Behind the Brand: Getting to know Fiona Stevens

19 August 2021

An Interview with Fiona Stevens – Founder and Director of MajorDomo

It’s always nice to get to know the people behind the brand, so we thought it was about time you all got to know our founder and director, Fiona Stevens, a little better!  Here she shares how the business came to be about and what she loves about the New Zealand tourism industry…..

When did you start MajorDomo?

At the beginning of 2013. I had just had a lovely long summer exploring the South Island with my family – my first big break in over 20 years. I knew when we got back that I wanted get back into work and be busy again. I fell back into the luxury tourism industry with a focus in the luxury accommodation and experiences arena. I wasn’t sure what that looked like for me at first. Initially I started consulting in the luxury accommodation and luxury activities industry. Clients ranged from an accommodation provider who concentrated on apartment style accommodation and was launching a new product to a bespoke experience company who were innovating new experiences not normally accessible for guests. I also worked with a couple of homeowners who had fabulous homes and were wanting to offer their luxury private homes as short-term accommodation options – so I set up the products for them and then my most exciting project was getting the contract to create what would become the Lodge at The Hills villa on The Hills Golf Course – the first of Its kind at that luxury level in New Zealand. From there everything formalised and MajorDomo eventuated.

Where did the name ‘MajorDomo’ come from?

Sitting around our fire with my husband and a friend. Glasses of pinot in hand we were talking about what it was I wanted to do. I was leaning to turning private luxury homes into private luxury accommodation for discerning guests – I always enjoyed looking after beautiful homes for absentee owners and all aspects of their stays in their homes and also looking after their guests. My husband, who loves words, explained that what I was doing was essential the role of a MajorDomo. Someone who looks after the home and staff for absentee owners. My company has evolved so much now into the services it offers, but the name just stuck!

What was your background before you started the company?

After living and travelling in Europe in the 80’s I returned to NZ to study tourism and then have worked in the industry since. That has seen me work for the National Tourism body, the Queenstown Regional Tourism Body and then in the Inbound Tourism market before establishing first my tourism marketing company, Leapfrog Services Ltd in the late 90’s and and then MajorDomo in 2013.

With all of your experience in tourism and travel, how does the current COVID-19 situation compare? How do you see the way people travel changing as a result of this situation?

With caution!  The Covid-19 pandemic has created a tourism ‘event’ like we have ever seen before. The Global Financial Crisis pales to insignificance! There is no doubt it has had some catastrophic consequences. Many job losses, tourism companies have gone out of business, business terms and conditions have been put to the test which has resulted in stress for both clients and business owners – those are just to name a few factors. It has not been easy. But, ever the optimist, I think this has also given us the opportunity to reset. Really look at our businesses -and what worked, what didn’t and what we want to look like as tourism comes back over the next 4 – 5 years. If you own your own business, it is also a good reset to see you’re your business looks like after an enforced stop. Is this what you wanted it to be? Do you want to change it and if so what does that look like? Is what you are doing still relevant? It is also a perfect time to tidy up internal systems and standard operating procedures.

MajorDomo offers accommodation all over New Zealand – where are your favourite destinations in New Zealand?

We are so very lucky in this little country of ours to have so much diversity. Living in Arrowtown, there is so much beauty and with the four distinct seasons we have here it is always changing. But it is great to sometimes get away from the mountains and see big skies and beaches. Waiheke Island, the beaches of Hawkes Bay and the Abel Tasman are some of my favourites. Lazing on a boat in the Bay of Islands is also a favourite treat. Exploring is an ongoing project!

It’s not all about the destinations! What have been your favourite experiences in New Zealand?

I don’t necessarily have a particular favourite experience, but my favourite ‘thing’ is discovering something new. In the past few years, I have loved getting to know Waiheke and especially some of it’s walking tracks (exercise was necessary after I discovered the fabulous winery restaurants)!, I spent four days horse-riding with friends in the Ahuriri Valley in the McKenzie Country which was amazing. I have loved digging a little deeper into our Maori History as well and we every region has such a meaningful and interesting history.

What have been your proudest achievements since starting MajorDomo?

Now in August 2021, it would be navigating through COVID-19. Prior to that, it would be growing our portfolio of gorgeous homes and working with our amazing owners and the ongoing passion of mine which is Mahu Whenua.

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