a healthy choice
for two agencies
oanks to the rising cost of
ealthcare in the U.S. and
he proliferation of highly
egarded medical facilities
verseas, medicine has
become the purpose of trips for
many agency clients.
In fact, global medical tourism
is expected to be a $40 billion-a-year industry by 2010, according to David Hancock, author of
“The Complete Medical Tourist.”
In 2006, as many as half a million
Americans are expected to travel
overseas for medical care.
With that in mind, Solimar Travel in Washington is one of two
agencies that inked partnerships
with GlobalChoice Healthcare, an
Albuquerque, N.M.-based provider of medical procedure packages
throughout the world.
“Our business is nontraditional
anyway, and we are always looking
for up-and-coming trends,” said
Ben Isenberg, owner of Solimar
Travel, who knew he needed to
partner with a company that has
expertise in the field rather than
try to go it alone.
“We knew about GlobalChoice
through word of mouth, by doing
research and from the information they presented to us about
the different countries they work
in and the partners they have in
those countries,” he said.
A breath of fresh air
for luxury travel
is co-owner of
and also heads up
Va., firm’s Elegant
under a canvas
tent, but it has a
marble sink and
a power shower.’
PHO TO B Y HANS ROSEMOND/BLACK S TAR
HAND IN HAND
The other agency that has
signed on to work with GlobalChoice is Rio Grande Travel, an
Albuquerque-based agency with
11 offices in the Southwest and
three in Illinois.
considering medical travel often
inquire first with a travel agency,”
said Kenneth Erickson, CEO of
GlobalChoice Healthcare. “But
traveling overseas for medical
care should be coordinated by a
company focused on medicine.
By joining forces with these leading travel agencies, we can assist
in streamlining their search for affordable, high-quality health care.”
The way the agreement will
work is that clients interested in
medical travel will be referred to
GlobalChoice to provide such services as scheduling procedures,
transferring medical records and
providing local assistance for the
duration of clients’ stay.
By Felicity Long
The term “adventure travel” is so broad
that nowadays it can include everything
from high adrenaline sports such as ice
climbing and white-water rafting to a serene walk in the woods. In addition, the
market is increasingly cross-pollinating
with other niches: family, romance and
Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of Frontiers Travel
in Alexandria, Va., sees no conflict in the latter combination. In fact,
she heads the Elegant Journeys division of an agency that has made its
name in the adventure travel business.
“Our core business was always the field sporting side [of adventure
travel], such as fishing and hunting,” said Fitzgerald, whose parents,
Mike and Susie Fitzgerald, founded the company more than 26 years
“Then people started asking us to handle other sorts of travel for
them, and we wanted to brand that,” she said. “That’s how the Elegant
Journeys department was formed, driven by clients who were happy
with how we organized their fishing trip in the Seychelles
and wanted us to help them take their family on a photo
safari to Africa.”
But while Fitzgerald, who was one of Conde Nast
Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists five years in a row, has an
affinity for fine wines, gourmet cuisine and the glamour of Europe’s
capital cities, she also is no stranger to the outdoors. In fact, she is so
expert at fishing that she also heads up Frontier’s Atlantic Salmon Fishing division and serves as a director of the Atlantic Salmon Federation,
a conservation group.
“It used to be that you’d have to sacrifice comfort for the outdoors,
and that the person you’d travel with [if he or she didn’t share a love of
the sport] would be bored,” she said.
Nowadays, however, the options for travelers who like their adventure
with more than just a touch of comfort have a whole menu of options
from which to choose.
“The Explora lodges in Chile, for example, have as their core philosophy that guests are active during the day and supremely comfortable
at night, with Jacuzzis in their guest rooms, great meals and wonderful
Fitzgerald also touted the upscale camping facilities available in Bot-
swana, which she compared to her experiences there 28 years ago.
“I thought it was posh then, but now the camps are unbelievable,” she
said. “You can join an elephant safari or canoe by day, dine by candlelight and while you’re technically sleeping under a canvas tent, it has a
marble sink and a power shower.”
But while some of her clients love upscale amenities, Fitzgerald
stressed that the real draw for sports travel enthusiasts is the quality of
the outdoor experience.
“One of attractions of fishing is that it takes you to pristine places
where you can recharge your batteries and be inspired by the awe of it
Especially in the post-9/11 era, Fitzgerald said she is seeing more
multigenerational groups looking for active vacations that may not be
sports-related per se but that include an outdoor component.
“The Galapagos, for example, appeals to many generational levels
and has become so successful that I’ve had to add a second person just
for our Galapagos desk,” she said.
Fitzgerald, whose company sells only leisure travel, is a big believer in
creating specialties for her agents who may not already have one.
“I had a relatively new person with a general travel background, so
we sent her to China on a three-week trip,” she said, noting that she bypassed the standard $600 fam trip in favor of first-class travel and upscale
hotels. “I wanted her to see the country through the eyes of a client.”
Acknowledging that it takes more than one trip to become an expert,
Fitzgerald will send the agent out again, perhaps to Japan
or Southeast Asia to help her solidify her expertise.
“We don’t have a black-and-white policy for traveling,
but our frontline salespeople travel a minimum of once a
year, while the department people will be in the field three
times a year on average.”
Fitzgerald prides herself on her staff, none of whom works on
“Our focus is on building destination credibility through firsthand
experience. If we have a South Pacific inquiry, it’s not my baby, so I’m
going to refer my client to the person in my office who goes there three
times a year and has personal contacts.”
Fitzgerald also encourages continuing education by contributing financially to classes, depending on the applicability.
As to whether that philosophy is working, the proof is in the pudding
— or in this case, the enthusiasm of the staff.
This year alone, Frontiers has several agents who are working toward their university degrees, some who are taking language courses
and someone who works on the company’s Web design who is taking a
“Our philosophy is simple,” she said. “We’re a team.”