Jane Custer was only 14 when she fell in love with Mexico, having visited for the first time with her mother.
That visit not only inspired her to want to learn Spanish, but paved the way for her lifelong career centered around the country she would visit every year — sometimes up to ten times in a year — and eventually settle in with her husband, Greg Custer.
Seven years after that initial visit, Jane landed a job with Mexicana Airlines at their San Francisco reservation center, then relocated when the company centralized into one center in Los Angeles. It was there that she met her future husband.
“I was Mexicana Airlines’ training manager,” says Jane, “and Greg was an instructor for the same training program that was geared toward travel agents.
After 15 years of working for the airline, Jane moved on, at which time Mexicana dropped the training program.
“Fortunately, the Mexico Ministry of Tourism stepped in and took over the program’s funding,” says Jane.
From 1992 to the present, the Custers have created and published an online training program in seven languages, aimed at travel agents around the world. In 2006, the couple converted what used to be strictly live seminars into an online “e-learning” program.
Says Greg, “Jane and I have traveled to almost every corner of Mexico so that we could describe each area’s unique personality for our training course.
“Our idea behind the program was to give travel agents full knowledge about Mexico, and the confidence they needed to increase their sales.”
Their website, VisitMexicoUniversity.com, attracts a variety of learners – from home-based and retail travel agents, to online agents and call centers, such as Expedia and Orbitz.
Today, their official training program is endorsed by the Mexico Ministry of Tourism, and their “Travel Agent Sale Guide — a hefty three-ring book/binder — is viewed by travel agentas as the “bible” on Mexico.
The Custers lived in Bend, Oregon before moving to lakeside in 2015. A big part of their decision to relocate was due to Greg’s mother, Maureen, who had Alzheimer’s. At 87, she is now in the advanced stages of the disease.
Says Greg, “We realized we could find better care for my mom at lakeside than we could in the U.S., and at a cost that wasn’t going to land us in bankruptcy. We also realized that we could operate our business more effectively living in Mexico, close to a major airport.”
Seeing that Greg and Jane have spent their entire careers training travel agents for vacation travel, they are now ready to migrate towards a new opportunity — helping American seniors relocate to Central Mexico for quality senior care in adult living facilities.
Says Greg, “Our idea is to address the supply and demand aspects of senior living obstacles. We are choosing Central Mexico for its climate, airline service, culture and American conveniences.”
On the supply side, Greg mentions a severe lack of senior living facilities across Mexico, simply because this has not been part of the Mexican tradition. Whereas Mexico has family support networks and access to affordable care, millions of Americans lack that structure.
He adds, “We would also help facilitate businesses into entering the adult care business, such as converting motels into adult housing. There are plenty of three- and four-star hotels that could adopt this business model.”
As far as the demand side, Greg says that the decision to move to Mexico is unlike buying a timeshare.
“Important decisions, like moving to another country, involve serious discussion. Our goal is to create a network of trained ‘Mexico lifestyle’ advisors who would contact U.S. businesses with baby boomer clientele.”
He continues: “The third piece of the triangle is to connect those baby boomers with specialists who can help them make the right senior living decision.
“The demand for quality senior care will skyrocket in the next 20 years. Therefore, the demand will soon outstrip supply — basically, it already has — which is forcing price increases in areas like lakeside. Americans are facing a longer retirement with little or no savings or pensions, and it gets more complicated when they have to care for aging parents. That means having to factor in a care model for their still-living parents.”
Although they are still in the business development stage, the Custers feel confident that their business experience will only add to their new venture.
“Sure, this an ambitious plan of ours,” says Greg, “but the fact that we carved out a career from a passion for Mexico gives us the confidence that this next step will be a success, not to mention enormously satisfying.”