There’s a new way to make a difference in local communities—booking your next vacation through a company called Kind Traveler. The Los Angeles-based company aims to impact local charities, animal shelters, and more through a donation program that revolves around discounted hotel bookings. Contributor Matt Villano caught up with cofounders Jessica Blotter, 38, and Sean Krejci, 40, to learn more about the endeavor and how travelers can use it.
Start by telling us more about how Kind Traveler works.
Sean Krejci (SK): Basically, travelers use our platform to connect with local charities and donate to the charities of their choice. Then, as a reward for their donation, they unlock exclusive hotel rates to book with any of our hotel partners.
Jessica Blotter (JB): Right; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the charities. Right now the minimum donation level is $10 per night and you can donate up to $100, but we hope to allow people to donate whatever they want in the future. The idea is to give travelers opportunities to make hyper-local impact every time they book.
Why launch this particular program now?
JB: The purpose-driven economy is exploding. Research shows that when people are connected with something, they become happier and they see the experience as more meaningful. For instance, a recent study from Tourism Cares and PhocusWright indicated about 48 percent of respondents said it was either “very important” or “extremely important” that their travel spending benefit the communities they visit. That’s a huge number of people who care, and we think this is a perfect platform for them.
How many hotels are in the program right now?
JB: We launched with 21 hotels in 11 markets in North America and the Caribbean. Some of them include Virgin Hotels Chicago, 1 Hotel South Beach, 1 Hotel New York, COMO Parrot Cay, and more. (As of November 2017, Kind Traveler has since grown to 52 hotels and counting.)
SK: Every hotel and charity partner has a profile on our site. Travelers can not only read about charities on our site, but they also can read more about each of the hotels and see bullet points about what each hotel is doing in the community and in terms of sustainability. We call these bullet points “Kind Factors.”
How’d you get the idea for this?
JB: We were visiting Belize back in 2012, and we were on a bus heading to Mayan ruins. The bus stopped at this tiny store in an even tinier town and it was our last chance to grab snacks or water before the trip continued. We got out, and these dogs approached us begging for food. Well, we were heavily involved in animal rescue at the time, so we couldn’t ignore the dogs. We went into the store to see if it had dog food. We bought as much as we could and scattered it on the ground to feed dogs. More and more dogs came out of the woodwork. We looked up and saw all of the other travelers on the bus walking out of the store with dry kibble to feed the dogs, as well. That got us thinking about how we could create a model that would enable doing the same thing on a bigger scale. Kind Traveler is the result.
Do you have any corporate sponsors?
SK: A bunch. Our founding sponsors are Gensler, the architecture firm, and Fathom, the purpose-driven cruise line from Carnival. We have about 10 other corporate sponsors, including three different tourism boards.
What’s the next step for Kind Traveler now that you’ve launched?
JB: We would like to add another 10 to 15 markets within the next year. We’ve started the company with a bunch of our own money, but our plan is to find funding after we launch. We also want to expand our team and grow into other markets.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com