After graduating from the University of Bath with a degree in European Studies, Fiona left her native England to explore the world of yachting in the South of France. Initially, Fiona worked as a deckhand/stewardess on a 40m motor yacht and then moved ashore to train as a charter broker. Her training led to a successful career in yacht charter with Peter Insull's Yacht Marketing and Yachting Partners International over the following years.
Fiona joined Northrop & Johnson in 2013 as Charter Director to expand their presence in the South of France.
Fiona currently serves as President of MYBA - the Worldwide Yachting Association, and chairs the IT panel.
Fiona was invited to Tahiti on a familiarization trip 4 years ago and has since become one of Tahiti’s greatest ambassadors.
Fiona, you visited The Islands of Tahiti during a familiarization trip 4 years ago. Which memories do you keep of this trip several years later?
My overriding memory is of the startling color of the water and the teeming marine life. I have travelled extensively to some of the world’s most beautiful cruising grounds, but have never seen anything like the pristine waters of The Islands of Tahiti.
Is there anything in particular that struck you about the destination that you hadn’t found in the other places you visited before?
I was struck by the sense that somehow French Polynesia is still truly unspoiled. There is nothing “backward” about the islands but there is a simplicity and a quality of life that have remained unsullied by the outside world.
What was the highlight of your trip?
There were too many wonderful experiences to limit myself to just one highlight! But I particularly remember swimming and snorkelling in those fantastic turquoise waters, and this is where I was persuaded to try diving for the very first time. I also remember the vivid sunsets over Moorea, the welcoming smiles of everyone we met and the intoxicating fragrance of the tiare flower.
What would you change or felt you had missed?
I would like to have had time to go further afield and visit the Tuamotu, for example. I would change nothing!
What would you say is the drawback of the destination? How would you say it could be changed or fixed?
The geographical remoteness of French Polynesia is both its advantage and its drawback. An increase in the number of seats in business and first class might make it more accessible to our clients. (1)
What would you say are Tahiti’s main assets?
The unspoiled nature of the area is definitely an asset, and I applaud the determination of the Polynesians to preserve their beautiful environment. Ocean conservation is something of a buzzword right now, but the Polynesians have genuinely made this a priority.
Being a marketing expert in the charter industry, how do you envision Tahiti is going to fit within the choice of destinations offered to charter clients mid-term?
For Tahiti to increase in popularity as a charter destination, we must first encourage more owners to position their yachts there. The best promotion is word of mouth from one owner to another, and I’m already seeing this happening. Both owners and charterers are growing more adventurous in their choice of cruising ground and there is an increasing demand to visit new and unexploited areas. Tahiti is well positioned to benefit from this trend.
Why would you recommend Tahiti as a destination to your team of charter brokers and your clients?
For clients who love the ocean and want to get away from the crowds, while meeting friendly people, this is a perfect choice of destination.
Fiona, if you had to describe your experience of Tahiti in one word, what would it be?
Sorry, can’t do it in one word! How about three: marvelous, magical, truly memorable?
(1) Note from the editor: The local airline Air Tahiti Nui is currently working to increase the number of seats in business class. This will be effective from 2018.