Are you looking to explore authentic coffee culture, to take a journey from bean to cup, engaging with local coffee producers as they harvest and process Timor-Leste’s renowned coffee? Perhaps you just want to find a place to escape from your busy daily life to a quieter, more relaxing place in the midst of stunning scenery? All this will be possible with a weekend getaway to Ermera on a coffee tour package offered by Café Brisa Serena (“CBS”). Cafe Brisa Serena is a subsidiary of a local social enterprise established by Peace-Winds Japan to improve the livelihood of coffee farmers through an income generation program, to add value to the coffee product and to promote high quality Timor-Leste coffee in the domestic and international market.

Dili residents and many people who have visited Timor-Leste will be familiar with Café Letefoho and will have tasted the coffee at Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roaster on the beachfront in Dili. The coffee served here is freshly-roasted and served, for maximum aroma and flavor. First opened as a specialty coffee roaster in June 2014, the Café set out to promote Timor-Leste coffee sourced directly from producers in Letefoho, Ermera. Since then, this small Café has attracted many international visitors and local people, offering a unique coffee experience in Timor-Leste through different coffee brewing methods prepared by expert baristas at the cafe. As the number of visitors increased, demand grew for visits to coffee farms for an in-depth experience of local coffee culture at the origin.

The coffee tourism niche has great potential to help Timor-Leste to develop its local economy by attracting visitors to cafes and farms.  In June 2020, during the global pandemic with international tourism at a standstill, Café Brisa Serena (a subsidiary local Social enterprise established by Peace-Winds Japan) identified a new opportunity to work with coffee producers, youth and local women entrepreneurs who run Guest Houses in Letefoho. They combined coffee tours with a yoga retreat in collaboration with Dili Ashtanga Yoga, to create a package, initially aimed at attracting domestic and expatriate visitors to the region during coffee harvest season in 2020.  During coffee harvest season, visitors can book trips to coffee farms and engage directly with farmers to pick coffee cherries, try their hand at coffee processing, and enjoy the traditional coffee roasting and brewing process, right at the farm where it was grown.

The Letefoho Coffee Tour is not only about taking visitors to visit a coffee farm. The aim is to give visitors the opportunity to see and experience directly how coffee is produced, to learn where the coffee they consume comes from and how every cup of coffee purchased has an impact on coffee producers’ lives and people within the coffee value chain, and promote sustainable tourism. While visiting coffee farms, visitors can spend their weekend staying at community guest house or accommodation run by Cafe Brisa Serena, explore the neighborhood, visit local markets which take place every Wednesday and Saturday, local  tea plantation. They can also spend additional time visiting the spectacular “Mota Bandeira“ waterfall in Atsabe and other local tourism attractions with local tour guides.

“We are happy to create business and employment opportunities for youth and women in Letefoho, support local businesses and help farmers to generate additional income from visits to their coffee farms”, Café Brisa Serena (Business Development Manager) Jonia Leite Soares explained, “It is also great to learn through this tourism initiative and with the small capital we have invested. Café Brisa Serena have been able to attract many visitors in 2020 and run this initiative with great collaboration with guest house  owners in Letefoho, youth and women from the community, and other business working to support promotion for Timor-Leste Tourism”.

Maria Silvina Babo “Silvia”, 27 years old, is a local chef and guest house assistant at Café Letefoho Guest House. She is very happy with her job since she is able to learn basic skills in hospitality and tourism from her work and make a living from the money she earns. Through on-the-job training organized by CBS, she has been able to learn how to organise and prepare food for guest and using available seasonal local ingredients to promote local food, welcome guests, and has been developing skills in brewing coffee with the team of baristas at Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roaster. Now, she is also training other other staff in food preparation and is actively involved with youth tourism group from Letefoho. She is also working closely with Café Letefoho barista Laurentina Babo aka Rina, who has also been working tirelessly to organize coffee farm tours and visits to other tourism attractions in the region.

In 2021, this activity is on hold, with the outbreak of local community transmission in Ermera which resulted in the cancelation of bookings. But all of the Cafe Brisa Serena partners are working hard to prepare safety measures and to develop their skills in readiness to resume their activities once the pandemic is under control. They are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to coffee country when the time is right.

To find out more about Café Letefoho and Café Brisa Serena, visit their website at here

Paulina Mau Torres Da Cruz (known as Paula) first started working at Agora Food Studio ( in Dili in 2017. Now, she is a Program Manager and an experienced tourism Business Coach. She is a rising star of the tourism industry and is helping others to find their way to success in the sector. From Uatu-lari in Viqueque, Paula coaches her team in self-confidence (listen to her podcast here!), she manages customer engagement and is the coach for Agora’s Administration team, and also facilitates digital marketing workshops for Timor-Leste #nextgen tourism entrepreneurs. Since 2020, she has been leading Timor-Leste’s healthy local noodles revolution, finding a new market for Timorese produce under the TimorMie brand.  She is passionate about food: “Good food is about love. Good food is eating our local products that have high nutrition and makes us healthy, it is eating together with family to share our parents and grandparents’ stories. Eating good food is very important, like sharing our love to each other. So starting from now, let’s practice cooking good food for ourselves and our family to eat, like we are giving our love to them.”

Agora Food Studio team sharing with communities how to make healthy local “Timor Mie” noodles.

By Paulina Mau Torres Da Cruz

I first became involved in coaching in 2020 during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Timor-Leste. I was fortunate enough to be the first Timorese to attend this online coaching and leadership course focused on people working in international development.

At the time, I had little idea what the concept of coaching was and how it is different from training and mentoring. I since discovered, both by attending this course and also receiving business coaching through my workplace Agora Food Studio, that coaching is a powerful method to support everyone to achieve their goals by focusing on their strengths. As a coach you have one-on-one sessions with your ‘coachees’ – that’s the word we give to people who are being coached – who actively agree to be coached in order to grow and develop themselves professionally.

From all my coaches, I have learned so much, both practically and even spiritually. I have learned critical skills like how to solve problems, how to be a good listener. These are key skills that would prepare me to be a coach and facilitator in the future for my team mates at Agora Food Studio and our partner tourism businesses and organisations including Botir Matak, Suku, Empreza Diak and communities in Oe-cusse, Atauro, Laclubar and Triloka.

Paula (far left) as one of the facilitators for digital marketing for tourism skills, with other female Timorese tourism stars.

Through coaching I learned the importance of having good planning systems in place and the skill of being critical of your own work, but not so critical as to not believe in myself. As a human, I sometimes use to feel, when receiving feedback, that it was personal criticism. I learned that receiving feedback on your performance is something you should want, and not be afraid of.

I can say proudly that I changed my mindset here – to be more open minded to the views of others, recognising that everyone has their own strengths and perspective. When working with communities including those involved in community tourism, we have to recognise the experiences of others we are working to support.

Coaching taught me that in managing a tourism business I need empathy to understand the needs of both our clients and our colleagues. I just love sharing my experiences with other young people. I learned that, although I might have strong opinions about something, that the most powerful thing I can do is to listen. Listen first and speak last. Then from listening I can observe that my friend or colleague is now more willing to share with me, something that she may have not said before. Many of my coachees have demonstrated to me that as a coach you should not talk a lot and preferably only 20% of the time should you be talking. We need to step back as coaches and give space and time to the people we are coaching to say what is on their mind, without judging them.

Finally, I have learned from my coachees that the skills and knowledge I have I can share willingly to others with an open heart. This has motivated me more to become an entrepreneur and coach myself.

My learning journey continues as a coach

In the Agora Food Studio team, I actually love coaching all of my colleagues. Every coachee is different and when you coach them you will focus on different aspects of their professional development. The important thing I remember here is to ask the powerful questions that will allow them to understand better themselves and know what their strengths are.At the moment, I am coaching both our recently promoted Administration Manager Alda Bakhita. Alda is very willing to learn and when we have coaching sessions she is very focused on developing her professional skills in administration and finance. Alda’s motivation is high because of her difficult family situation. Since we have entered in a coaching relationship we have been able to talk about those difficult issues. At the same time that I have learned a lot about Alda, I have learned a lot about myself. As her coach, I can see that she, like me, was also initially quite sensitive to feedback before she commenced coaching sessions. One of the things we have in common, which I am proud to say we have both improved on, is that we are both now much better at double checking our own work – such as financial reports, quotations and tax statements – before we submit it to our clients or the government.

Ana is Agora’s Catering Manager and I am also coaching her at the moment. I really love to coach Ana because she is very open to learning about herself. One of Ana’s strengths is that she is very friendly and hard working. However, we have discovered through our coaching sessions that sometimes people will take advantage of her and might leave her to take on an extra work load which will make her work more stressful. My job as a coach here is to ask Ana questions that focus on what she can do to improve her work situation and communication. I can see that she is developing more confidence to ask for help with her tasks and not feel like she has to do everything herself.

My advice to young people working in tourism in Timor-Leste is that we all have to proud of ourselves and what we have right now. In Timor-Leste or anywhere, everyone has their own capacity and knowledge. If we are passionate about tourism we should see what we have around us and work together to promote it. Let’s work together to promote our own country within our own country. Let’s start with small actions.

My message to young people working in tourism

For example, if we love our local Timorese food let’s focus on promoting that. If you’re a person that loves Timorese coffee, then start by promoting that. If you’re a young person who is a tour guide and comes from a beautiful place in Timor-Leste, let’s focus on promoting that. Tourism is about culture. It is universal. There are many things we can promote in this country. We can take this opportunity seriously to promote what we have to other people and gain an income and get a job from that. Let’s promote each other and support each other and tourism businesses, especially in this difficult time. If we have our own social media with many people following us, let’s use that to promote each other, especially in the rural areas.


Finally, let’s promote #hauniatimorleste and #exploretheundiscovered in every posting, in every activity we do, especially the food, drinks and other things that we post on social media. Let’s share our stories, experiences and promote each other’s successes. As young people in this country we have to work together to support each other through working hard to promote our culture, food and spend money on that, our local tourism. Let’s start with our country first.

Paula also involved in a video that supported by USAID to educate the local entrepreneurs about Taking attractive tourism photographs using your smartphone. Click the link to watch the video

Process of filming “Taking attractive tourism photographs using your smartphone”. Photo C : USAID’s Tourism For All Project

Photo: RAEOA

This photo essay is designed to showcase the community-based approach to tourism development on untouched Oé-Cusse in Timor-Leste. This approach is seen as essential in ensuring that tourism develops in an equitable and sustainable manner, and it meaningfully contributes income to the national and local economies, create jobs, facilitate business creation, improve regional economic imbalances, and protects and enhances the natural and cultural environment. The essay will showcase the tourism product of Oé-Cusse and will also feature some of the entrepreneurs that have benefitted from the community-based tourism development programme, that is being executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Oé-Cusse Ambeno.


To read and view the pictures click here:

Winners of the Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions Awards 2020 (Ann Turner/USAID’s Tourism For All Project)

Following the success of last year’s event, USAID’s Tourism For All Project is organizing an awards program to recognize people who have made an outstanding contribution to tourism in Timor-Leste in 2021. This is proving to be an exceptionally difficult year for tourism businesses and to reflect this, in 2021 we have created three different award categories:

  1. Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champion
  2. Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Climate Champion
  3. Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Solidarity Champion

Category 1: Tourism Champion

You can nominate any individual, company or tourism-based organization who has gone the extra mile to make you feel welcome as a visitor, or who has helped to create exceptional experiences for tourists. You could also propose an individual who has worked for many years to develop or promote the tourism industry in this country. Your nominee does not necessarily have to be directly employed by a tour operator, hotel or restaurant. We are looking for Champions who have shown the spirit of hospitality in their actions, by offering a warm welcome to guests, and by creating superlative tourism experiences.

Winners will be selected by a panel according to a scoring system based on the following criteria:

  • Sustained effort in supporting the development of tourism in Timor-Leste and in promoting and protecting the country’s tourism assets and products (especially on a voluntary basis);
  • Exemplary customer service by individuals working in the tourism industry;
  • Response to tourists in difficulty or with special needs;
  • Actions that demonstrate a strong spirit of hospitality;
  • Community partnership;
  • Application of the principles of sustainable tourism;
  • Creating innovative tourism products.

The number of nominations received will also be taken into account.

For this award, last year’s winners are NOT eligible to be nominated. The 2020 Tourism Champions were: Anastacio Madeira Araujo – Timor Unearthed / Barry’s Place, Atauro / Dilicious Timor / Elfan Da Costa – Timor Fixer / East Timor Development Agency / Fernando Carvalho Gama – Taxi Tours / Gil Horacio Boavida – HASATIL / Marcea Exposto – Duty Manager at Discovery Inn / Pro Ema Restaurant School and Projeto Montanha.

Category 2:  Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Climate Champion

Environmental issues such as climate change, extreme weather events, pollution and waste disposal are great threats to the future of a sustainable tourism industry in this country. The Climate Champion award will recognize tourism-based companies or organizations and individuals active in Timor-Leste that have consistently applied the principles of sustainable tourism to their business or activity.

The nominees will be judged on criteria including:

  • Using recyclable or bio-degradable packaging;
  • Adopting alternative energies such as solar power in their operations;
  • Engaging with the community in regular activities such as garbage clean-ups and raising awareness of climate change issues;
  • Measures taken to help mitigate climate change and reduce carbon footprint (e.g. buying local products, tree planting);
  • Water and energy conservation;
  • Wildlife protection;
  • Responsible waste disposal.

The number of nominations received will also be taken into account.

For this award, last year’s winners ARE eligible to be nominated.


Category 3:  Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Solidarity Champion


Even though the dual calamities of flooding and COVID-19 have combined to weaken an already struggling tourism industry in 2021, many tourism businesses have shown their solidarity with the community by engaging in relief operations for flood victims. Some have also been active in setting the benchmark for COVID-19 protective measures to protect the public in their day-to-day operations. This award aims to recognize tourism businesses, or organizations related to tourism, based in Timor-Leste who have shown an outstanding spirit of solidarity with their communities during recent times of crisis.

The nominees will be judged on criteria including:

  • Adapting business operations to comply with COVID-19 precautions;
  • Providing support for vulnerable communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Raising awareness of protective measures related to COVID-19;
  • Raising funds and seeking donations for flood victims;
  • Operating food preparation and distribution centers for flood victims.

The number of nominations received will be taken into account and documentary evidence of fundraising activity for victims will be required.

For this award, last year’s winners ARE eligible to be nominated.

To nominate your Tourism Champions, please click on the link and complete the survey: (English Language) (Tetun Language)


Please note: Closing date for nominations is 30 July 2021. You may NOT nominate yourself, family members or staff or owners of companies where you are employed.

Photo c. Blue Ventures

In Timor-Leste, ecotourism is a growing trade and is enabling coastal communities to diversify their livelihoods. In Beto Tasi, a semi-rural community located on the fringe of the capital of Dili, families are now opening the doors of their new homestay businesses. Inspired by a learning exchange with the Atauro Homestay Association facilitated by marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures, families from Beto Tasi are honing their hosting skills and welcoming guests from across the country into their homes.

To read the full story click here:

Do you work in, or operate a tourism-related business? Are you based in Australia or Timor-Leste? Are you looking at interacting with Australian or Timorese travel trade partners?

Australia is the top source of tourists for Timor-Leste. But the tourism industry in Australia has a limited understanding of what Timor-Leste has to offer. Market Development Facility (MDF)  is therefore implementing several activities to develop linkages between tourism operators in Australia and Timor-Leste, with a view to growing the number of Australian tourists visiting Timor-Leste.

One of these activities is a Facebook group called ‘Timor-Leste and Australia Travel Trade’, which is intended to provide for easy engagement between Australian and Timorese tourism operators. This Facebook page is a space where Timorese providers can share information on products and information about Timor-Leste for Australian tourism operators. Many Timorese operators have already joined, and have begun sharing information on diving, food, culture, hotels, and tourist spots in Timor-Leste.

MDF is also arranging monthly webinars. So far, two webinars have been held. The latest webinar included information on how to create great content and images for promotion, and about how to create fact sheets and rate sheets. The third webinar will be held on 8 June.

Other ideas will soon be implemented in connection with the above-mentioned activities. MDF will be creating and distributing a trade newsletter to Australian tourism operators, contacting Australia-based tourism operators to provide information and contacts, collating and making available to tourism operators a library of photos and videos suitable for tourism destination marketing of Timor-Leste, and developing a marketing action plan.

These activities follow a market analysis of Australia, commissioned by MDF to better understand the preferences and behaviours of Australian tourists, and the interests and information needs of Australian tourism operators.

MDF’s vision for destination marketing is that tourism stakeholders will understand the best places and people to market their products to, then use this information to better promote Timor-Leste. In time, this will entice more people to visit Timor-Leste. In support of this vision, MDF is supporting a variety of public and private stakeholders so that they increasingly see the benefits of investing in destination marketing and learn ways of doing so.

Photo c. Wayne Lovell


Dili, 26 Jan 2021 (Lusa) – The Timorese National Parliament today ratified the Air Services Agreement with Australia, the first of its kind signed by Timor-Leste, by 45 votes in favor, two against and 12 abstentions.

The agreement (ASA), which had already been ratified by Australia, is considered an essential step for airlines to operate commercial flights between the two countries and can contribute to reducing the relative isolation in terms of air that Timor-Leste continues to live with.

The ASA ratification was approved by the Timorese Council of Ministers in July last year, and its parliamentary debate has been postponed until now especially due to the debates on the two General State Budgets (OGE), of 2020 and 2021.

According to the Government, it intends to “ensure the maximum level of international security and protection” for the connections.

The Government reaffirms its “serious concern over acts and threats against the safety of aircraft, which compromise the safety of people and property, adversely affect the functioning of air transport and undermine public confidence in the safety of civil aviation”.

This ASA, he says, “also intends to promote an international aviation system based on competition between air transport companies in the market, encouraging them to develop and implement competitive and innovative services”.

The first ever that Timor-Leste signed – an equivalent text with Indonesia has never been ratified -, ASA allows commercial flights between the two countries, with Australia supporting, through its Market Development Facility (MDF) project, the promotion of Timor-Leste as a destination.

MDF is a project that aims to stimulate investment and encourage business and business growth in Timor-Leste, having worked in the country especially in the sectors of agriculture and tourism, the latter being one of the most potentially benefited by better air connections.

International law requires this type of agreement so that airlines can enter the airspace of another country without requiring prior authorization and, in the case of Australia, the agreement with Timor-Leste is one of the last ratified.

“The ASA with Timor-Leste would allow commercial flights to operate between Australia and Timor-Leste.  Commercial flights could also operate from Timor-Leste to Australia, ”say sources at the Australian Embassy in Dili.

“There is great potential in Timor-Leste’s tourism and export markets.  In a globalized world, aviation plays an important role in connecting people, companies and governments ”, underlines the same source.

With the ASA ratified by the two countries, airlines can start operations complying only with regulatory requirements, including safety.

ASA also allows airlines from other countries to transit Timor-Leste on their way to Australia, “providing more options for travelers, business and commerce”, opening the door to more flights and more competition, with an eventual effect on prices.

The high prices of travel between Dili and the three countries to which it has regular connections – Australia, Indonesia and Singapore – have had a negative effect on the emerging Timorese tourism sector.

“More competition has the potential to reduce airline ticket costs and freight costs, which would encourage more passengers and increase trade,” says the Australian embassy source.

“This is important, as both countries recover from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19.  The ASA of Timor-Leste and Australia offers identical benefits to each country ”, he stresses.


To subscribe to Lusa news on Timor-Leste, please send an email to [email protected]

Ten Tourism Champions were recognized at an awards ceremony and gala dinner at the Timor Plaza Hotel’s Panorama Restaurant on September 26th. The Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions Awards were organized by USAID’s Tourism For All project, to give recognition to outstanding contributions to the tourism industry in Timor-Leste, by individuals, companies and organizations.
Members of the public were invited to nominate their Tourism Champions in an online poll, describing in their own words why their nominee deserved to win the award. 140 nominations were received. An adjudication panel scored the nominees according to a range of criteria: promotion and development of tourism, customer service, response to visitors’ special needs, showing the spirit of hospitality and observing the principles of sustainable tourism.

The winners were:

Anastacio Madeira Araujo – Timor Unearthed / Barry’s Place, Atauro / Dilicious Timor / Elfan Da Costa – Timor Fixer / East Timor Development Agency / Fernando Carvalho Gama – Taxi Tours / Gil Horacio Boavida – HASATIL / Marcea Exposto – Duty Manager at Discovery Inn / Pro Ema Restaurant School and Projeto Montanha.


Speaking after the awards, the winners shared their thoughts about the future of tourism in Timor-Leste in a video, which can be viewed by clicking this link:

See below for information about each of the winners, including the comments made about them by members of the public who sent in nominations.

Anastacio Madeira Araujo – Timor Unearthed

Anas started working in tourism in 2014 as soon as he left school, as a cleaner at a restaurant. He has since worked his way up in the industry, becoming a senior tour guide for Timor Unearthed, running educational tour programs for school and university groups. Last year, he was promoted to Operations Manager where his role involves preparing tour programs, training tour guide staff, networking and developing the business, and administration. He has worked with the Ministry of Tourism to provide basic tour guide training for 300 university students to prepare for the first-ever P&O cruise ship visits to Dili and also runs packaged motorbike tours for visitors who want to explore the island.

“… a beautiful singer and story teller, his warm, caring and beautiful manner made our trip to Timor-Leste one of the most rewarding experiences of a life time.”… “Anas assisted me and many of my friends in discovering the true essence of Timor Leste”… “He is a champion for Timor-Leste, full of information and enthusiasm. He shows the best of Timorese Youth”. 

Barry’s Place – Atauro

Barry’s Place is an exemplary community-based eco-tourism lodge in Beloi, Atauro, operating since 2005.

“Barry’s Place” is much more than just a hostel. Everything there bears the mark of respect for nature and a constant search for sustainability. The thermal comfort of the accommodations, provided by the use of natural materials. The entire structure is equipped with solar panels, avoiding the waste of energy. The collective dry bathrooms provide water savings, a very rare asset on the island of Ataúro. The gardens use plants adapted to climatic conditions, eliminating the need for water to be maintained. All waste is separated and recycled. Plastic waste has been transformed into new utensils such as vases and cups. Lina and Barry Hinton, their family and employees periodically clean the beach around the Pousada. And finally, Barry’s Place is responsible for generating nearly two dozen jobs”.

“Everything there bears the mark of respect for nature…a sustainable place of beauty that has brought repeat visitors from all over the world“

Dilicious Timor

The concept of Dilicious Timor is to reveal the delicious food of Timor-Leste which is rarely found in Dili and to contribute to local economy. Chef Cesar Trinito Gaio and his team use local products in their creative cuisine with the emphasis on environmentally-sustainable practices and the principles of green tourism. They have their own farm in Metinaro and an areca leaf eco-plate factory in Baucau, so that they can eliminate the use of plastic in presenting their food. Dilicious adds to the tourism experience by telling the stories of the food they serve, by taking visitors out to show them where it’s grown, gathering bush tucker with them and by involving their guests in preparation. For examply, they recently held a workshop to teach visitors the art of weaving katupa rice baskets.

“Cesar has a passion for promoting Timorese culture through his love of local foods” “The future of Timor-Leste relies on its young generation to succeed and Cesar is always keen to bring Timorese cuisine to the world. Throughout this journey, he has been able to demonstrate his cooking skills by traveling to places like in Australia, New Zealand, US, Japan and Europe. This business platform has a locally driven entrepreneurship value that has been seen to have an impact on the economy and also provides many Timorese youths from rural areas the opportunity to learn as well as getting on hands- experience in this sector”.

Elfan Da Costa – Timor Fixer

Elfan is more than a tour guide. He has over 9 years’ experience working in the tourism industry. His passion for tourism started when he became a driver in Bali while he was over there studying. After returning home, his focus was to continue a career in tourism in Timor-Leste and to assist in developing and improving the local industry where he could. Elfan holds a Bachelor of Business Degree in Tour and Travel Management and has worked in various roles within the private sector and Timor-Leste Government. In 2019, he founded the company Timor Fixer. He arranges tourism activities, and provides logistical support to visiting film and production crews. He works with international organizations and individuals to make their time in Timor-Leste easy and hassle free. He has helped to raise exposure of tourism in Timor-Leste, working with BBC, National Geographic, Sea Legacy and Channel News Asia to name a few.

“Elfan is an excellent ambassador for Timor-Leste who makes hosting international guests very easy. He has a full range of skills that make for a unique, but very personal experience.”….” If we are lucky enough to make it to Timor Leste again we will not hesitate in contacting Elfan. I have recommended Elfan to several friends traveling in Timor Leste and all got back to me with rave reviews saying that they have never had a more knowledgeable and passionate tour guide. How one single person can make such an impact is beyond me” 


East Timor Development Agency

ETDA is a leading agency in developing and delivering training courses in hospitality and tourism that meet international standards, with a curriculum including tourism management, administration, customer service, tour guide training and itinerary development, hospitality, food hygiene, workplace safety, languages, and pottery-making. Their training restaurant in Dili gives students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and it is a favourite with the expat community and local people alike.

“Thousands have been trained and thousands of happy customers have been served amazing food, traditional ceramics and tours”… “A feature of ETDA’s training organisation is its professional approach, high standard of training delivered through the range of training courses on offer. ETDA, a trailblazer in initiating and developing courses, is well known for its course graduates being in high demand from prospective employers”… “Most of the students who graduated from their center have worked in top tourism businesses, because of their exemplary customer service. ETDA itself has received tourists from around the world with special focuses on people in difficulty or with special needs. To help promote sustainability, ETDA prefers to use recyclable materials in its services such as using glasses from recyclable bottles, plates from palm leaves, small bamboos as straws, etc. With their commitment to create more qualified, customer-focused, result-oriented people to work in tourism industry, my vote is to ETDA”

Fernando Carvalho Gama – Taxi Tours

Fernando works as a taxi driver and tour guide. After completing an English conversation course in 2015, he was encouraged by his tutor to start offering tours. He developed his skills through experience and by 2018 he was selected to be a guide for Cruise Asia. He developed his own marketing materials to give to visitors he picks up at the airport and has found success by providing a personalised service to tourists keen to explore the country. His business has grown by word of mouth, and he has received glowing reviews from his customers.

“Fernando provided a personalised service as my driver and guide during my stay in Dili. He was always prepared to go the extra distance by assisting me with the language barrier and communicating on my behalf. I always felt safe and I could move around Dili under his care. He was prompt with his communication with me and always made himself available with his service. From taking me shopping or exploring Dili I could always count on him. He was always polite, respectful and helpful. I highly recommend him as a driver and guide.” … “He gave us a deep insight into East Timor and its history… he made us feel like a member of his own family …and inspired me to visit Timor again in 2021”… “He is certainly both a committed and smart young person… I strongly believe Fernando will indeed be the person who will change Timor-Leste for the better from a tourism perspective and be a motivator for the young other fellows to follow”… “He offered a coffee tour in Ermera showing the country side of Timor-Leste and the culture. As taxi driver, he always has a conversation with his international passengers, introducing Dili as capital, and giving information about food, religion, culture, history even road safety”

Pro-Ema Restaurant School

Pro-Ema is one of the country’s top restaurants, offering training and employment to vulnerable young women. They also have the chocolate factory where tourists can buy local chocolate and learn all about the Timorese cacao beans. Established in 2018, Pro Ema’s mission is to promote capacity-building and personal, educational, social and economic development for girls and young women living in underdeveloped communities in Timor-Leste, in order to strengthen their autonomy, raise their leadership and increase their employability. The organization regularly brings in top chefs from overseas to share their expertise with the young women who work at Pro-Ema, creating memorable cuisine and offering superlative service.

“I have travelled to every continent in the world, and never have I received such incredible hospitality as I did at Pro Ema. From the very first moment they received us, we were met with warmth, genuine care and big smiles. They represent the Timorese culture in the most beautiful way. I returned to East Timor for a second time and one of the biggest reasons was because of the love and hospitality I received from this team”… “A joint venture of social welfare with world class cuisine… what a great welcome card for tourists that visit Timor-Leste”… “Yes, their food is exceptional. Yes, their desserts are some of the best in the culinary world. But truly, their specialised care for every individual that enters their space is what sets them apart. They treat you as if you were the only person they need to cater to and that level of hospitality is unmatched. You will find no better or more fitting recipient for this Award. Pro Ema has gone above and beyond in championing the tourism of Timor-Leste, in heart and action!”

 Gil Horacio Boavida – HASATIL

The HASATIL group has pioneered sustainable, community-based agro-tourism experiences for visitors. Gil has worked at the environmental NGO Haburas Foundation, and in collaboration with the local community in Maubara in building community tourism project called Laloran Maubara. He set up HASATIL as an umbrella for NGOs that are actively working in the agriculture and tourism sectors. At HASATIL he organized a number of community tourism projects such as Ritabou-Maliana, and Knua Parapa laran Metinaro. He has also developed a community tourism project in Maubisse called Knua Hakmatek and a fish pond eco-tourism attraction in Ainaro.

“…Gil is an outstanding man…who is actively developing and promoting tourism. His work inspires many others to work towards grassroot transformation in rural areas .” … “He is really committed to developing more potential tourism areas and promotes young people as an important pillar for sustainable development in general and for the prosperity of the people in particular.” 

 Marcea Exposto – Duty Manager at Discovery Inn

After gaining her BSc Degree in Hotel Management, Marcea was selected to participate in a youth exchange programme in Tokyo – JENESYS – organised by the Japanese government. She is now one of the high-fliers of the Timorese hospitality industry, having matched her academic success with an in-depth understanding of hotel management and customer service, working her way through the ranks during her 10-year employment at Discovery Inn. Marcea is from Ermera – coffee country – and she is keen on promoting tourist excursions to coffee plantations, the subject of her degree thesis.

“Marcea is an exemplary role model for all in Timor-Leste’s hospitality scene and recognised as the face of Discovery Inn, which has hosted local and international dignitaries, heads of states, Nobel Laureates, and celebrities. Originally planning a career in diplomacy, Marcea put this on hold when she was asked to help establish the Discovery Inn. She excelled in this position and it has allowed her to become an ambassador of a different sort: meeting international visitors annually. Marcea is a consummate hostess whose hospitality is known to many. She ensures the hotel’s airport transfer vehicle is in top condition, equipped with cold face towels, local newspapers, and chocolates. She arrives each day with a handful of flowers for the front desk. She anticipates guests needs effortlessly. Details that make people feel at home and why I have said the hotel quality of service defies expectations. Marcea goes above and beyond her job description. She takes great pride in her role and is often complimented for the service she provides”. 

 Projeto Montanha – Aileu

Projeto Montanha is much more than a restaurant and guest house. It’s a training and education facility, a handicrafts production centre and shop. At the heart of the community in Aileu, Projeto Montanha puts its Christian principles into action to improve the quality of life of the people across the municipality, by promoting health, culture, income generation, environmental sustainability and emotional and spriritual development. It aims to remain financially self-sustaining, without depending on external resources for the maintenance iof programs, creating jobs with decent wages.

“The warmest welcome in Timor-Leste. The project supports young people, generating income and enabling them to operate professionally at the highest level.”… “The sense of community is very strong in the team. They make us feel very welcome” … “An amazing project making an impact in the community”… “A good little shop with souvenirs and art, the restaurant is very clean, they help many youths and they support some students by providing quality training outside Timor-Leste” … “We had a great meal at Projeto Montanha. The boys and girls are lovely and did all they could to to make us comfortable, even showing us around the place. I definitely recommend them as a tourist attraction in Timor-Leste”



Flights Resume from Dili to the Oe-Cusse Enclave

Reaching Oé-Cusse from Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, is possible in three ways: by land, sea and/or air. By plane is the easiest option with flights on Monday to Thursday and Saturday in the morning except Friday in the morning (while Sunday is no flight). It is a 35-minute flight where you can enjoy spectacular views of the island and Suva Sea and if lucky, see pilot whales in their migratory season. The cost of the flight is $40 USD for adult; $30 USD for children from 2 to 12 yo, and $50 USD for corporate/Adult. Alternatively, two ferries, the Success and Nakroma, come from Dili and arrive in Kitahara Mahata port in Oé-Cusse four days a week. Shipping is the main route through which the goods arrive in the region, and although it is a long journey (12 hours), the price of transport is affordable ($10 for Success and $8 for Nakroman without cabin, $40 with cabin). Finally, the road trip across Indonesian territory can be an excellent opportunity to explore both sides of Timorese island, but be careful with the timing of your travel as there is a one-hour time difference between the countries and the Indonesian border closes at 16;00 hours and Timor-Leste border at 17:00 hours. It is recommended to arrive at least one hour beforehand to make sure you have time to complete all the necessary paperwork. There is no requirement to complete immigration paperwork when traveling by plane or boat. However, currently the land border is closed due to Covid-19 pandemic.


In partnership with local businesses and the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry, USAID’s Tourism For All Project has launched a campaign to promote domestic tourism under the banner “Ha’u-nia Timor-Leste” (My Timor-Leste). The campaign aims to inspire the public to support local businesses by becoming tourists in their own country: eating at a favourite restaurant, taking a road trip, going diving or just enjoying a cup of local coffee made by an expert barista. People are encouraged to show their support by taking photos of their experiences, beauty spots, cultural and historical places and wildlife, using the hashtag #HauNiaTimorLeste when they share them on social media, to help get the word out to family and friends

The campaign was launched at a series of events to celebrate World Tourism Day, including a 5-day Domestic Tourism Expo with informative presentations from tourism associations and industry professionals, and a Tourism Fair, giving businesses the opportunity to offer special packages directly to the public.

Click on the link to see a video about the Ha’u-Nia Timor-Leste Tourism Fair: