While in the Peace Corps, I left my site once a month for a weekend in Bangkok. After weeks of village life, all I wanted was to feel like any other traveler, and yet I couldn’t shake the discrepancy between my poor rice farming community and the tempting metropolis. Many travelers share this sentiment, but don’t know how to give back to these countries in a meaningful way.
Kiva is a non-profit organization that facilities microfinance loans to sustainably fight poverty. The platform connects lenders with borrowers who use the money to create opportunities for themselves. Kiva works with individuals and partner organizations around the world to create a database of borrowers who post profiles with their intended project. This could be anything from giving a Kenyan farmer capital to buy livestock to helping a Phillippino store owner stock her store. Lenders offer a loan as small as $25, receive progress updates, and get paid back as soon as the entrepreneur is able.
As part of the partnership, TripAdvisor will make Kiva loans on behalf of its community. When a traveler submits a TripAdvisor review for a Kiva country, they will be offered the opportunity to select who they want to fund, and TripAdvisor will make a $25 loan. The first phase will fund $250K in loans, at no cost to the traveler.
“There is an overlap between the Kiva spirit and the spirit of what our community does,” said TripAdvisor CMO Barbara Messing. “Travelers to developing countries often feel like they want to do more. They enjoy the hotels and the food but realize folks in that country need more than a smile, they need resources. This partnership says to a traveler ‘hey, you just had a great trip, and here is a real and meaningful way for you to give back.'”
One of Kiva’s core goals is to help people achieve financial independence. The site emphasizes the story behind each entrepreneur to create a lasting connection between borrowers and lenders. This aligns with TripAdvisor’s brand as well, which in its own way, provides a channel for travelers to share their experiences.
“When you see someone and hear their story, it creates empathy,” said Kiva President Premal Shah on a Skype call from Sierra Leone. “Empathy creates generosity, and complete strangers are willing to lend each other money. What fosters and sustains that trust is when the money is repaid and can be loaned again and again. This is why the TripAdvisor partnership makes sense — as global citizens, none of us are visitors. We are connected, and this is never more clear than when we travel. Through this partnership, you can continue the affinity for the places you visit after you leave.”
Shah said the world is shrinking, and mobile technology is spreading to even the most remote corners of the globe. These trends, combined with developments in crowdsourcing and payments technology, have a profound impact on access to capital. Put that together with the 60 million monthly visitors to TripAdvisor, and you get thousands upon thousands of people whose lives will never be the same.