This is one of those stories that pulls on your heartstrings. High school sweethearts start a business together, which they carefully and zealously build up to an international level of recognition. It is then passed down to a second generation, eager to earn their own place in the competitive industry of global travel agencies. This is the story of Frontiers International Travel.
Founded in 1969 by Mike and Susie Fitzergerald (former dentist and former teacher, respectively), Frontiers developed in an industry ripe for profits. They specialized in field sport travel, coordinating trips involving fishing and hunting, and carved out a niche for themselves as one of the only businesses offering such specialities. The original founders Mike and Susie Fitzgerald led way for Mike (Jr.) and Mollie Fitzgerald, the current sibling coowners of Frontiers. Both worked at the business through high school and college, and settled into the family industry upon graduating.
Frontiers has recently celebrated it’s 45th anniversary, in a business environment incredibly contrary to its early days. With the rise in internet research, online flash deals, and do-it-yourself planning, a shift in the market has meant the end for many travel agencies (and certainly the end for the ‘traditional’ travel booking agent). We were able to sit down with representatives of Frontiers, including President and Co-owner Mike Fitzgerald, to talk about how Frontiers has adapted to this new dynamic, and what sets them apart.
Frontiers classifies themselves as a full service travel agency, so they cater to every potential need of your vacation. They go beyond the traditional bounds of booking and delve into the minute details: the best layover for your flights, the preferred car service to collect you at the airport, the most charming local to give you a tour, and even the detailed hours of your hotel gym. Frontiers has the repuation and ability to send staff on maintenance trips to consistently evaluate the hotels and lodges they recommend to clients, ensuring they are the best quality and value. They are also able to quickly indulge trends in the market- if a new lodge suddently pops up on the map with rave reviews, they can immediately have a staff member there, to evaluate and create local connections. One such particular trend was touring New Zealand after the Lord of the Rings movies came out, and if you visit their website now you’ll find a plethora of options related to fly fishing, as well as suggestions to customize an Elegant Journeys visit with the help of Frontiers Kristine Fitzgerald.
When it comes to clients contacting Frontiers (the majority of whom are returning customers or personally referred), apparently the first question many ask is, “have you been there?” And the more often than not, the answer is yes. In reaction to the rise in internet research and DIY trip planners, Frontiers has commited funds to maintaing the travel experience of its staff. In fact, if you check out their blog, it is comprised of articles about staff members recent adventures- you’ll find fishing expeditions, barge cruises, those travelling with children, those travelling with spouses- this depth of diversity enables that clients are dealing with agents who truly understand the intricacies of vacationing.
As explained by Mike Fitzgerald, the new brand of traveller comes very well informed. They have googled, scoured reviews, and evaluated deals before even contacting the company. As they know what they’re looking for, it can be easier to close a deal or, conversely, easier to lose them as clients. Dealing with agents who have first hand experience to offer, with genuine advice on how to immerse yourself in that area, is Frontiers answer to that issue. The support that they offer before and during your trip – Is something not up to your standards? Did you miss your flight? Just give your agent a call and they will figure it out for you – is something you will only find in a family run organization that understands their strength is in their relationships.
In 1983 Frontiers introduced the Elegant Journeys department, which is the fastest growing department of the company. It specializes in luxury planning and accommodations, veering away from the sporting activities. The program offers customized trips that seem like realized fairy tales, and it is an interesting niche to drawn in new customers. However, here at The Travelling Table we are primarily intrigued with the sporting trips. Frontiers offers Saltwater Fishing, Freshwater Fishing, Big Game Hunting, Photography Safaris, that all serve to connect a client with their beautiful destination in a uniquely local way. And with a drop in popularity for many of these sports, we truly hope to see the sporting side of Frontiers continue to develop (we know we’ll be booking a trip through them soon!). Looking through their destination catalogues is a lesson in dreaming, with trips created for both the rugged and economically minded outdoors-man, and the fair-weather, indulgent traveller.