By Skip Clement
Travel agencies in the late 1960s booked your travel arrangements for business, mostly, but we’re gaining ground, profitability, and recognition as vacation arrangers. There were scant few travel agencies with an arm dealing with reliable outdoor travel that focused on hunting and fishing to remote destinations. It was a missing element that two people recognized and had a vision about it. They launched an entirely new travel service concept. Exclusive outdoor destination travel.
Mike Fitzgerald, a Pittsburgh area dentist, and Suzie Fitzgerald, a teacher were outdoors folks squared. In 1969, they made a holding hands Grand Canyon life-changing leap. They entered the outdoor travel business as Frontiers, never looked back, ended up becoming the most recognized and most respected outdoor travel business in the world – setting standards by which all other outdoor travel agencies are still measured.
Frontiers is the model by which every successful outdoor travel agency patterns itself
Frontiers knows all the owners of all properties they represent. Their staff is made up of long term employees. Client’s only interact with agent’s that know their stuff, whether hunting or fishing and are intimately familiar with the properties they manage. Booking is flawless, ground representatives at the most distant and primitive destinations greet and make sure everything is okay. Frontiers management is clued on every destination’s current political climate. Currently, a detail of considerable importance.
Both Mike and Suzie passed away, but the little girl and boy running around the Fitzgerald homestead/office property, when we booked our first trips beginning in 1969, now run a global Frontiers. Meet Mollie.
Fly Fishing with Mollie Fitzgerald & Frontiers International Travel
By Everett Potter / Forbes / June 10, 2018
For nearly 50 years, the name Frontiers International Travel has been synonymous with epic fly fishing trips to exotic locales like Iceland, Patagonia, and Christmas Island, not to mention Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Maldives. But things at Frontiers are changing under Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of the company with her brother Mike. There’s a new emphasis on luxury travel and Mollie oversees the Elegant Journeys Division and Atlantic salmon fishing department at Frontiers, which her parents founded in 1969. She has been singled out as one of Condé Nast Travelers’ Top Travel Specialists and a Travel + Leisure A-List Agent for fly fishing. I recently had a chance to ask her about her amazing life and career.
What was it like growing up with Frontiers?
‘Growing up with Frontiers’ is an excellent way to put it. My parents, Mike & Susie Fitzgerald, founded Frontiers nearly 50 years ago – I was age 6 and my brother, Mike, age 4 — and they established an office on their home property. That meant burning the midnight oil in the early days and my brother and I were often helping out with stuffing envelopes for brochure mailings in an “all hands on deck” effort. All of the company phone lines rang into our home (as they still do) which meant assisting clients with travel emergencies at all hours of day and night. It also meant that we were exposed to an array of international guests (mostly suppliers) who came to visit and stayed as houseguests at home. My mother, the consummate hostess, felt it was very important to set an example at home as to the standard they felt our clients should be treated abroad.
Were you on fly fishing trips around the world at an early age?
While on the one hand, our parents were very busy in the early years building up the business, there were definitely many amazing travel opportunities that often required rod & reel. Some of my first fishing trips included Alaska, Los Roques in Venezuela, fabled rivers on Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula like Matapedia and Cascapedia and of course our annual pilgrimage to our friends’ cabin on Penn’s Creek for the much-heralded opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania. We took our first family safari to southern Africa when I was age nine. There is nothing I love more now that helping a parent or grand-parent plan a great trip to introduce fly fishing to the next generation.