Travel That Makes A Difference: Giving Back Where Kindness Counts – Forbes

Jessica Blotter and Sean Krejci, co-founders of Kind Traveler, at home in Palm Springs, with a … [+] member of their animal rescue family.
Travel is a journey that connects people, which is what makes it so exciting. But after experiencing massive crippling crowds at popular overtouristed destinations this year, where good behavior was in short supply, global travelers have become increasingly aware of the negative impact tourism can have on the local community.
Judging by the now-surging interest in bringing positivity to tourism through ethical tourism, immersive travel, responsible tourism and regenerative travel, it is obvious that travelers are looking for meaningful experiences–in less-traveled destinations, perhaps–that give back at the same time.
For Jessica Blotter and Sean Krejci, co-founders of Kind Traveler, a responsible travel platform, kindness is key. “Being a kind traveler means making travel and lifestyle choices that reflect kindness and empathy not only to oneself, but also to other individuals and communities, the environment and animals,” says Blotter. “Travel that advances positive impact and reduces negative impact is a core element of being a kind traveler and traveling kindly.”
Kind Traveler makes it easy for destinations and hotels to mobilize funding for local nonprofits in destination communities, and communicate how travel dollars are driving positive impact, according to Blotter. “By guiding travel dollars to support local nonprofits committed to advancing community and environmental impact, Kind Traveler helps promote responsible and sustainable tourism efforts in destination communities,” she says. “Additionally, Kind Traveler helps increase trip satisfaction by creating travel experiences rooted in giving back, thereby creating purposeful, meaningful, and memorable trips,” she continues.
For Blotter and Krejci, the idea hit on a trip to Belize. Both animal rescue volunteers, they found themselves surrounded by heartbreaking poverty, widespread pollution and begging dogs. There wasn’t much they could do about the first two, but when they decided to feed the hungry dogs, fellow travelers were similarly inspired to help.
And that’s when a light switch went on. “This small act of kindness had us yearning for a more profound way for our travel dollars to make a lasting, meaningful impact in the local community,” Blotter says. “We thought, ‘What if we could create a way for travelers to make a positive impact within the communities they visit and be filled with a greater sense of joy and purpose while traveling?’”
In 2016, they launched Kind Traveler with the goal of empowering travelers to positively impact the communities they visit through an international portfolio of hotel, destination and nonprofit partners. Several months ago, Kind Traveler deepened its reach with the Every Stay Gives Back (ESGB) community impact program, which ensures that every guest-stay funds local charities in partnership with participating hotels and destinations. Regardless of where you book, 100 percent of funds raised are donated to participating charities.
The Art House Hotel in Santa Rosa, CA, a partner on nature experiences provided to elementary … [+] students in Sonoma County
Depending on which study you reference–and there are many–75 to 96 percent of travelers now want their travel dollars to positively impact the communities they visit, says Blotter. (In 2022, Kind Traveler released its own survey titled Kind Traveler’s Global Impact Tourism Report: 10 Global Trends at the Intersection of Travel, Philanthropy, and Sustainability, indicating that 96 percent of respondents wanted their travel dollars to positively impact local communities.)
But when it comes to making sustainable travel choices, half don’t know how, and one-third find it confusing. Meanwhile, only $5 of every $100 spent by international travelers in developing countries stays in the community visited, according to the UN Environment Programme. “Before Kind Traveler, travelers may have turned to voluntourism as a pathway to give back while they travel,” she says. “However, voluntourism isn’t always available, and not all travelers want to participate.”
That’s where ESGB comes in. The program began with a six-month pilot in 2023, based on 15 boutique hotels and seven local charities in eight destinations. The pilot raised over $73,000 in donations for seven local charities, with 100 percent of the funds raised donated to the participating charities.
Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas in Costa Rica, a Kind Traveler partner on an after-school program with … [+] Abriendo Mentes in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Shortly after the pilot ended, Kind Traveler doubled their partner participation and, in September, launched the program to the public with a collection of 350+ luxury resorts, boutique hotels and glamping experiences around the world. Specific examples of community impact include 7,000+ servings of Sonoma County-grown fruits and vegetables provided to families facing food injustice while solving food waste with Farm to Pantry in Sonoma County, California, in partnership with The Stavrand, Wildhaven Sonoma and The Gables Wine Country Inn; 9,141 hours of enrichment programs provided to students in an after-school program with Dylan Jude Harrell Community Center in Coastal Oregon & Washington, in partnership with Adrift Hospitality; 330 science-based nature experiences provided to elementary students with Pepperwood in Sonoma County, in partnership with Art House Hotel Santa Rosa; 250 students received school supplies for an after-school program with Abriendo Mentes in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, in partnership with Las Catalinas Casa Chameleon.
Adrift Hospitality’s Inn at Discovery Coast in Oregon, a partner on enrichment programs in an … [+] after-school program with Dylan Jude Harrell Community Center in Coastal Oregon & Washington

“Tourism boards and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have a powerful voice when guiding support for charitable organizations connected to destination well-being,” says Blotter, who is also on the Board of Directors for CREST (Center for Responsible Travel). In 2021, Kind Traveler created a partnership with Visit California. The local city and regional DMOs choose the nonprofits, identifying nonprofit partners as beneficiaries focused on advancing climate action and/or alleviating poverty.
Measuring and reporting the impact can be a challenge. According to Hospitality Net, only one-third of hotels actively communicate the news of their sustainability practices proactively to potential guests. “Without a dedicated sustainability manager on-site, it can be challenging to report consistently on impact and communicate such efforts to guests,” says Blotter. The ESGB program provides third-party validation of donations to local nonprofits and impact reporting to communicate the relevance and positive impact generated because of the donations with a live, digital ESGB dashboard created for each participating lodging and destination partner.
A partnership with the Catalina Island Conservancy
Wood plaques representing ESGB membership seal and QR codes are provided to hotels to make it easy to communicate the metrics and encourage guests to get further involved with community impact efforts.
By supporting local nonprofits focused on driving environmental and community impact forward in destinations, “it’s possible to advance climate action, poverty alleviation, ocean and wildlife conservation, and much more, to support the well-being of destinations,” says Blotter.