Timor-Leste is a unique destination in South Asia, but its tourism potential is currently untapped. It is little known as a destination, visitor numbers are small and tourism infrastructure and service providers are limited.
Since 1992, The Asia Foundation (TAF) has been working in Timor-Leste with local, municipal and national level government, as well as civil society partners and communities, to strengthen governance and policy, eliminate violence against women, enhance economic opportunities for women, and promote peace and justice in Timor-Leste.
One of TAF’s recently funded projects involved engagement with the Ministry of Tourism to promote evidence-based policy making. TAF conducted the first survey of visitors, which provided an important insight into the country’s marketing and branding challenges, tourism opportunities and for the first time a projection of the sector’s potential economic value. The success of this landmark survey led to TAF providing policy and research expertise to develop the country’s inaugural National Tourism Action Plan. This has since led to the development of a policy on inclusive and collaborative coordination with government and non-government stakeholders for the tourism component of the Government of Timor-Leste’s 2030 Strategic Development Plan, as well as the aspirational objectives outlined in the draft 2017 Tourism Policy.
MDF and TAF have already been working together on the development of the tourism sector in Timor-Leste by sharing information about both policy and private-sector developments. MDF has shared knowledge on tourism infrastructure with insights from Balibo Fort Hotel, handicraft supply chain development and marketing with learning from Things and Stories and Boneca de Ataúro, and tour product development from working with Dive, Trek and Camp. Since MDF’s engagement in cruise tourism commenced there has been a growing interest at the government level to understand the potential benefits. MDF and TAF collaborated on a survey of incoming passengers and the analysis of these findings was presented to the Ministry of Tourism, demonstrating the successful partnership between both organisations.
MDF has now formalised this relationship with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to continue to share this business intelligence and work together to conduct tourism research in different kinds of tourism products. This will inform decision making at the government level regarding tourism policy and support the government’s country branding campaign by involving the private sector during implementation.