By Naeisha Rose
App highlights green hotel with a commitment to sustainability
On Sept. 23, Wayaj, a Haitian-owned travel platform, presented its app during Climate Week amongst leaders of hotel and tourism industries at the New York Institute of Technology.
“Wayaj is an app that encourages people to travel sustainably,” said founder Nelly Gedeon. “Right now the app has 400 hotels throughout the world in over 94 countries.”
The app makes it easy for green-conscientious travelers to learn about which of its listed hotels are the most environmentally friendly on a scale of one to 100, according to Gedeon.
“Travelers don’t know how to find properties that are sustainable, or a lot of properties front themselves as sustainable, but there are no metrics and it’s a marketing ploy,” said Gedeon. “What Wayaj does is flushes that out by scoring the hotels very clearly and we present why the hotel is very sustainable.”
The app presents information on what resources a hotel uses, how they use it, the air quality of the property and if they hire locally, according to Gedeon, a Port-au-Prince native who currently resides in L.I.
“It is very transparent,” said Gedeon.
As a world traveler, it was hard for Gedeon not to notice the impact of climate change in the different countries she has explored.
“My husband and I travel a lot and we are both engineers who are very busy in our lives, but whenever we have a chance we love to travel and we love to go to different countries,” said Gedeon, an engineer of 30 years. “When we travel to different countries, we see the impact of tourism on the local communities, and a lot of those communities are the most vulnerable communities.”
Visiting Lomé, Togo three years ago was the breaking point for the couple.
“We were eating at a seaside restaurant and we noticed a structure in the water, and we asked ‘what is that?'” Gedeon added. “The locals said ‘it used to be the roadway.'”
Gedeon and her husband were shocked by the news.
“The people that contribute the least to climate change are the most affected by it,” said the world traveler. “That is when I decided there’s got to be something that could be done and we came up with the idea to help people travel sustainably.”
Presenting the app at NYIT was Logan Cohen, a sustainability consultant for the firm and a designer of Wayaj’s eco-score, which uses 36 metrics to determine how ecological score of a hotel.
Some of the rating index includes energy usage, preserving native culture, water consumption, the sourcing of materials, waste management and the quality of the indoor environment, just to name a few.
Some of the top global obstacles that travelers had when it came to sustainable traveling were cost, eco-friendly destinations not being appealing enough or/and the possible loss of luxury and comfort. Other factors included lack of information on eco-travel and or eco-traveling being to time consuming.
“A lot of this comes down to perception,” said Cohen. “There are three environmentally-friendly hotels in San Francisco, and the most sustainable of the three is the median cost, so yes there are hotels that will cost more, but there are also hotels that will cost less. This is not just in San Francisco.”
With Wayaj, customers were able to find hotels that which hotels were sustainable and met their criteria in terms of luxury, affordability, appeal and distance all in one place.
After conducting a survey, some of the results depicted that some travelers assumed sustainable travel meant using an outhouse for a bathroom or sleeping in a hut like hotel in the middle of nowhere.
“Sustainable technology has come a long way,” said Cohen. “You have probably stayed at a hotel that uses low-flush toilets, of low-flow showers and LED-lighting and not even realized it.”
Urban areas tend to be more sustainable, despite the misperception, according to Cohen.
“There is this misconception that you have to travel to the jungle to travel sustainably,” said Cohen. “Traveling to cities and urban areas is inherently more sustainable because you can reuse the cities’ infrastructure like energy, water and roadways instead of building new ones to get to distant locations.”
Location is also no longer an excuse for not traveling sustainably now that there are thousands of green hotels across the world.
“Whether it’s in a city, near a mountain, on a mountain, near a lake, if you want to stay in a tree house near a jungle or a cottage in the countryside,” said Cohen “or if you prefer the city lights, the northern lights, if you prefer Rome, the desert, the beach in Rio, Italy or a luxury property in Morocco, sustainable travel has all this to offer.
The costs are average, the locations are everywhere and the luxury is whatever you make of it.”