In the hotel industry, more and more brands are placing an emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Some of these brands are thinking outside of simply making charitable donations and are implementing initiatives that engage travelers and target aid to specific communities.
Guests are responding to these efforts. According to a 2015 study conducted by Tourism Cares, about 55 percent of travelers surveyed made a donation of time, money, or supplies while traveling over the past two years. Additionally, 64 percent of those surveyed felt that giving back greatly contributed to their trip satisfaction.
“When you look at that research and you look at the state of the world, we’re living in a time in which there’s no shortage of problems. Whether you want to talk about air pollution, water pollution, wildlife conservation, just overall community support, animal welfare, or anything, really, there are plenty of people and organizations that need assistance,” says Jessica Blotter, founder and CEO of Kind Traveler.
Blotter and Kind Traveler co-founder Sean Krejci built their entire brand around pairing travelers with charities that they feel connected to. Guests who book hotels through Kind Traveler receive an exclusive rate and donate $10 per night to a local or global charity of their choice.
“Because charitable giving is highly personal, one of our goals is to connect with travelers and help them find a cause that they are really passionate about. We know that when you connect passion with purpose and serving the greater good, it creates the highest hope for personal happiness,” Blotter describes. “Ultimately, we want to inject happiness and purposefulness into the trip experience.”
While Kind Traveler works with many charities, other brands focus on one particular avenue of giving. For its charitable endeavors, Extended Stay America (ESA) has partnered with the American Cancer Society (ACS). This partnership has launched several programs that support ACS’s mission, including ESA’s flagship charity, Hotel Keys of Hope, which provides free or deeply discounted hotel stays for those undergoing cancer treatment and their caregivers.
“Getting access to treatment to people who can’t afford it is the number one barrier that we in the hotel industry can remove,” ESA’s vice president of marketing and communications, Terry Atkins, explains,” We’ve got hotel rooms that we can donate, which is an opportunity to make a huge difference.”
Since the program has launched, ESA has helped over 12,000 people access cancer treatment. “A lot of the time, insurance will cover procedures and care, but the cost of traveling to receive that treatment is not covered. Beyond that, many people cannot continue to work after a cancer diagnosis, which adds more financial pressure to the family. Being able to provide them free or really deeply discounted hotel accommodations is really the key,” Atkins adds.
Like Kind Traveler, ESA works with guests to make a positive impact, in some way, as they travel. This includes encouraging them to donate $10 to provide a child hospitalized with cancer with a “Hope” teddy bear. For each Hope bear purchased, ESA donates $5 to the American Cancer Society toward pediatric cancer research.
Creating a connection and engaging travelers to participate in chartable giving is a smart business strategy that lends itself to enhanced corporate social responsibility. By creating an active partnership with one or more charities, hotel brands and their guests have the power to be a tremendous force for good that also improves a company’s economic standing. “The quality of a travel experience is deeply connected to the quality of the environment,” says Blotter. “Connecting a traveler to the local community is really what hospitality is all about. We’re in a position to champion great causes and improve the guest experience simultaneously.”
“Every business should look for a way to give back,” comments Atkins. “Building strong community relationships through philanthropic engagement and partnership also allows brands to develop a strong presence within the travel community and build a relationship with guests who value brands with a strong sense of corporate responsibility,” he adds.
And really, the opportunities in hospitality are nearly endless. “Consider that travel is a $7 trillion industry. If just a small part of travel profit went back to supporting the causes that are important to you—a clean water supply, healthy communities, environmental sustainability—we would all be better able to thrive,” adds Blotter.