On May 12, 2022, Mercy Corps and the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry announced the release of Timor-Leste’s first catalog dedicated to locally made upcycled and recycled products. On this occasion, Dili’s Centro de Informação Turística was transformed into an exhibition and networking space for a dozen of upcyclers and recyclers, who were able to interact directly with the event participants and market their creations.

Like many countries around the world, Timor-Leste faces the urgent challenge of finding solutions to manage a growing stream of plastic, which not only harms its environment, but threatens the health of its communities, undermines the potential of its nascent, but promising, tourism industry, and increases its vulnerability to climate and urban flood risks.

In response, Mercy Corps and the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry, are cooperating to advance responsible plastic use and circular economy approaches that can deliver effective reduce, reuse, and recycle strategies within the country’s resources. Since December 2021, this initiative aims at boosting the emergence of a growing movement of local changemakers, and the establishment of an inclusive post-consumer plastic value chain that can help Timor-Leste protect its marine and terrestrial ecosystems, preserve the health and safety of its people, bring a measure of diversification to its economy, and add to its small manufacturing base to expand employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Designed in collaboration with the Plastics Solutions Alliance, the goal of the new catalog is to inspire vocations, stimulate demand for recycled content, and connect local upcycling and recycling groups – who often lack exposure, access to partners, and spaces to display and sell their products – with new clients. The publication forms part of a broader series of initiatives focused on empowering communities to prevent plastic pollution and helping local entrepreneurs build innovative businesses, to drive social change, and ultimately, make it more economically feasible to collect, sort and reprocess materials in Timor-Leste.

The Plastics Solutions Alliance is a cross-sector partnership between USAID, KOICA, the European Union, Caltech, Heineken, and Mercy Corps dedicated to accelerating the transition towards a circular economy, whereby unnecessary plastic use is curtailed and replaced, plastic waste is disposed of responsibly and turned into sought-after products, and resource recovery systems support Timor-Leste’s vision to become a recognized tourism destination, respectful of its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

All photos credit to: Mercy Corps

Eight Australian travel agents had the opportunity to “Explore The Undiscovered” in Timor-Leste on a recent familiarization trip, organized by Market Development Facility (MDF). USAID’s Tourism For All Project (TFA) held a “speed networking” event for the agents at the end of their travels, so that they could meet a range of Timorese tour operators and hoteliers to get to know them on a personal level and find out more about the tourism products on offer.

MDF, which is supported by the Australian government, worked in collaboration with the agents’ group Travel Managers and Airnorth to arrange the trip. The Tourism For All Project brought in a variety of travel operators: hotels, dive centres, restaurants and companies specializing in trekking and cultural tours. Before the “speed networking” event, TFA also held a coaching session for the Timorese participants, most of whom had never experienced a travel trade show before.  The event was hosted by Pelican Paradise.

The purpose of the familiarization trip was to showcase the reopening of Timor-Leste following the COVID-19 pandemic. The travel agents were selected based on their interest and clientele’s fit for Timor-Leste and they were taken on two tours: one focusing on marine tourism in Atauro and another cultural tour to Balibo, in Timor-Leste’s coffee country.  They also enjoyed a “city experience” in the capital, Dili.

Speaking after the event, MDF (Country Director Timor-Leste) Drew Johnson commented: “It was amazing to see the passion and preparedness of the local operators: very inspiring”.

Darwin-based Personal Travel Manager Lisa Malnar was the only agent in the group who had visited Timor-Leste prior to the COVID lockdown and she was excited about resuming tours to the country. She said that all of the agents were impressed by the “speed networking” event.

“Timor-Leste will be the next hot destination for those that want to take the road less explored. We all felt an overwhelming sense of pride and passion from those involved in the tourism industry and that came across through all interactions we had. We loved learning about the different businesses during the networking event and felt the engagement was positive for not only the local operators but also the agents attending. We can’t wait to start promoting Timor-Leste as destination to Australians. Get ready Timor – your time to shine is coming!”

The Timorese participants also expressed their enthusiasm. Osaias Soares is the President of ATKOMA, the community-based tourism association on the island of Ataúro, a hot spot for marine tourism. “From ATKOMA, we would like to say that the event was fantastic as it helped to connect tourism and hospitality businesses in Timor-Leste with tour agents from Australia and that will help to boost tourism in this country, and particularly Ataúro island, post-COVID-19. The agents’ suggestions helped us to overcome our weaknesses in order to grow better businesses. After this meeting, we believe that there will be more tourists visiting Ataúro”.

Manuel Napoleon is a Dili-based operator specialising in overland tours. His company, Manny’s Timor Tours, hopes to develop cross-border itineraries for visitors looking to visit both Timor-Leste and Indonesian West Timor. He felt greatly encouraged by the “speed networking” session: “I just want to convey my gratitude and pleasure in being part of this event, to both USAID and MDF. I am sure events like these don’t come along very often and these opportunities will surely strengthen Timor-Leste’s tourism industry, which has yet to achieve its full potential. Those couple of hours are the result of hard work from USAID and MDF in supporting local enterprises, and for me personally, it was a great experience in being able to show case what Timor-Leste and Manny Timor Tours has to offer. We hope to be part of a bigger picture in the future”.

 

TFA and ATKOMA recently instigated a collaboration with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to promote light aircraft flights from Dili to Ataúro.  Since the flights were offered in April, they have carried 220 passengers, 50% of whom were tourists and expatriate residents. The organization’s Country Director Nick Hitchins also participated in the “speed networking” event: “I thought it went well. I think it’s immensely useful to have a session like this to help local operators understand what kind of expectations international tourists and agents have. All in all, it was a great event and with a really encouraging, positive vibe”.

The Timor-Leste government is keen to increase the number of tourism arrivals as part of its economic strategy to reduce dependence on the oil and gas industry.  In a debriefing session after the “speed networking” event, several of the travel agents mentioned that had proved difficult to access comprehensive information about tourism attractions and facilities online. TFA has been working actively to enhance the private sector’s capacity for e-marketing, whilst strengthening the impact of the national tourism promotion website. Last year, TFA also launched a travel app, Go Timor, in collaboration with private sector partners, which was singled out for praise by the Travel Managers Group.

 

All photos credit to Ann Turner/ USAID’s Tourism For All Project

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has teamed up with Atauro’s tourism association ATKOMA to offer a special Fly/Stay passenger service for visitors to the island. MAF’s light aircraft make the journey from Dili in less than 20 minutes, landing at the Ataúro airstrip located midway between Beloi and Vila.

MAF Country Director Nick Hitchins said the service will provide a fast, reliable air-link to the island, helping to re-invigorate and bring hope to a fledgling local tourism industry devastated by the global impacts of Covid-19. “It is part of our commitment to the development of national capacity, and our commitment to bring help, hope and healing to the isolated people of Timor-Leste,” he explained.

Left to right: Nick Hitchins, Country Director / Line Pilot at MAF handed the official agreement to Osaias Soares, President of ATKOMA ( Photo credit: Maria Da Costa/USAID’s Tourism For All)

USAID’s Tourism For All Project helped the people of Atauro to establish ATKOMA to manage the destination and they encouraged MAF and ATKOMA to work in collaboration to improve transport links and increase visitor arrivals.

Standard ticket prices to Atauro will be $75 each way. The service is expected to commence on April 1st, 2022, subject to Timorese Government approval. Not only will the service provide a quick way for inbound tourists to reach Atauro, but both outward and return journeys can be used by NGO staff and local Timorese wishing to connect with the mainland.

ATAURO Fly/Stay scheduled flights depart Friday evening and Monday morning every week. Flights can also be arranged on an ad-hoc basis through MAF’s Booking Line on WhatsApp +670 7732 7771. Requests for travel will be grouped together and additional flights scheduled each week where possible.  Those with an interest in travelling to the island should register for MAF’s ‘last-minute’ group on WhatsApp (simply send your name and number to MAF’s Bookings Line). Weekly flight availability will be posted to the group, as will last minute flights to other Timorese destinations.

Tourists wishing to travel to Atauro can book ‘Fly/Stay Flights’ directly with any accommodation provider or through ATKOMA as part a package, by email to [email protected]. The island has its own website at https://ataurotourism.org/ with information about all of the accommodation providers and tourism attractions on the island.

SCHEDULE:

Flights will be scheduled to meet demand. Passengers should expect the need for some flexibility when registering their booking. Note: MAF Planes may not be available for short time periods due to medical evacuations.

The ATKOMA fly/stay service will operate as follows:

Friday

Departs DILI 1630 – Arrive ATAURO 1650

Depart ATAURO 1710 – Arrive DILI 172

Monday

Departs DILI 0730 – Arrive ATAURO 0750

Depart ATAURO 0810 – Arrive DILI 0830

The Balibo Fort Veterans’ Museum, housed in the extensively renovated historic military barracks, was officially opened on Saturday April 30, 2022.

 

The museum tells the stories of veterans who served in Timor-Leste during World War II, through the Resistance, INTERFET and in the International Stabilisation force, and who all helped to lay the path for a peaceful and prosperous nation. Their stories are told in Tetum and English through colourful wall panels and an audio-visual display.


Unknown                                                                            AWM P03184.441                             Balibo

 

The Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Taur Matan Ruak officiated at the opening ceremony, and was joined by the Australian Ambassador, Bill Costello; the Patron of the Balibo House Trust, Steve Bracks; and many dignitaries, veterans and community members. The Museum was funded by the Timorese and Australian Governments and the project was managed by the Balibo House Trust.

The Balibo Fort has played a number of significant roles in Timor’s history, and in more recent times has become an important base for the Timor Awakenings Program and for pilgrimages of Australian veterans and their Timorese counterparts. It is an ideal home for the Museum, which adds yet another reason to visit Balibo.

 

The Museum is free, open to the public, and provides a wonderful opportunity to expand your knowledge of Timorese history. On your visit you can enjoy all the other activities that Balibo has to offer, such as the walking and bike trails, the Fort hotel and its new pool.

                             All Balibo House Trust

 

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.

 

Oé-Cusse, East Timor (March 22nd, 2022), The corn harvesting ceremony is one of the Timorese traditions that existed in the past and continues to be carried out by the younger generation today in Oé-Cusse. Every year, the local people perform this ceremony around February and March to honor their ancestors and nature for what they get in every life. This traditional event is present in every village in the region. Each village will perform its traditional ceremony based on the beliefs handed down by its ancestors.

The corn harvesting in Oesilo takes place in one of the sacred places named “Fatu Naek Hoineno” in the local language. The corn harvesting ceremony usually takes place every year and is celebrated by four hamlets: Hoineno, Usapikolen, Oenoah, and Kabun. The communities celebrate the ritual ceremony of “Fua Pah” as a symbol of gratitude to their ancestors and wishing for the best for the new generation. Before performing this ceremony, the communities must prepare an animal that they will slaughter as a symbol of the sacrifice to their ancestors.

The corn harvesting ceremony is held for two days; the first day is a day of gathering between families in the holy house, performing sacrifices at “Fatuk Hoineno’. On the second day, a cultural ceremony is carried out, where each of the family members will gather again in the sacred house to thank the ancestors and ask permission for families to eat new crops, such as corn.
Before participating in the corn harvesting ceremony, everyone is familiar with several Timorese customary rules called “Tara Bandu”, which means not cutting down trees or burning nature, so as not to damage the natural beauty and continue to preserve the local culture. This ceremony will allow the visitors to enjoy the environment and visit several Oesilo attractions, such as the traditional local clothes ‘’Tais’’, and other local products, and explore several sacred houses to get to know more about the culture of the community of Oesilo.

How do we grow the Tourism sector in Timor-Leste, a land offering incredible beauty, culture and history? This was the critical question raised by 20 hoteliers in Timor-Leste as they sat together at the 2017 Tourism Symposium. From this meeting, a commitment was made for the operators to join forces and move forward with an ambition to create a flourishing Tourism sector in Timor-Leste that significantly contributes to the country’s economy whilst improving the livelihoods of its citizens.

 

Since then, the hoteliers have together formed the Hotel Owners of Timor-Lorosa’e (HOTL Association) which has delivered a number of programs aimed at facilitating sustainable tourism growth. These activities include targeted tourism marketing, improved access and connectivity to Timor-Leste, sharing data and industry insights as well as hospitality training and knowledge sharing. Within only a few years of operation, HOTL Association has built strong partnerships with government, private sector partners, donors and community-based tourism operators across the country to promote Timor-Leste as a destination and represented the nation at several Tourism Trade Shows across the region – Kupang, Bali, Darwin and Sydney.

Despite significant gains, the COVID-pandemic has presented an almost insurmountable challenge for Timor-Leste’s tourism sector. The global disruption of air travel, closure of state borders and restrictions on the movement of people have been successful in containing the spread of the virus, however in doing so it has brought the Timor-Leste’s tourism industry to a standstill. A study conducted by The Asia Foundation on the economic impact of COVID on the tourism sector, found that tourism-related businesses in aggregate have been operating at just 23% of their pre-COVID level. Almost half of businesses that depend on international travellers have closed or curtailed their operations.

With improved vaccination rates in Timor-Leste and the region, we are now seeing improved air connectivity with a key source travel market Australia, through new flights connected by both QANTAS and Air North. Similarly charter services to Indonesia and Malaysia create opportunities for international tourism to once again return. As the region now starts to open, there is hope that the country’s tourism economy will recover and in response to the changing tides, the HOTL Association have also been refining their strategy. HOTL Association’s Chairman, Mr. Sam Aluwihare said in the recent members meeting “that whilst times have been tough, we have an opportunity now to stand by one another and be “Stronger Together” as we navigate through this crisis. The Association will continue to support the sustainability of its members and the industry by increasing tourism activities through the launch of tourism marketing and content creation campaigns, delivering COVID travel safe training and seminars to operators and for the first time extending membership to other tourism operators such as airlines, tour / dive operators, food and beverage operators in order to enhance tourism customer journeys and launch new and innovative tourism products into the market.”

HOTL Association continues to believe that tourism is a key pillar to developing a diversified and sustainable economy in Timor-Leste. It is through perseverance, dedication and strong partnership that we can achieve our goals of a prosperous future, not only for the businesses that comprise Timor-Leste’s tourism industry, but for citizens and communities who will also be ‘stronger together.’

DILI, December 14th, 2021—Timor-Leste is celebrating an important cultural milestone. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that the country’s application for the inscription of its hand-woven traditional textile, tais, as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding” has been successful.

Tais is now listed alongside renowned cultural assets from other countries, such as traditional hand puppetry in Egypt, the “bisalhães” black pottery manufacturing process in Portugal, and the ancient art of hand-crafting “phinisi” boats in Indonesia. The listing has opened the way to the allocation of a nearly $270,000 grant from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for the implementation of a safeguarding plan for Tais. The Timor-Leste government and development partners will also contribute funding to the initiative.

The project is expected to raise public awareness about Tais, motivate youth to take an interest in Tais and learn the weaving techniques, increase income opportunities for weavers, attract tourists’ interest in Tais as part of Timor-Leste’s culture, and strengthen weavers’ networks.

The UNESCO application conditions are stringent and preparation of the documentation started in January 2019. USAID’s Tourism For All Project provided support to help Timorese authorities and stakeholders, starting with the creation of a National Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage (IHC) to coordinate the application procedure. One of the primary UNESCO requirements is the close involvement of the various stakeholders—ranging from Government representatives to national NGOs and community weaving groups—to ensure a full consensus supporting the application. This was achieved through consultations at a forum organized by USAID, “Protecting, Preserving, and Promoting Tais: the Road towards UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Recognition.” The final step in the application process was the production of a short film required by UNESCO, to describe the significance of Tais and the traditional spinning, dyeing and weaving skills used to make it.


Natural products used to dye tais yarn &  Timor-Leste’s traditional hand-woven textile, tais (Photo c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project/Ann Turner)

“We would like to congratulate Timor-Leste on achieving this significant milestone,” said USAID Mission Director Zema Semunegus. “UNESCO recognition validates the cultural importance of Tais to Timor-Leste and the valuable contribution of the women who create this beautiful textile. It will help to support family livelihoods throughout the country for generations to come and also enhance the cultural tourism offering.”

More than 100 people from local and international organizations, development partners and Tais weavers contributed to drawing up the safeguarding plan. This three-year initiative will be implemented by IHC. Activities will include promoting Tais in fairs, creating a television programme and adding Timor-Leste’s cultural elements, including Tais, to school curricula. The project will also conduct field research and document and photograph the raw materials used and the Tais products in the communities and local markets. The results of this research will be used to develop a permanent exhibition, which will also include live demonstrations by weavers. Schoolteachers will then receive training on the content of the exhibition and be encouraged to bring their students to visit. Other project activities include creating a Tais weaving competition for youth, providing training on cotton cultivation and natural dyeing, supporting weavers’ management skills and livelihoods through training, and a formal certification system.


Photo c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project/Ann Turner

“We really appreciate the contribution of the American people in achieving the UNESCO nomination,” said the Secretary of State for Art and Culture of Timor-Leste, Teofilo Caldas. “The  Tourism For All Project‘s involvement was important and necessary in assisting the government with drawing up the safeguarding plan. We will still need their support in developing school curriculum content and technical assistance with Tais certification.”.

Local NGO Timor Aid has been working with Tais weavers for more than two decades, and the organization was represented on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage committee. Timor Aid co-founder Maria do Ceu Lopes da Silva said: “We are bursting with pride to see our long-term dream turn into reality. Ultimately the real winners of the UNESCO listing are the Timor-Leste weavers. Tais remains a viable economic empowerment for rural women. I hope that the UNESCO pronouncement will strengthen the support for the Timor-Leste weavers, especially in the area of preservation.”

Tais plays an important role in the lives of Timorese people and their sense of national identity. The textile is used for decoration and to create traditional clothing for men and women. People use Tais to welcome new-borns as well as for weddings and funerals, traditional ceremonies and festivals. Lopes is passionate about the cultural value of tais: “The traditional Tais is produced with corresponding rituals and specific colours, motifs, patterns and singular techniques that vary across different ethno-linguistic groups. Woven textiles bear witness to history, traditions, emotions, tragedies, and achievements of a clan, a tribe and of a nation”.

It is compulsory for participants to wear tais as they participate in this traditional cultural ceremony to celebrate the corn harvest (Photo c. Chamot)

Tais is traditionally handwoven by women using a simple backstrap loom. The production process, however, is quite complex and time-consuming. It starts with raw cotton bolls, which are ginned and spun by hand into yarn.  The men in the community are tasked with gathering the materials from trees and plants grown locally that are used dye the yarn.

“Timor Aid is implementing a UNESCO project to study indigenous plants used for tais making. Tais has its own eco-system. All raw materials for tais making, cotton and natural dyes, come from the environment. It’s impossible to develop and sustain tais small industries throughout the country, and its preservation without the required eco-friendly raw materials,” Lopes said.

Some pieces produced by expert weavers take months to complete and can sell for hundreds of dollars to visitors. Other items are reserved for community use and are not for sale. Not only is tais an important source of income for Timorese women and their families, it is an essential expression of the country’s history and culture through the motifs woven into the patterns. For example, in Oe-cusse, where Portuguese missionaries brought the Catholic faith to Timor-Leste more than five centuries ago, nuns introduced patterns to teach local weavers to incorporate European religious themes, such as angels, macramé copies, and images inspired by the artist Botticelli into their tais. In other municipalities, tais motifs reflect ancient traditional Timorese legends, such as the myth of the crocodile, and local flora and fauna.

Jose Sabino Ximenes from IHC member organization Alola Foundation said, “Currently, some of the original tais in the territory of Timor Leste are almost threatened with extinction because they have been influenced by outside cultures. According to my experience, the designs and patterns of ancient tais compared to today are very different. Young people also pay less attention to original designs but want to pursue targets when receiving orders from customers. Moreover, there are tais printing entrepreneurs from overseas who copy traditional tais motifs and sell at low prices. This seriously threatens traditional tais weavers in their work. UNESCO recognition of tais as an intangible cultural heritage is very important for Timor-Leste”.

Photo c. Elvis Guterres

The UNESCO listing recommends that the Government monitors and mitigates any unintended consequences arising from over-tourism and over-commercialization and to seek a balance between the economic and the social and cultural functions of Tais. Tais is one of the “must have” souvenirs bought by tourists, a vital market for local weavers. It also inspires the fledgling fashion industry in Timor-Leste, presenting a commercial opportunity, but also a threat to the integrity of Tais culture. The UNESCO project’s focus on youth will help to protect the cultural tradition of Tais in the long term.

Ximenes said that the Alola Foundation has been focusing on tais weaving projects involving young people, especially girls who have dropped out of school, to learn to weave together with their mothers and grandmothers so that the traditions can be passed on to a new generation. “Gradually a small number of young girls began to learn to weave and produce tais for sale through souvenir shops in Dili, fairs and markets. Their products are starting to improve and the quality is guaranteed. They have received orders from new customers and they are now very enthusiastic about weaving”.

Lopes agrees that the key to preserving tais culture is youth. The 24-year struggle for independence from Indonesia caused irreparable loss to the traditional ways of producing tais: “Many master weavers died. Immigration and forced displacement of Timorese from rural areas to cities, from highlands to valleys, and environmental destruction contributed to the shortfall of raw materials and loss of skills and original designs, many of which were never to be recovered. Timor-Leste doesn’t have a written tradition. Unlike other countries, particularly in the Asia region, where traditional textiles have recorded history, Timor-Leste’s Tais production was based on creating a memory chain of knowledge.” she said, “Cultural heritage is important, because it makes the past continuous. Weaving, songs, dances, languages and rituals, strengthen our cultural identity. They connect us to a range of emotions, feelings, offer information, inspiration, education, myths and facts about the lifestyle and development of our communities, relationships, successes and tragedies.”

“Urgent monetary needs force the weavers to produce cheap tais, woven with industrial yarn of poor quality, for quick sale. This creates conflict between tradition and modernity,” Lopes warned,  ”UNESCO recognition is a huge step forward to ensure the preservation of traditional Tais production. It will have a positive impact at national and international levels.  UNESCO recognition will enhance national pride, strengthen cultural identity, and officially acknowledge and honor weavers’ artwork and their skills. It will provide an opportunity to raise the recognition of Tais not only as tradition, but also as a tourism product, which will contribute to expanding economic opportunities for rural women. Tais could be the future Roving Ambassador of Timor-Leste for the promotion of our national cultural heritage around the world.”.

For organizations like Timor Aid and the Alola Foundation, tais producers, the government and its development partners, the UNESCO grant will open a new chapter in the history of tais. They will be working hard together to preserve tais heritage at home and to promote it abroad. And now that the first UNESCO application has succeeded, as a result of their experience they will also be able to apply for additional nomination files for other Timorese cultural assets in the future.


Tais is ever-present in Timorese art (Photo c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project/Ann Turner)

Author: USAID’s Tourism For All Project/Ann Turner

Ataúro and Asosiasaun Turizmu Koleku Mahanak Ataúro (ATKOMA) were recently awarded with the Top 100 Green Destinations Sustainability Stories. Green Destinations appeals to local and regional destinations committed to sustainability to participate in the Top 100 stories competition. More destinations throughout the world are recognizing the significance of progressing toward a more sustainable tourism industry, and sustainable tourism practices are becoming more prevalent. Therefore, Green Destinations challenges every year destinations willing to progress towards a sustainable tourism practice, encouraging them to share their innovative and effective Good Practice Stories, serving as a role model and inspiration for other destinations, tour operators and travellers!

We have crafted a blog that can be read here and you can also find more information on Green Destination’s website. Be sure to read our Good Practice Story, “Timor Leste – Reviving cultural traditions and fostering ecotourism development through Tara Bandu Marine Protected Areas”, on the Green Destination’s Website here.

Working in partnership, USAID’s Tourism For All Project, Heineken Timor S.A., Telkomcel and the Directorate General of Tourism have developed a new travel app, GoTimor.

GoTimor is a mobile application featuring the many great experiences that Timor-Leste has to offer to local people and expatriates. Through a single portal, the GoTimor app connects users with all of the information needed to plan trips and outings, with features such as Google map integration, a customer rating system and the ability to share plans with friends and family via digital media. It will also offer a marketing opportunity to smaller businesses who lack the budget for print advertising or brochures and help to promote special events and offers on a regular basis.

Not only is the app free to use and download, it is also free for businesses to list their services and details. For the next year, Telkomcel is managing the app and collating content, which is mainly focused on Dili businesses at present. Contact  [email protected] for information about how businesses can have their information included in the app.

The GoTimor app can be downloaded here:

Android link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appgotimorapp.wpapp

Apple link: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/gotimor/id1581703288