Life-long explorer, travel industry expert and GoKinda founder Alison Greer is on a mission to make conscious and stylish hotels easy to book. Here, we unpack her best travel advice, her hopes for the future of travel and her top hotel recommendations for those planning their next getaways.
What sparked your love for travel?
I grew up with stories of faraway places. My Grandma had an incredible life, being moved from Poland all the way to Africa during WW2. As a small child, I already knew of places like Persia and Rhodesia, and then Tanganyika – where my dad was born. I’ve always craved new experiences and travel seemed like the ultimate in new experiences – the unknown of new places and new people.
What is it about travelling you love most?
I love experiencing how different the world is, and how people experience life so differently, yet at the same time how similar we all are. I love seeing things in real life that I’ve read or learnt about – seeing Picasso’s studio, or an African elephant in the wild. I love that travelling continues to open my mind, and remind me that there is more to life than the little bubble that I live in most of the time.
” I love that travelling continues to open my mind”
What inspired the idea for GoKinda?
I started to realise that for all the good that travel can bring to both travellers and the people and places we visit, there can also be negative social and environmental impacts that are hard to ignore. I knew (somewhat selfishly) that I didn’t want to stop travelling despite the negative impact, so I started to look for a way to keep travelling, only better.
What I found was that this was easier said than done. Currently there is no global approach to recognising hotels that are doing better, so figuring it all out is complicated and confusing. Some hotels make big claims and don’t deliver, while others are doing great things but don’t communicate their efforts. Then there are large hotel groups making claims about their entire portfolios that don’t necessarily hold up under the eco-microscope. My hope is that the world of credible eco certifications and labels becomes much clearer in the future – but, right now, researching these credentials sees you tumbling into an overwhelming rabbit hole. The accredited hotels I could find were often at the higher end of the market – luxury hotels that were out of reach for most. So, I started to think about how it could be easier for conscious travellers to find hotels that were stylish, conscious of their impact and accessible. GoKinda was born.
What kind of travel experiences do you hope GoKinda will create?
I hope style-savvy and conscious travellers will find hotels that make them feel good in every way, both when they arrive and when they leave.
I also hope that we can surface hotels in places that many people may not have heard of or thought of before. These ‘destination’ hotels are often by nature, more sustainable. Visiting less populated and visited areas is not only a kinder way to travel, but it can also provide a more authentic experience for travellers.
What do you look for in a hotel when you travel?
I like hotels that stand for something. It could be statement architecture or design, food that is local and an experience in itself, or a location that allows for unique experiences. I try to avoid hotels where I feel like I could be anywhere in the world.
“I like hotels that stand for something”
Why is style important to you?
Call me superficial, but I think how a hotel looks and feels is important! Travel is a time to escape and feel transported from our normal lives, which for me, includes touching all the senses. Whether that’s a city hotel with artwork that inspires you to get dressed up and hit the town, or a traditionally designed island bure with a deck to watch the sunset from, a stylish environment makes the experience better.
What are some of your favourite travel memories?
Snowboarding on Christmas day in Canada; watching the sun go down over the horizon anywhere in the world (I live on the east coast of Australia, it’s always a novelty!); bike riding Venice Beach; seeing lions in the wild followed by sundowners in the Serengeti; connecting with family in Poland; catching a local baseball game in Havana, Cuba; eating all the food in Vietnam and Thailand. I could really go on forever!
Can you let us in on your best suitcase-packing tips?
A year ago I would have said pack light, but I now have a baby and that is a distant memory. But if you can, pack light. Ideally carry-on only. It’s possible for so many destinations. You’ll never have your luggage not turn up. It’s also good for the planet, less weight means less fuel used.
Make sure all your clothes work together so you can create multiple outfits from the least amount of items. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane so you don’t have to fit them in your suitcase.
Fill mini bottles with all your potions so you don’t need to take full size bottles. This keeps you under the liquid limits and saves space. You don’t even need to buy those little travel bottles, any old bottle or container will do the trick.
Pack your heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase – it makes it so much easier to roll.
What go-to items are always in your carry-on?
A water bottle and a KeepCup. I always take a scarf and use it as a pillow, sarong, dress up a simple outfit, protect my skin from the sun, or keep me warm on the plane.
I keep all my important things (my passport, phone etc.) in a small pouch that fits in my carry-on – it can also be used as a clutch when I arrive.
How do you define the ‘conscious’ in conscious hotels or travel?
We’ve spent a lot of time choosing our words carefully. ‘Sustainable travel’ is a term that’s become overused in the travel world – but, truthfully, we’re a long way off travel being completely sustainable.
That said, ‘sustainable’ – or, better yet, ‘regenerative’ – travel should be the goal. For us, promoting hotels as ‘sustainable’ when they’re not (yet!) sustainable didn’t feel right. We believe that to achieve a point of ‘sustainable travel,’ more hotels will need to become conscious – to us, this means taking deliberate and intentional action to do better. That’s why we believe the word ‘conscious’ feels more honest and accurate when we’re describing our hotels.
“To me, being conscious means taking deliberate and intentional action to do better.”
You’ve travelled a lot and worked in travel your whole career, how has the pandemic been for you?
For many people, it has been sad – lost livelihoods all over the world, good and talented people lost from the travel industry, missed occasions and events, and of course the lost opportunity to travel.
For the planet, it has hopefully been pivotal. The world slowed down and proved that the effects of climate change can be slowed, and in parts even reversed. It has made a lot of people think differently about how life needs to be lived post-pandemic. Travel is just one part of this.
I’ve also seen so many opportunities created, for those who chose to find them.
There is no doubt that working in the travel industry during the pandemic was tough, but the people that work in the travel industry are travellers themselves, so they are determined to be a part of the recovery. I just hope that the things we’ve learnt during the pandemic can contribute to a more sustainable recovery for travel.
Which destinations and hotels are your top recommendations for 2023?
To travel kinder, think about destinations that rely heavily on tourism and have done it especially tough during the pandemic. For example, Fiji and the pacific islands, or Bali. You could then go even further (literally!) and look to areas within those destinations that are further afield and less crowded.
If you find yourself in London, check out room2 in Chiswick, the world’s first net-zero hotel from conception through to life end. Not only is it good for the planet, but it looks great too – each room is uniquely designed with bespoke furnishings, and it feels super cosy.
Thailand has a host of stylish new hotels to consider, especially on Koh Samui. Check out Kimpton Kitalay Samui, Centara Reserve Samui, and U Samui for a chic and conscious stay. And if you’re looking for a boutique experience, you won’t want to miss The Standard’s newest additions in Hua Hin and Bangkok Mahanakhon – they’re as unique and stylish as you’d expect from this iconic brand.
If you’re only looking to dip your toe back into travel this year, I’d recommend looking at domestic travel – but make it interesting. Tropical North Queensland will make you feel like you’ve gone somewhere special without leaving the country. You’ll find a range of stylish and conscious hotels on our site including Crystalbrook Riley and Crystalbrook Flynn, both in Cairns.
‘To travel kinder, think about destinations that rely heavily on tourism and have done it especially tough during the pandemic.’
What are your five favourite conscious brands right now and why?
- Crystalbrook Collection – I love that they are bringing sustainability to urban hotels.
- Who Gives a Crap – any brand that can make toilet paper chic is doing something right!
- Ethique – bottle-free beauty products that are actually awesome.
- One Tribe Global – our rainforest protection partner. I love their approach to carbon reduction: they’re protecting trees instead of planting them.
- Bands of Courage – their bands are beautiful, they have an impressive partnership with Eden Reforestation Project, and I just love their story.
What’s your best travel advice? And, what’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received?
My best travel advice is to book multiple hotels within the same trip. Not only does it feel like you’re having mini holidays within your holiday, but each hotel offers something new and exciting. And if you’re dreaming of staying at a particular hotel but can’t swing it for the entire trip, consider booking it for a few nights to treat yourself.
The best travel advice I’ve been given is to slow down and take it all in. While I have no regrets, I also have no desire to return to the style of travel of my early 20s – ticking off items like my to-do list. Quality always wins over quantity now.