The Asia Foundation hosts 2017 National Development Forum on Sustainable and Inclusive Tourism Development in Timor-Leste

Dili, June 12, 2017 — The Asia Foundation hosted the 2017 National Development Forum Sustainable and Inclusive Tourism Development in Timor-Leste today at Agora Food Studio in Dili. The event attracted 60 representatives from the government, industry and development partners who identified opportunities and challenges of building Timor-Leste tourism sector and agreed upon a strategic development framework using demand, supply and partnership as overarching parameters.

H.E. Dr. Jose Ramos Horta presented a keynote address acknowledging the importance of tourism to the country, emphasizing that it needs to be done in parallel with other economic sector development. During his remarks, Dr. Horta relayed his own experience as a young tourist guide—his first job at the age of 19. He then emphasized the importance of the sector to the development and relevance of the country as a whole—highlighting the role of private sector development partners (including banks), as well as all Timorese.

Acting Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture, H.E. Ms. Isabel de Jesus Ximenes discussed the newly-ratified milestone tourism policy, stating “We now have to develop a supporting strategy and action plan to ensure that we successfully implement the goals set out in our tourism policy.” The tourism policy aims to attract 200,000 international tourists who will spend US$150 million in Timor-Leste by 2030.

The forum identified a number of thematic areas of development that need attention in order to develop the sector as a whole. These included niche tourism, access to markets, public-private partnerships and people-centered tourism.

While there have been limited efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to build demand, it was recognized that this is hindered by the limited direct air routes to Timor-Leste at present. These and other limitations such as air service agreements as well as airlines being attracted to invest in route development were discussed by Air Timor and Citilink who participated in the conference. Both companies reiterated their commitment to tourism in Timor-Leste, and urged the government to more effectively market the country, including in their own in-flight publications.

Throughout the forum, the notion of “partnerships” was raised frequently as a critical success factor in developing tourism. Recognizing the specific roles and responsibilities of public sector institutions and private sector actors, there was a call for improved marketing, promotion, and sustainable operation of tourism. This was further alluded to by Managing Director of the Jape Group Australia Mr. Alan Jape, who gave a riveting presentation on his company’s development plans for a resort outside Dili.

Other topics include the critical importance of human resource development, with participation by members of the Ministry of Tourism, the Secretary of State for Vocational Training, and the Rector of the Dili Institute of Technology.

During her closing remarks, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative, Ms. Susan Marx thanked all the participants for attending the forum to discuss and actively share ideas to inform both the government’s ongoing policy process, as well as important implementation decisions. Ms. Marx further emphasized the need for the government to pass and approve the pending brand and logo, emphasizing that “It is only through a targeted brand that Timor-Leste can ensure it succeeds and manages its own narrative, its own story.” Following her remarks, the director for Marketing at the Ministry of Tourism showed a sneak preview of the official government logo and slogan to participants.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

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Related locations: Timor-Leste
Related programs: Inclusive Economic Growth
Related topics: Tourism

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