The latest survey of the yachting business in Fiji has just been released and discussed in a number of articles and reinforces what an important segment of the tourism market it is to Fiji Tourism and to the Fiji economy.
But the yachting tourism market didn’t just happen, it is the result of a great deal of planning, a lot of hard work and a lot of vision by some people.
This is to see the opportunity and invest the funds needed to provide both the infrastructure and the marketing to realise the potential the segment represented. Fiji has always had yachting tourists but it could hardly have been calls an industry and it was certainly not organised.
The unbelievably beautiful waters around Fiji were legendary and attracted the brave and the inquisitive to venture far across the Pacific in search of what they thought would be Paradise.
The vessels varied greatly in size, in comfort, in numbers of crew and in their standard of safety.
But every year a small number arrived, generally unannounced and usually as a stopover on their way to somewhere else and slowly the story of the magic and beauty of the Fiji Islands grew in the yachting fraternity.
But Fiji, as a destination, had no facilities to offer visiting yachts.
Outside a local yacht club, there were almost no marinas and they had to fend for themselves when it came to supplies, fuel and repairs.
Fiji was a stopover for the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world (until then) on a very small yacht called “Dove”.
He ultimately became the subject of a somewhat romanticised movie of the same name and this spread the word about sailing in Fiji. Some ultra rich Americans sent their trophy boats down and flew in to sail around the place before flying home again and a lot of ordinary sailing people visited
The contribution from Skeggs family
Yachting started to become a tourism industry about 40 years ago. Denarau had some facilities built by Sir Clifford Skeggs and later managed by Nigel Skeggs, but in the early days there was no real support there and a port of sorts was built at Savusavu with a lot of effort by the Phillips family.
Lautoka was the Port of Entry and had some rudimentary facilities for the yachties and Dick Smith was always ready to accommodate any yacht that made it as far as Musket Cove.
But there was a growing awareness in Fiji that there was good money in yacht tourism.
The Phillips developed a secure marina in an old quarry at Vuda and the serious end of the market started to arrive.
Savusavu was upgraded and when Nigel arrived he built the first real Superyacht marina in the country.
Nigel has spent a number of years as a Super yacht skipper in Europe in the Mediterrean and had an intimate knowledge of what was needed to attract the very top end of the market.
He bought with him the last knowledge that was needed to create a focus on the yachting industry and the energy to get things moving.
At around that time the Denarau Commercial Complex was built on the land directly adjacent to the Port Denarau Marina.
This provided the type and standard of facilities that were demanded by the Superyacht crews, who ferried the magnificent out to Fiji from their European or North American home ports. They lived on board for up to six months while the owner came and went a number of times.
But once the required standard of facilities was in place it became necessary to tell the relatively small group of Super yacht owners what a beautiful place awaited them and why they should come all the way to the South Pacific.
This task was taken up by Nigel and David Jamison, the owner of a company called Yacht Help, which he set up in Port Denarau to provide management, provisioning, repairs and all sorts of other services to the Super Yachting fraternity.
They set up specialised websites for the facilities and undertook selling trips to Europe and the USA, visited all the important Big Boat Shows, especially the Monaco Super yacht Show, the must visit place for all the rich and famous.
For Monaco, they took along a Fijian Group for music and dance and created an impact far beyond their size. And the awareness of Fiji (and particularly Port Denarau) grew strongly and the Super yacht market started to grow.
The Fijian government came on board and changed the laws that regulated issues related to the yachting business, making it easier for yachts to enter and leave the country and simplifying the process of yacht crew changeover and foreign crew working in Fiji, which had previously been stumbling blocks.
A number of related businesses developed in Fiji to service the Yachts and created employment for the locals.
Growing number of yachts
A growing number of yachts are now planning their voyage to Fiji around their annual refurbishment and have found the standard of work performed locally as good as anywhere in the world.
The yachts travelled with a small crew and bought their crew up to the required number by recruiting locals, both male and female, here.
The locals were so well regarded that they were offered permanent positions and went back to the home port with the vessels.
A super yacht crew member is very well paid and they live, eat, sleep and relax on board so they have few expenses.
So well do Fijians adapt to the work that there are a number in upper management and at least one Super yacht shipper.
For Super yachts, the financial benefits to our economy are certainly huge, but the industry brings more benefits to the locals with jobs and opportunities to travel the world and gain very marketable skills.
Predictions for the future are that the segment will continue to grow and thrive.
There is a new Super yacht facility under development in Vuda that will help support the growth.
Source: Fiji Sun – article by Greg Ross