Started by Pamela Hurley-Moser in 1993 in Portland, Maine, Hurley Travel Experts is the country's largest full service travel agency that's both female run and privately owned. Her company is a part of the Virtuoso Network, an elite, members-only association of upscale leisure travel providers (only 1 percent of U.S. travel agencies are invited to join). This network offers Hurley-Moser access to exclusive travel incentives she can offer to her clients traveling anywhere in the world. Soon she'll be sending clients out of this world, too! Starting in 2009, Hurley Travel Experts will be one of only 47 agencies in the country able to book Virgin Galactic Space travel. Hurley-Moser spoke to Inc.com (by email) about being the only woman-owned travel agency to earn this distinction.
How did space travel hit your radar?
Space tourism represents what I believe to be the last available frontier. So when Virgin Galactic was looking for the best travel consultants in the country to represent them and sell their space flights, I was all over it. Getting involved with space tourism at its infancy was very exciting to me as well as challenging.
What did you have to do to be considered?
The process began with an extensive list of questions followed by a comprehensive essay in an effort to prove why they should choose me to represent them. They were looking for leaders in the marketplace who were innovative, inventive, and unique. The essay was followed by two phone interviews. Evidently I passed with flying colors as I was the only person chosen in Northern New England which represents Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
How do you prepare to sell space travel?
After I was appointed as an Accredited Space Agent by Virgin Galactic I had to meet the other 46 ASAs from across the country at Kennedy Space Center. The training encompassed extensive product knowledge, a thorough understanding of rocket science, g-forces, and the technology of the space craft. This is a very comprehensive product to sell, which is why they wanted to limit the number of sales people to be qualified and trained.
What will Virgin Galactic trips entail?
It starts with three days of astronaut training and preparation, including medical assignments, g-force acclimation and training, and perhaps some weightlessness training. Then it's time to take off. After an adrenaline-pumping ride to 50,000 feet, the real ride begins. Instantly you will accelerate to Mach 3.4 for 90 seconds. Then pilots cut the engine and you experience perfect peace as you continue to climb up to 360,000 feet. You're free to float about the cabin and take in the blue-rimmed earth beneath you.
So what's in the fine print?
LOL. Well, tickets start at $200,000 per person and five passengers and two pilots go up at one time. (Editor's note: The no luggage restriction makes commercial airliners appear generous.) It's just you and your Philippe Stark designed space suit. The actual flight lasts for two hours.
Has Hurley Travel Experts found any takers?
There has been lots of curiosity but nobody has yet to get serious and make a deposit. People come up to me daily asking me about it, and I love telling them all about it. It is exciting. Many of my ASA colleagues across the country have sold one or two flights.
Are you going?
I would love to go and would take my husband who is a great travel partner and who is as adventurous as I am. Can you imagine pulling 3.5 g and within 30 seconds going faster than a speeding bullet and then instantly stopping and experiencing the peaceful silence and blackness of space? People who have done it (less than 500) say it is life altering.