We sat down with Nelly Gedeon, “entrepreneur turned sustainability crusader” and founder & CEO of Wayaj, to discuss the differences and impact traveling sustainability could have on the planet.
Tell us a little about your background
My background in working in sustainability actively is young in years. It all started with my love for travel and has become a central part of my life’s work, passion, and ethos. While on a trip to Toga in 2017, I noticed something that caught my attention – a structure in the ocean. My first thought was why would they build a highway in the ocean? I asked the waiter who was serving us what it was and she explained that it was a highway that was there but got taken over by water over the years. I was so shocked that I decided I needed to take action; do something to help with the fight against climate change and to help improve the lives of those living in communities in need. As a result, I incorporated Wayaj with the goal of coming up with tools and solutions that will help people to travel more sustainably, fight climate change, and support social and environmental projects for the betterment of people and the planet globally. I have also integrated that passion into my personal life; we drive an electric car, we stay at hotels that practice sustainability, we offset the carbon emissions of our trips and we support non-profit organizations.
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
The concept of sustainability has been around for years, but there has been a huge focus since the Pandemic. We saw what happened when the world came to a grinding halt…much less fog, the air was cleaner, the stars could be seen and birds could be seen flying freely. It’s important because we seem to have lost our way and focused so much on development that we forgot about its impact on the planet – what will we be leaving behind for future generations? We see how climate change is negatively affecting all aspects of our lives so it would be remiss of us not to pay attention. The prominence of Sustainability is bringing more attention to what is happening and allowing the world to understand and see what we all can do to make a difference and push for positive change. My only hope is that we can move beyond talking and take real action at a faster rate than we are doing now. Sustainability is a journey – we have to start somewhere and take the necessary steps.
What do you envision your industry looking like in 10 years?
I hope that more people will become more socially and environmentally conscious; travel sustainably including offsetting their trips, there will be less overtourism, we will see a wider spread of the tourism dollars in host destinations, and more people will not only be educated about sustainability but taking action. I am optimistic because Millennials and GenZ seem to be more passionate about the topic and committed to making positive change.
What would you do with $1 Billion Dollars?
Spend a significant amount on education and the creation of tools that will make it easier for people to travel sustainably and support conservation efforts globally. Support non-profit organizations focused on biodiversity, conservation, sustainability, and diversity in communities most in need and fighting climate change.