Miami International Airport's diplomats' haven might sell memberships to hospitals, chambers
By Ryan Kelly
Miami International Airport's diplomatic lounge, a hideaway for foreign dignitaries traveling through the airport, is exploring offering memberships to area hospitals servicing international patients and to bilateral chambers of commerce.
The airport is considering expanding membership opportunities to these groups to increase use of the lounge but wants to make sure the club can deliver topnotch services, said Irving Fourcand, the airport's director of protocol and international affairs.
The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Baptist Health South Florida are two health care organizations the airport is in talks with to offer $500 annual memberships to use the diplomatic lounge.
For years, the airport has developed a relationship with these two hospitals that began when hospital officials approached Mr. Fourcand about the airport assisting patients arriving to Miami for medical care.
"We coordinate with the ambulance company and with all the authorities," he said. "Sometimes these patients are in pretty bad condition, so we make sure we give them great hospitality when they come."
The membership — now reserved for presidents, kings and queens, members of parliament as well as other heads of states — would include international patients traveling to Miami for medical care.
"It's obviously a very high-level patient who can afford to travel to the United States to actually take care of their treatment," Mr. Fourcand added.
The hope is that by adding hospitals' international programs to the list of members, international patients traveling to the US would have more incentive to come to Miami, as opposed to other major cities like Houston, for treatment.
There is also talk of extending the membership to bilateral chambers of commerce, Mr. Fourcand said, which would further benefit the airport.
Miami International officials say the lounge already draws more travelers through Miami. "We're a major international airport, but so is LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] and so is JFK [John F. Kennedy International Airport], and you would think that both of those airports have a major protocol-like service, and they don't," said Marc Henderson, an airport spokesman.
For the most part, the lounge serves as a comfort spot for passing foreign dignitaries.
Last month, the King and Queen of Norway stayed there a few hours and this week, a German parliamentary delegation has plans to use it.
Getting ready for the arrival of a head of state requires significant preparation, said Mr. Fourcand, adding: "…this is the No. 1 international port of arrival for dignitaries."
The lounge first opened with a handful of consulates in Miami after airport officials spotted a way to enhance the arrival of the consulates' dignitaries.
"These consuls, these ambassadors, used to contact the airport to see if there was a way we could assist with the arrival, with a president or a minister," Mr. Fourcand explained.
Originally, he added, the airport dealt with police, secret service and the other entities associated with the guests, independently, to coordinate the arrival.
"So what we decided to do, a few years after that, is to make it a one-stop shop."
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