Located in the Coral Triangle, Timor-Leste has some of the most bio-diverse marine life in the world. Around Ataúro island, Conservation International has identified 642 different reef fish species, and with a myriad of hard and soft corals, the underwater landscape is extraordinary.
But among scuba enthusiasts, Timor-Leste remains relatively unknown. With the quest to find unique and unspoilt dive sites that are off the beaten track, there is great potential for diving to attract more visitors to the country.
The Dive Operators’ Working Group (DOWG) is comprised of six dive tour operators in Dili. It was formed as a platform for collaboration to coordinate marketing and promotional activities on dive tourism, to attract more international divers to Timor-Leste, and to liaise with the government on dive site conservation issues.
Conservation has become a pressing concern as no laws or policies exist to protect reef and pelagic species from overfishing, dumping, construction and other non-biodegradable waste.
The Ministry of Tourism is committed to improving destination marketing in Timor-Leste, and some dive operators conduct direct marketing activities which promote their own dive shops and packages. However, more support is needed to effectively reach markets within and beyond Asia.
MDF is therefore working with DOWG to help them improve and scale-up destination marketing activities on dive tourism.
Through the partnership, MDF will support the working group to conduct a survey to better understand visitors’ experiences, facilitating the operator’s participation at strategic tourism expos in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, and encouraging dialogue between the Ministry of Tourism and relevant communities about conservation issues of the dive sites.