Photo Credit: Nelly Gedeon
Black, Female Entrepreneur Nelly Gedeon - Positive Impact Travel With Alight
Black, female entrepreneur, Nelly Gedeon has partnered with companies like Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and IHG Hotels & Resorts to create Alight, a positive impact travel company. Looking for a 2022 travel boast? Use Alight when booking this summer’s vacation. The booking engine takes guests’ projected carbon emissions during travel and allows them to offset those emissions through special projects in a part of the world of their choosing. “Alight is the only online booking platform that also gives you a chance to make sure your entire trip—including transportation—is carbon net neutral.”
Gedeon is an electrical engineer by trade. Years of traveling for both business and pleasure led her to West Africa. After a meaningful trip to Togo, she became enthralled with the idea of creating change in sustainable travel by putting the responsibility on the individual. Travel Noire gets the details of her favorite trips and how one small action can create a movement of change.
TN: What were your first travel experiences like?
Gedeon: My first experience was actually leaving Haiti and coming to New York with my Mother and younger sister. I was 13, maybe 12.
Twenty-five years ago, I started traveling for pleasure. My husband and I were into our careers and making more money. We had responsibilities at an early age, my husband and I got married early. I was 19 and he was 21 years old. We graduated college, started working and had a young son. At some point, our financial situation got better and we started traveling. Our first family trip was when my son was 10 years old. We traveled to Europe, France, Madrid and Italy.
TN: How does Alight work?
Gedeon: Alight does a couple of things. One, it shows you the hotel side, the sustainability rating based on seven pillars of sustainability. Energy, indoor environment, materials and operations, waste management, water, waste, local community and management.
What makes it different from others is you have the exact footprint. Alight’s transportation calculator is very detailed and it will account for every leg of the trip based on your room type, the number of people and the number of nights. Then, you can choose to add in transportation to and from the airport and excursions. Once you have that calculated, you can choose to see the footprint of the hotel stay, transportation or both.
Offset carbon emissions into the environment with Alight, by making a financial contribution to a project anywhere in the world that either removes carbon from the atmosphere or avoids putting carbon into the atmosphere.
TN: When you came home from the trip to Togo, that inspired your company, what was the first move you made toward starting Alight?
Gedeon: The very first move that I made was to sit down with some colleagues to talk about how we can come up with a way that young people can become more socially conscious. I am a firm believer that we can exact change with the choices we make.
When I came back from my trip I said, ‘there has to be a better way!’ I believe that people will make the right choices when they have the tools that they need. I needed to put together a platform with a list of hotels that are sustainable. It makes hotels transparent, that is why the rating of every hotel is very detailed, so that the public sees exactly what they are doing to be sustainable.
TN: I understand that your favorite travel journeys are those that allow you to interact with the local communities. What communities have been the most memorable or moving for you?
Gedeon: Oh, that is just an easy question that I love to answer. My best trip in that sense was to Cuba. Cuba was one of the most memorable trips that I have had. At the time, there wasn’t really tourism allowed in the country. You had to be part of a people exchange program. So, I really got to visit community centers. I got to visit the Botanical Gardens with the most unique species of plants and birds. Cuba is frozen in time in the 50’s, the cars, everything. It was an incredible trip! It really is a wonderful place.
TN: What’s the most important thing that people should know who are new to eco-friendly travel?
Gedeon: They need to be conscious of the environment when they make choices for travel. There are things that they need to do to inform themselves, [in order] to make good choices. For example, most travel locations have properties that are sustainable.
With climate change now widely accepted, we need to really shift our mindset. We need to modify the choices that we make and take into consideration our impact on the planet. Learn about sustainable hotels, ones that take into consideration the environment, and the communities that they operate in when planning travel.
Any action that you take, no matter where you are, it is going to have an impact. We are truly in it together. An action that mitigates that is an action in the right direction. Not until we all take control, will we see a change. The solution is a global solution. Alight would be the first step.