a helpful guide that offers 10 tips on how travelers can make a positive difference when they travel. The guide considers how travelers can carefully consider the wellbeing of animals, the environment, and local communities and can be downloaded for free at http://get.kindtraveler.com/discover/.
7. How do you think travel can be used for good?
The seven-trillion-dollar travel industry has tremendous potential for positive global impact. Last year alone more one billion trips were taken. That’s one billion opportunities for travelers to become a force for good.
Travelers have the opportunity to positively impact communities, the environment, and animals, simply by directing their everyday purchasing decisions to companies who are making a social or environmental impact.
Jessica Blotter, CEO and Cofounder, Kind Traveler
Jessica Blotter is a journalist, speaker, advocate for the greater good, and CEO & Cofounder of Kind Traveler, the first ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking platform to transforms travelers into a force for good that benefits communities, animals, and the environment.
The moment she discovered that the love of travel can’t be separated from the state of the world on a trip to Belize in 2012, her four-year journey to create Kind Traveler began. In a time of violence and war, she dreams of living in a world where all animals, the environment, and people are treated with kindness; a world where all individuals are empowered with a sense of purpose and gratitude in their daily lives and are fulfilled with heaps of happiness as a result.
As a journalist with a heart for travel, sustainability, social impact, and animal welfare, her words have appeared on Fast Company, CBS Los Angeles, Hospitality Design, One Green Planet, Green Lodging News, CEO.com, Spa Finder, Darling Magazine, Examiner, Destination Luxury, and the BLLA (Boutique Lodging & Lifestyle Association).
As a speaker, she’s presented on the stages of TEDx and regular contributes as a panelist with various professional hospitality associations and events.
Through her accomplishments with Kind Traveler, Blotter has been featured on The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Afar Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more.
Her career began as an earth science teacher with UCLA’s Pruess School, educating 130 students each day. She then spent 10 years as an Associate Publisher and Advertising Director with popular print & digital lifestyle magazine start-ups including 944 Magazine and Foam Magazine in San Diego and Los Angeles. Her entrepreneurial journey began as the five-year principal and founder of brand development consultancy, Publicly Loved, where her clients included luxury real estate moguls like CIM Group and Marriott Hotels.
When she’s not curating kindness with Kind Traveler, she is a dedicated yogi, animal rescue volunteer, and loves spending time in the wildlands of her Topanga backyard. She tries to keep up with the requests of her eight rescues: a turkey named Drumstick, a bunny, two chickens, and four cats.
You can find her blogging on KindTraveler.com or on Twitter at @TravelKindly.