Since the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in March of 2020, the tourism industry—both in the United States and abroad—has suffered a series of heavy economic hits. As our society continues to gradually reopen and return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, one activity is at the forefront of many peoples’ minds: travel.
Yet, even as personal vacations begin to resume and the tourism industry slowly recovers, tourists and vacationers will realize that much of their plans are still (to some degree) restricted by various lingering COVID-19 mandates, or even that their own travel habits have changed as a result of the pandemic.
As a result, many travelers are becoming more conscious; turning away from pre-planned vacation or tourism travel packages and towards local members of the communities they are seeking to travel to. This is especially true since working remotely allows them to be away from home for longer periods of time, as well as more grateful for their communities and the local people within them.
Bonding people together through community
With this recent rise of what the industry has deemed the “conscious traveler,” a variety of community-centric digital apps and platforms have either been released or pivoted to address contemporary shifts in the habits and behaviors of those travelers. One such app that was released earlier this year, in January of 2021, is Bonder: the world’s first location-based communications platform (LBCP) of its kind.
Like many conscious travelers, Bonder’s founder, Scott Swanson, sees the world differently. With over 20 years of experience in both executive strategy for the technology sector and practicing Soto Zen, the self-described “Buddha in a business suit” is on a mission to bring digital technology back to its roots as, “a tool meant for humanity to bridge connections and collective improve our quality of life, rather than a tool to be used against ourselves,” according to Swanson.
As Swanson explains, he is inspired by the ability of people to leverage digital technology as a tool to connect and interact with one another in everyday life; however, with such rampant social stigma surrounding contemporary social media and other digital technology platforms, Swanson says he has created Bonder out of the clear social necessity to address existing gaps in truly meaningful social connections and community building.
A new kind of platform for travelers
Initially, Swanson released Bonder with a vision that the LBCP would act as—quite literally—a bonder between individuals seeking meaningful connections, be they personal or professional, with other like-minded individuals in their community. Now, several months after the platform’s soft launch earlier this year, Swanson has pivoted this vision to provide that same assistance to those seeking to travel more consciously and build meaningful connections along the way.
For example, conversations surrounding the concept of climate change and its impact on our lives have become more commonplace in recent years than they have over the past several decades combined. This is one factor that has helped give rise to the notion of the conscious traveler, as well as that of eco-tourism, defined as, “travel directed towards exotic, often threatened natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife” in a more sustainable manner compared to more “traditional” manners of travel in the past.
Not too surprisingly, engaging with local members of communities who live in such tourist and travel destinations is perhaps one of the safest, easiest, and most respectful ways for conscious travelers to not only be more mindful of where and how they travel, but who they form connections with along their journey.
Due to Bonder’s role as an LBCP, when travelers opt to use the platform to engage with others, they simply need to open the app on their smartphone, tablet, or mobile device and search for members or groups of either their own local community or the community they are traveling to through the app’s “Point, Click, and Message” feature. In this way, Bonder will not only allow travelers to create and foster meaningful connections with individuals integrated more deeply into the community of their travel destination.
In operating a true LBCP, Swanson’s vision for Bonder is not simply one of building connections through a community following, but one of creating and fostering true communal ecosystems. With such an ecosystem of like-minded people coming together to help each other, Swanson’s platform can allow for more people to connect in more productive ways to create more positive experiences for every community, forming longer-lasting relationships and more valuable bonds.