Tourism is in my DNA. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya as was my father Tom Fernandes, who established a safari company servicing guests from all over the globe. I worked in the office every school holidays, mostly all the mundane jobs. I was sent to boarding school in Perth, Australia where I attended Aquinas College, the great Christian Brothers institution, then to Curtin University, graduating with a business degree and joining a big accounting firm.
After two years of “tick and bash”, I went “walkabout” around the U.S.A. and ended up in northern California, where I was asked to establish a “safari desk” within a large travel agency. Six months later I went solo and established Wildlife Safari, a luxury outbound operator selling East Africa and serviced, by our family business.
From a one man band, Wildlife Safari grew into an outstanding business and expanded into the U.K. and Australia, but after 25 years, I decided to consolidate the sales and reservations activity into the Australia office. I moved back to Perth in 1996, where I enjoy being in one of the most liveable cities in the world and Wildlife Safari now sells luxury travel to Africa, India and the islands of the Indian Ocean. We still maintain our head office in Nairobi, Kenya with an experienced team of safari specialists.
I met Peter Askin during the late 80’s while living in California and we conducted joint sales activities promoting our respective destinations through the country. Peter contacted me in 2003 with a proposal to invest in Southern World Australia which was undergoing a change of ownership and I bought 50% of Southern World Australia, with David Armour, Peter Askin and Martin Horgan as my partners.
Richard Peate, a Southern World original founder, retired in 2013 and the subsequent Southern World New Zealand restructure resulted in my acquiring 50% of this business with David, Peter, Martin and Tim Reid as my partners.
My role as Group Chairman is more “bigger picture” than day to day, while providing support and advice as required, particularly in the accounting, taxation and legal areas. Having the Wildlife Safari group as a related entity also lends a global view to both businesses.
Southern World and Wildlife Safari reflect many of the same ethos, guests are always first, we deliver a unique experience at excellent value, with service, service, service as a mantra.
Living in the great state of Western Australia, I’m also very passionate to promote my state under the Southern World brand, and with the launch of nonstop Qantas flights from London to Perth in 2018, I plan to get out from behind my desk and sell the wonders of Western Australia with luxury and style, of course.