Africa: Nigerian tourism industry practitioners mourn Femi-Pearse
Practitioners in the Nigerian tourism industry have described the death of the founder of Whispering Palms Resort, Iworo, Lagos, Professor Ayodeji Femi-Pearse, as a great loss to the development of tourism in the country. Femi-Pearse, who passed on recently, was among the pioneers in private resort development in the country.
Recalling his experience with Professor Femi-Pearse, Nigeria’s Father of Tourism, Chief Mike Amachree, said the late founder of Whispering Palms was passionate about the development of tourism in Nigeria.
He added: “Back then, when I came back from a trip to Hawaii, the United States of America with ideas on how to develop resorts here in Nigeria, he was already on it. I learnt from him. He had already started his resort before I established Port Harcourt Tourist Beach Resort.
“Whenever we visited the resort, he would come out to sit, entertain and even give us generous discounts on room rates. He would encourage us on how to move the industry forward. I was surprised that a foremost professor of medicine would be interested in tourism.”
Speaking on Professor Femi-Pearse, a Nigerian tour operator, Mr. Jemi Alade, had this to say: “He contributed a lot in terms of resort development. It was a private effort and he did a marvellous job to develop a unique resort for the tourism industry in Nigeria.
You know it is a beach front visited by both locals and foreigners and it has been very popular over the years. You know he was a pioneer person in the area of resort development. He was among the first private persons that developed such resorts in Nigeria. He was more or less a pioneer.
The only thing that I am afraid of is continuity. When the owner of the property like that dies, it becomes difficult to carry on. I don’t know if there is a succession plan. There is a need for a good management to handle the place and keep it alive.”
According to Mr. Ikechi Uko, an international tourism marketing expert and the publisher of ATQ, a travel magazine, Professor Femi-Pearse was a man ahead of his time.
He said: “At the beginning of his foray into tourism, every month I was in Whispering Palms. He was a visionary ahead of his time. He decided to create something in Nigeria. His was the first example of a resort in Lagos State, and at that point in Nigeria, there were only three of them: Rojenny, Chief Amachree’s Port Harcourt Tourist Beach Resort and himself. He was an amazing man.”
On Femi-Pearse’s vision for setting up the place, Uko said: “The thing was that people needed somewhere they could go for relaxation and he decided to create something for Nigerians in Nigeria. That was the first success story from where other resorts could learn from. He brought whatever experience he had outside Nigeria and used it in Nigeria. He is a good example of people putting their money where their mouth is.”
Professor Femi-Pearse died on December 28, last year, and was buried on January 24. Apart from being the founder of Whispering Palms Resort, he was a former Provost, University of Lagos College of Medicine and Chief Medical Director, LUTH. In 1980, Professor Femi-Pearse was the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, and between 2000 and 2004, he was the Chairman, Lagos State University (LASU) Governing Councl.
by Okorie Uguru