Before Roy Berger started his tenure as the CEO of Medjet 20 years ago, he wasn't familiar with the company, which evacuates clients to the hospital of their choice using a fleet of private air ambulances and commercial medical escorts.
Berger had spent the 30 years prior in executive positions at horse-racing tracks around the country. Medjet couldn't have been more different.
But he quickly got onboard with the product.
"I couldn't understand why everybody in the world wouldn't want to buy it," Berger said.
Photo Credit: Roy Berger
Under his leadership, Medjet's membership base grew "20-fold," according to the company. Now, Berger said, is the right time for him to hand over the reins: he will retire on June 30, and his longtime colleague and friend, Mike Hallman, a Medjet director, will take his place the following day.
Medjet's product is different from travel insurance. Travelers can enroll individually or as a family for an annual or a short-term membership, and if they are hospitalized, they will be transferred to the hospital of their choice regardless of medical necessity (most travel insurance policies will only transport a patient to the nearest facility deemed acceptable).
In 1998, Berger said, about 85% of Medjet's members were leisure travelers, a figure that has shifted significantly. Today, leisure travelers make up 60% of the membership; the other 40% are business travelers, a change that began after the attacks of 9/11.
"I think 2001 opened up big-business' eyes to the potentials of what could happen when their people are traveling," Berger said.
The ranks of Medjet members also got a boost around 2011-2012, which Berger attributes to the public becoming more focused on security and health.
Medjet doesn't tend to attract travelers in their 20s or 30s, Berger said. As people get older and wealthier, they are more likely to join.
While 9/11 likely had the biggest impact on the medical evacuation space in recent years, other terror attacks over the years have driven more customers to the space.
"That scares people more than anything, and I think that's why the Horizon product was such a natural fit for us," Berger said.
MedjetHorizon was rolled out in 2015, in part because of the public's growing concerns about security when traveling. In addition to medical evacuation, the product also provides security and crisis response services.
Berger said he has noticed an increased resilience among traveling Americans in recent years, something he attributed to the assurance that products like Medjet and travel insurance offer.
That momentum will likely continue, he said, especially as affluent baby boomers continue to retire.
"I think people will travel more than they ever did," Berger said. "I think people will take more risks than they ever did, and I think the assistance product and the travel insurance product will become more paramount to everybody's portfolio."
Berger and his wife, Andi, plan to move from Birmingham, Ala., where Medjet is headquartered, to Summerlin, Nev., to be closer to their two sons in Los Angeles. Already the author of two books about baseball, of which he's an avid fan, he's open to penning more; otherwise, he's keeping his schedule clear.
"On Sunday morning, July 1, I'm going to sleep until 6 in the morning," he said. "After that, I'm wide open."