Have a group that’s concerned about traveling in a time of Covid? Why not have their questions answered and their concerns put to rest by a concierge doctor who will go over everything they need to know—or even come along with you?
That’s the newest business venture of ER physician Yvette McQueen. She heard the concern of so many travel advisors, meeting planners, and frequent travelers that she set out on a new business venture as a private travel health consultant.
McQueen has been scratching her own travel bug for the past 14 years as a traveling ER doctor, going from one hospital to the next to fill in for staffers who were on leave, or when there was a staffing shortage. As a frequent traveler herself, she had a particular interest in safe travel, and quickly became an expert in how to avoid getting sick—and what to do if you get sick anyway.
She wrote two books (Travel 911 is her latest) and soon found her skills in demand by private clients. “If someone is going to Morocco—and especially if they have a chronic disease—I tell them what vaccines they need, what to pack, where the nearest English-speaking hospital is,” she says.
Nowadays, of course, her business includes lots of Covid consultations. Often she does online Covid consultations with clients, serving as a witness as they administer self tests; and then sends them a doctor’s letter saying they are negative so they can travel, or a recovery letter after symptoms are gone so they can fly home.
(Like many experts, she notes that anyone who has had Covid in the past 90 days should always get a recovery letter from a doctor. Carrying proof that you tested positive for Covid, plus a recovery letter, allows you to return to the United States from abroad without having to be tested again. That’s a Golden Ticket that sidesteps the risk of testing positive and being quarantined.)
Lately McQueen is being called upon more and more often by group leaders headed to distant shores—an option that’s especially popular with safari groups, she notes. She can schedule a virtual meeting and offer country-specific information; “I know what to watch for in Tanzania, for example, what you should take with you, what hospital you should go to if you are sick,” she says. At the end of the webinar she gives every attendee a Medical Tip Sheet; in-person groups get Travel Adventure Boxes with some free supplies.
Three Tip to Staying Healthy
Asked if she could share some of her knowledge, McQueen offered up some tips for safe travel:
- Plan and research. Know your destination’s positivity rate, what the entry requirements are, and what medical facilities are in the country—so you can let your clients know whether to go to the hospital or get out as fast as possible.
- Hydrate. “I am so big on hydration,” she says. “Hydration will decrease your risk for everything from jet lag to blood clots.”
- Keep your immune system up and running. You know this drill: Get adequate sleep. Take vitamins and supplements (after consulting with your physician to make sure they don’t interfere with your medications.) And move your body by doing any exercise you can.
So which countries should we avoid? “There’s no country I wouldn’t go to,” McQueen says. “But if the positivity level is above 10% you should really think about it carefully. Weigh the plusses and minuses of travel to that destination.”
And what about wearing a mask on a cruise ship? “I say if you are uncomfortable in an environment and you need to think about your own safety, then wear a mask and don’t feel guilty about it.”
And finally, should we even be worried about Omicron? “Omicron has milder symptoms but we really think the issue is we don’t know this virus, we don’t know how it will affect people. So yes, I would still be careful.”
Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook.
As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business and technology sectors.