Australia’s MDF and Dive Operators Collaborate on Expanding Marine Tourism

MDF is working with the Dive Operators Working Group (DOWG) to explore new dive sites around Timor-Leste and expand the country’s marine tourism offering. The partnership aims to have high-quality tourism products ready for when Timor-Leste reopens for tourism.

Timor-Leste is one of the few countries globally on the migratory route for blue whales and dolphins. Located in the coral triangle famed for its extraordinary biodiversity, the country has a unique development opportunity in marine tourism. Timor-Leste’s dive operators are working on expanding services and promoting this – aiming for when the country reopens to international tourists.

The Market Development Facility (MDF), an Australian Government-funded initiative, continued its collaboration with the Dive Operators Working Group (DOWG), a voluntary forum of tour operators in Timor-Leste, to improve destination marketing and develop new tourism products. The DOWG consists of six dive operators: Compass Diving, Dreamers Dive Academy, Dive Timor Lorosae, Aquatica Dive Resort, Atauro Dive Resort, and Beloi Beach Hotel. The DOWG was formed to create a platform for dive operators to work together on industry development activities. With the slowdown in tourism following the pandemic, the MDF-DOWG partnership is focusing on exploring new dive sites in Timor-Leste to expand the country’s marine tourism offering.

Through the dive exploration, dive professionals identified five dive sites that are relatively unknown and offer the potential to expand the range of dive locations for future customers. The group catalogued the sites based on difficulty to match customers’ capabilities. For example, beginner divers prefer calmer waters with colourful corals, while more adventurous and experienced divers can handle – and prefer – the challenge of deeper waters with large species of marine life such as sharks.

The exploration also mapped the dive sites and filmed a documentary that will be used to promote Timor-Leste’s biodiversity.

“Improving communication and uniting the sector was our primary interest. Of course, as divers, we all have, in our blood, this desire to explore new sites, “said Ivan Samra, co-owner of Dreamers Dive Academy.

While increasing the number of dive locations is important, the exploration also strengthens collaboration across the dive operators, which is the key to industry growth and recovery.

“As Timor-Leste reopens to tourism, MDF expects divers to be among the first group to return. Dive operators are therefore an important part of the post-COVID recovery,” said Drew Johnson, MDF Country Director in Timor-Leste.

MDF will continue to collaborate with the tourism providers so that the country is ready to welcome divers and tourists back to Timor-Leste.