Tourism For All Project celebrated World Tourism Day 2021 with the second annual Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions awards. Thirteen companies, individuals and organizations were recognized for their exceptional contribution to tourism and to society, in what has been an exceptionally challenging year for the industry. This year, there were three awards categories, reflecting the particular challenges the sector has faced in Timor-Leste: Tourism Champions, Solidarity Champions USAID’s and Climate Champions.

Four of the winners have shared the stories behind the awards: Ego Lemos, Robert Crean, Adino Boavida and Pro Ema.

For more information and a full list of winners, click here: (…/ ).

Ego Lemos, Climate Champion:  Music with a message

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

Music fans in Timor-Leste and overseas know Ego Lemos as a singer-songwriter. His song “Balibo” featured in the 2009 film of the same name (insert link and he won two industry awards for it.  But the Tourism Climate Champion award recognises his continuing work as an environmental activist. Through his organization Permatil, he has been leading and empowering local people to restore the natural environment through community-driven projects. His grassroots initiatives have established more than 250 school gardens, implemented over 100 water-source rehabilitation and conservation projects, and equipped more than 41,000 school children with the knowledge to sustain the environment for future generations.

Timor-Leste is vulnerable to two extremes of climate change: drought and floods. “I have witnessed that many of the natural springs sometimes dry up completely and the local people have to walk for a long distance searching for water, especially women and children, and climate change has an impact on food production as well. So it’s changing a lot. And when the rains come, it’s heavier than before. So for my organisation Permatil we have to act as quickly as possible to raise awareness and train more people into taking action”.

Since 2008, more than 5,000 young people have attended Permatil youth camps, where Lemos and his team spread the conservation message through practical land and water management workshops and music.  This year, there was a greater sense of urgency, as Timor-Leste suffered catastrophic floods and landslides in April, killing more than 40 people.  Lemos performed his song, “Haburas Rai” (Greening the Land) (insert link), a call for people to stop felling trees and lighting grass fires, both of which cause soil erosion and increase the threat of landslides.

Lemos’ vision for the future of tourism in Timor-Leste is firmly centred in conservation. Speaking from the site of a permanent youth camp he is establishing in the hills above Dili,: “From my point of view, I think rather than building a big hotel in the middle of nowhere, the middle of beautiful nature, I think is best to support local community guesthouses and promote the local cuisine. And I think it’s a better way to establish tourism cooperatives, so that the company or the business can contribute in two ways: benefiting the tourism industry but also benefiting the local economy without destroying the environment and local culture.”

Lemos said that he was surprised to learn that he had won a Climate Champion award: “It’s an honour, to receive the recognition,” he said, “but I don’t want to just receive the award, and then that’s it, stop working. I have to work again and more. Yeah, I have to do it more”.

Rob Crean, Tourism Champion: Commitment and Investment
Photo c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project/ Ann Turner & Compass Diving 

One of the very first foreign investors in Timor-Leste, Robert Crean set up SVSC, a vehicle maintenance business, in 1999. The country was in ruins following the country’s violent transition to independence after 25 years of Indonesian rule. Tens of thousands of development and humanitarian workers had streamed into Dili to help rebuild the world’s newest country, and SVSC was tasked with keeping their cars on the road. He soon diversified into marine transport, operating a water taxi to Atauro island, which was isolated, with just one weekly ferry service.

“When I first saw Atauro, it was just an amazing place. There were mountains on one side and the ocean on the other and there are not many places in the world you get both,” Crean said. He soon moved into marine tourism, opening Compass Diving and building a resort within the community of Adara.  His company now employs more than 30 people, of whom 80% are Timorese.

Compass Diving instructor Cassio Schumacher has been been conducting field courses in sustainable tourism and conservation for Timorese marine science students from the National University, a project funded through a grant from USAID’s Tourism For All Project. “So we’re showing them what tourism can do to protect the reefs, to protect the environment, to protect the mountains and all the flora and fauna and working to increase tourism so that people can actually see it untouched and in a natural state.” Crean said, “The kids love it. They absolutely love it. When they get off the boat they really don’t want to go home. We show them whales and dolphins and things that they’ve never seen in their lifetime. We’re training them to recognize the different species and the different types of coral”.

Just as Atauro island was attracting international attention as a global hotspot for whalewatching and scuba diving, the Coronavirus pandemic broke out and tourism ground to a halt. Crean had started improving the facilities at Adara resort and had begun construction on a luxury guest bungalow. “All the plans and things that we had coming, it’s all just gone by the wayside. But it’s still there, we still have the land, we still have the sea, we still have the coral reef, we still have the backing of the people of Atauro,” he said. The Tourism Champion Award has boosted his resolve to stay the course: “It is a struggle but that makes it worthwhile. It means something to be recognized for the fact that we are still working towards developing local and international tourism in Timor-Leste”.

Jeremias “Adino” Boavida, Head Waiter at Caz Bar, Tourism Champion: The Power of One

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

Ten years ago, Jeremias “Adino” Boavida was working as a security guard. His life changed when he presented himself at the popular Dili beachfront restaurant, the Caz Bar, to ask for a part time job. Caz Bar owner Carron Dutch remembers, “He ended up coming on full time. Because he liked it. And we liked him. And it all worked out. He was always happy and obliging and helping customers”. Boavida – now head waiter – was nominated for a Tourism Champions award by one of those happy customers, who wrote: “Over the many years that he has worked there, I have not seen a day that he has not given his best. Every Caz Bar customer knows him very well for his professionalism, and friendly and spiritual attitude. I have not met a better Timorese worker in the tourism sector.”

He had no formal training in tourism but picked up his skills on the job. Boavida rarely forgets a name, has a good memory for customers’ favorite drinks and dishes and is keen to share tourism information with them.  He has taught himself basic greetings in English, Japanese, French, Italian and Mandarin.

Boavida is keen to do whatever he can to help the industry develop in his country: “I was very happy when I found out I had won an award,” he said, “And I’d like to take this opportunity to ask the government to take a look at the beaches around Dili and to plant more trees so that the tourists can sit in the shade. I would also like to ask young people not to drop litter, just put it in the bin. We need to work together to attract more visitors to Timor-Leste.”

Now that international tourism has stopped due to COVID, Boavida is working to make Timorese visitors feel welcome: “They come here from the mountains to spend time at the beach,” he explained, “Some Timorese people don’t know about French fries and pizza and I encourage them to try new things. They enjoy it and then they come back. I cut them a nice, cold coconut and they watch the sunset.”

There is a legend in Timor-Leste that once you drink the coconut milk, you are destined to return. Boavida hopes that is true for his past customers and looks forward to seeing them again when international travel resumes: “Normally my friends are coming from England, from Australia, from America. I can’t wait to say to them, maybe next year, ‘Welcome back! Good to see you again! Long time, no see!”.

Pro Ema Training Restaurant, Solidarity Champion: Culinary Excellence, Served with Compassion

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

As a social enterprise offering training, employment and economic independence to vulnerable young Timorese women, it could be said that solidarity is Pro Ema’s business model. In 2018, Pro Ema Director Simone Assis brought in top chefs to train the staff and the flagship restaurant is considered to be one of the best in Dili. Since then, the organization has expanded: there are now three restaurants, a salon and artisan chocolate and ice cream factories. Pro Ema supports more than 40 women, some of whom are survivors of sexual violence and have been living in shelters for security reasons.

When Timor-Leste was hit by catastrophic floods on April 4th, scores of people were killed and thousands displaced to evacuation camps. Pro Ema immediately responded with a massive relief effort. Through its “Together We Are Stronger” campaign, they raised more than $30,000 in relief funds, cooked and distributed more than 30,000 meals to flood victims in evacuation camps, along with more than 20,000 kilograms of raw rice and 850 basic needs packages, including items such as groceries, bedding, kitchen utensils and face masks. After the initial impact of the floods, it took days for the water to subside, and some roads were blocked by landslides or completely destroyed. The Pro Ema team had to navigate perilous conditions as they travelled around the capital collecting and delivering donations.

Pro Ema Deputy Director Ana Paulina da Costa remembers the day the team first entered the camps: “It was a big shock. There were many people who had lost their homes and all of their possessions. I felt so sad. And it wasn’t a safe place for them, or us, because of the pandemic. We knew that we had to keep our distance but they had to sleep close to each other in crowded conditions – it was also risky for the women – but they had no choice. We did what we could to help.”  With thousands of hungry people to be fed, the Pro Ema team put their cooking skills to good use, setting up field kitchens to prepare nutritious meals for all.

When Pro Ema was announced as a Solidarity Champion, Assis was swift to react: “This is award is not just for Pro Ema. It belongs to everyone who joined hands to help, alongside our whole team, who worked day in, day out for six months to support the flood victims.  Our motto is “Together We Are Stronger”. We couldn’t have done it alone”.

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

DILI, 8 Outubru 2021 – Ajénsia Estadus Unidus ba Dezenvolvimentu Internasionál (USAID, sigla Inglés) liuhusi Projetu “Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu”, selebra Loron Turizmu Mundiál 2021 ho Kampiaun ba “Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu” iha tinan daruak nian, hodi rekoñese organizasaun no individu sira ne’ebé halo ona kontribuisaun siknifikante ba indústria turizmu iha Timor-Leste. Projetu ne’e mós kontinua ninia atividade Embaixadór (a) Foin-sae ba tinan datoluk nian, ho kompetisaun diskursu públiku ba feto no mane foin-sae sira ho tema Loron Mundiál Turizmu iha tinan ida ne’e “Turizmu Ba Kresimentu Inkluzivu” USAID no parseiru sira sei rekoñese manan-nain sira ne’e iha serimónia ida ne’ebé sei hala’o iha loron 8 fulan-Outubru iha Rezidénsia Embaixadór Estadus Unidus Amérika nian iha Dili.

“Programa fó apresiasaun ba Kampiaun Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu hanesan manifestasaun apoiu EUA nian ba setór turizmu iha Timor-Leste,” dehan Enkaregadu Negósiu Embaixada EUA Tom Daley. “Ne’e hanesan ksolok ida atu selebra prestasaun feto no mane hirak ne’ebé sira-nia dedikasaun servisu ativu tebes hodi bele ajuda Timor-Leste sai destinasaun vizita ba turista sira. Sira kontinua ativa sira-nia negósiu durante pandemia COVID-19 no hanoin kreativu oinsá atu habo’ot liután oportunidade turizmu iha Timor-Leste.”

Marka prezensa iha eventu ne’e inklui Diretór Misaun USAID, Sr. Harold Carey, ofisiál governu, no lideransa sira husi Asosiasaun Turizmu Relijiozu Timor-Leste (ATRTL). Eventu ne’e organiza ho apoiu husi parseiru korporativu Heineken Timor-Leste, East Timor Trading, Asosiasaun Na’in ba Hoteis iha Timor Lorosa’e (HOTL-sigla Inglés), no Guide Post Magazine

Kampiaun bá “Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu” hala’o iha tempu difisil ne’ebé enfrenta husi negósius turizmu, relasiona ho COVID-19 ne’ebé sai hanesan impaktu ba viajen internasionál no funsionamentu negósius lokál no mós estragus inundasaun ne’ebé akontese iha rai-laran iha fulan Abril. Atu refleta dezafiu hirak ne’ebé setór turizmu enfrenta iha fulan hirak nia laran, USAID-nia projetu Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu kria kategoria tolu: Kampiaun Turizmu, Kampiaun Solidaridade, no Kampiaun Klima. Projetu USAID halo selesaun ba Kampiaun Sira liuhusi nomeasaun painél votu online, ne’ebé loke ba Timoroan sira iha rai laran no mós ema sira iha rai liur ne’ebé vizita ona Timor-Leste. Enkuantu atividade painél interna nian ida husi USAID nia projetu Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu hili manan-nain sira bazeia ba komentáriu ba kuesionariu nomeasaun ne’ebé preparadu liuhusi online

Utilizadóres Rede Internet nomeia Kampiaun Turizmu sira bazeia ba esforsu hirak ne’ebé sira halo ona atu suporta turizmu sustentavél iha Timor-Leste hodi promove no proteje nasaun nia atrasaun no kulturál turístiku sira. Painél hili kampiaun na’in ualu iha kategoria ida ne’e:

  • Alito Rosa no Konservasaun Flora no Fauna: grupu voluntáriu ne’ebé halo sensibilizasaun kona-ba protesaun ambientál iha Sentru Ai-Parapa Hera, ne’ebé sai hanesan mós atrasaun turístiku foun ba Timor-Leste.
  • Jeremias “Adino” Boavida, Xefe Servente iha Restorante Caz Bar: Adino fornese ona ezemplu di’ak kona-ba atendimentu kliente ba bainaka sira iha ninia kareira servisu durante tinan sanely resin. Nia mós hetan apresiasaun kona-ba ninia entuziasmu hodi fornese informasaun turístiku no viajen nian ba vizitante sira.
  • Robert Crean no Compass Diving Team: Kampiaun ne’e rekoñese Robert Crean ba ninia komitmentu durante tinan 13 iha turizmu marítima iha Timor-Leste, liuhusi servisu hamutuk ho komunidade lokál. Compass Diving ativu tebes iha peskiza biodiversidade no halo sensibilizasaun kona-ba ambientál liuhusi kursu terrenu ne’ebé nia fornese ba estudantes Timoroan.
  • Luis “Melky” Bere-Hunu no Dreamers Dive Academy: Nu’udar Timoroan dahuluk ne’ebé sai intrutór kualifikadu iha luku nian, Melky bele fahe ona paixaun ho foin-sae Timoroan sira ne’ebé hakarak tebes atu esplora paijazen tasi-okos iha sira nia nasaun rasik.
  • Danny Lee and Ocean View: Danny Lee investe ona iha restorante no guesthouse iha tinan 2020 no husi ne’e kedas nia hahú haboot ninia negósiu ba iha sentru luku, operasaun observasaun baleia, no eskola “kite surfing”. Durante tinan hirak nia laran, nia involve iha komunidade sira iha tasi-ibun hodi hala’o atividade ba protesaun ambiente maritima.
  • Manukoko Rek, Atauro: Hala’o husi grupu feto lokál, guesthouse no restorante ne’e investe ninia lukru pursentu 100 ba iha komunidade, servisu hamutuk ho rede negósiu ki’ik sira artezenatu ninian, no hamosu rendimentu hodi suporta família kbiit-laek sira ne’ebé hela iha parte illa nian.
  • Carlos Soares, Lauhata Resort Liquica: Nu’udar emprendedór turístiku dahuluk ne’ebé investe iha Liquica, Carlos Soares fó ona formasaun no servisu ba foin-sae lokál sira atu fornese atendimentu di’ak-liu ba bainaka sira iha ninia guesthouse no restorante. Nia mós enkoraja bainaka sira atu kuda ai-oan sira iha jardín rezort nian.
  • Francisco Alexandre Pereira, Bollore International: nu’udar ofisiais ba servisu aviasaun, iha Aeroportu Prezidente Nicolau Lobato, Dili, “Alex” Pereira hetan apresiasaun maka’as husi pasajeiru sira kona-ba ninia apoiu no asisténsia ba pasajeiru sira iha situasaun difisil no ba hirak ne’ebé presiza tebes tulun.

Kampiaun Solidaridade ne’e atu rekoñese negósiantes turístiku hirak ne’ebé halo ona esforsu hodi ajuda ema sira ne’ebé afetadu husi akontesimentu rua mak hanesan pandemia virus-korona no inundasaun husi Anin-Fuik Seroja iha fulan-Abril. Ema nain 40 resin mak mate iha inundasaun no uma-kain rihun-ba-rihun mak refujia ba sentru evakuasaun hodi ikus mai Governu Timor-Leste hamosu estadu kalamidade. Maske indústria turismu ladún la’o tanba impaktu husi COVID-19, maibé negósiu turístiku balu mobiliza malu hodi ajuda komunidade sira. Painél hili ema nain rua:

  • Pro Ema Training Restaurant: Liuhusi ninia kampaña “Hamutuk Ita Forsa”, Pro Ema konsege halibur valór fundus kontribuisaun $30,000 (rihun tolu-nulu) hodi tulun, prepara no distribui hahan liu 30,000 (rihun tolu-nulu) ba vítima inundasaun iha kampu evakuasaun, ho foos kilograma 20,000 (rihun rua-nulu) no pakote nesesiedade baziku 850 (atus ualu lima-nulu), inklui hahan, ropa, sasan dapur no máskara.
  • Agora Food Studio: Durante krize COVID-19, negósiu ki’ik Timoroan barak mak dependente deit ba promosaun media sosiál hodi oferese sira-nia atendimentu kona-ba hola hahan no entrega hahan. Ho apoiu husi USAID, Agora Food Studio konsege prodús ona sekuensia video instrutivu hodi ajuda hadia sira-nia abilidade e-marketing no ajuda restorante sira aplika protokolu saúde nian wainhira loke fila-fali.

Inundasaun ne’ebé akontese fó hanoin mós kona-ba impaktu mudansa klimatika. Painél sira hili ema nain tolu sai Kampiaun Klima kona-ba sira-nia esforsu hodi enkoraja negósiu no individu sira atu hala’o sira-nia parte hodi hamenus impaktu mudansa klimatika. Painél hili ema nain tolu:

  • Potenzo Lopes: Konservasionista flora no fauna no fotografu ambientál, Potenzo Lopes organiza tour observasaun manu-fuik no hala’o programa edukasaun no fahe informasaun kona-ba flora no fauna no Konservasaun natural ba estudante sira
  • Fernando Madeira, DaTerra Agroecological Farm, Baucau: Iha toos no guesthouse ne’ebé harii ho prinsípiu eko-turizmu, vizita grupu eskola sira aprende oinsá atu hamenus impaktu mudansa klimatika hodi halo hamenus impaktu karbonu, uza produtu lokál, kuda ai-oan no konserva bee no enerjia.
  • Eugenio “Ego” Lemos, PERMATIL: PERMATIL, grupu ida ne’ebé servisu kona-ba toos sustentavél hodi halo konservasaun ba bee no rai. Desde tinan 2008, foin-sae liu 5000 (rihun lima) mak partisipa ona akampamentu PermaYouth atu aprende kona-ba problema ambiente no hetan abilidade hodi fahe ba sira ida-idak nia komunidade.

Manan-nain Kampiaun Turizmu sira sei ajuda hasa’e morál no konfiansa iha indústria turizmu,” dehan Diretór Interinu Misaun USAID Carey. “Finalista Embaixadór(a) Foin-sae Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu mak lider hirak ne’ebé sei troka malu atu fó esperansa ba futuru turizmu iha Timor-Leste.”

Notísia di’ak mak buat ne’ebé ita presiza tebes iha momentu ida ne’e. Ha’u hatene katak ha’u-nia membru ekipa hotu-hotu sei kontente liután, dehan Diretór Pro Ema, Simone Barbosa de Assis.

Manan-nain ba Embaixadór(a) Foin-sae Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu iha tinan ida ne’e mak Maria Pereira no Ronaldo Ima Dias do Rego, nain-rua ne’e husi estudantes UNTL. Painél sira halo selesaun ba estudantes turizmu univesitáriu hirak ne’e liuhusi kompetisaun diskursu públiku ne’ebé foin lalais hala’o iha Loron Mundiál Turizmu ho tema “Turizmu Ba Kresimentu Inkluzivu” Sira sei aproveita di’ak sira-nia abilidade diskursu públiku nu’udar Embaixadór(a) Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu liuhusi estájiu tinan naruk ida hamutuk ho USAID nia projetu Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu” Sira sei hala’o sensibilizasaun kona-ba buat sira ne’ebé presiza ba dezenvolvimentu turizmu sustentavél, inkluzivu no ko’alia ho foin-sae no komunidade sira iha rai laran.

Relasiona ho tema Loron Mundiál Turizmu nian, komisaun organizadora kompetisaun sei entrega ba Kampiaun Turizmu no Embaixadór(a) Foin-sae Sira ho trofi-vidru ne’ebé prodús husi artista Centru Sover, empreza sosiál ba ema ho defisiénsia, uza ekipamentu ne’ebé oferese husi fundus USAID nia Projetu Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu.


Bá informasaun liután, favór kontaktu USAID/Timor-Leste iha [email protected] no [email protected]

DILI, October 8, 2021 – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through USAID’s Tourism For All Project, is celebrating World Tourism Day 2021 with the second annual Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions awards, a program to recognize organizations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the tourism industry in Timor-Leste.  The project has also continued its Tourism Youth Ambassadors activity for a third year, with a public speaking competition for young men and women on this year’s World Tourism Day theme, “Tourism For Inclusive Growth.”  USAID and partners recognized the winners at a ceremony on October 8 at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Dili.

The Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Champions awards program is a show of U.S. support for Timor-Leste’s tourism sector,” said U.S Chargé d’Affaires Tom Daley. “It is a pleasure to celebrate the achievements of the men and women whose hard work is instrumental to helping Timor-Leste become a must-visit destination for tourists. They are keeping their business going during the COVID-19 pandemic and thinking creatively about how to expand tourism opportunities in Timor-Leste.”

Other attendees included Acting USAID Mission Director Harold Carey, government officials, and leaders of the Faith-based Tourism Association (Asosiasaun Turizmu Relijiozu Timor-Leste-ATRTL).  The event was organized with support from corporate partners Heineken Timor-Leste, East Timor Trading, the Hotel Owners of Timor-Leste Association (HOTL), and Guide Post Magazine.

The Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions awards are taking place at a challenging time for tourism businesses, due to COVID-19 impacts on international travel and local business operations as well as the devastating floods across the country in April.  Reflecting the challenges the tourism sector has faced in recent months, USAID’s Tourism For All project created three award categories:  Tourism Champions, Solidarity Champions, and Climate Champions.  The USAID project selected winners from nominations gathered through a public online poll, open to Timorese people and people overseas who have visited the country.  An internal panel at USAID’s Tourism For All activity selected the winners, based on the comments given in the online nomination questionnaires and the number of nominations received by each candidate.

Photo c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project/ Arlindo Soares

Netizens nominated the Tourism Champions for their efforts to support sustainable tourism in Timor-Leste and promote and protect the country’s tourism attractions and culture.  Judges selected eight winners in this category:

  • Alito Rosa and Konservasaun Flora no Fauna: This volunteer group raises awareness of environmental protection at the Mangrove Centre in Hera, which has become one of Timor-Leste’s newest tourist attractions.
  • Jeremias “Adino” Boavida, Head Waiter at the Caz Bar Restaurant: Adino has provided exemplary customer service to guests over his ten-year career. He was also recognized for his enthusiasm in offering tourism information and travel advice to visitors.
  • Robert Crean and the Compass Diving Team: The award recognizes Robert Crean’s 13-year commitment to marine tourism in Timor-Leste, working closely with local communities in Atauro.  Compass Diving has been active in marine biodiversity research and raising environmental awareness through field courses for Timorese students.
  • Luis “Melky” Bere-Hunu and Dreamers Dive Academy: As the first Timorese to become a qualified dive instructor, Melky has been able to share his passion with young people keen to explore the underwater world in their own country.
  • Danny Lee and Ocean View: Danny Lee invested in a restaurant and guest house in 2002 and has since expanded the business to include a dive centre, whale-watching operation, and kite surfing school.  Over the years he has engaged the local beachside community in activities to protect the marine environment.
  • Manukoko Rek, Atauro: Operated by a local women’s group, this guesthouse and restaurant invests 100 percent of its profits in the community, working with a network of small handicrafts businesses, and generating income to support families in one of the poorest parts of the island.
  • Carlos Soares, Lauhata Resort Liquica: One of the first tourism entrepreneurs to invest in Liquica, Carlos Soares has trained and employed local youth to offer excellent service in his guesthouse and restaurant. Guests are encouraged to plant trees in the resort gardens.
  • Francisco Alexandre Pereira, Bollore International: As air operations officer at Dili’s President Nicolau Lobato Airport, “Alex” Pereira has been recognized by grateful travelers for his support and assistance to passengers in difficulty and those with special needs.

The Solidarity Champions award recognizes tourism businesses that stepped up to help others who were affected by the dual tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic and the floods from Cyclone Seroja in April.  More than 40 people died in the floods, thousands of families displaced to evacuation centres and the Government of Timor-Leste declared a state of calamity.  Although the industry was already reeling from the impact of COVID-19, some tourism businesses mobilized to help the community.  Judges selected two winners:

  • Pro Ema Training Restaurant: Through its “Together We Are Stronger” campaign, Pro Ema raised more than $30,000 in relief funds, cooked, and distributed more than 30,000 meals to flood victims in evacuation camps, along with more than 20,000 kilograms of raw rice and 850 basic needs packages, including such items as groceries, bedding, kitchen utensils and face masks.
  • Agora Food Studio: During the COVID-19 crisis, many small Timorese-owned businesses were dependent on social media marketing to offer takeaway and delivery services.  With support from USAID, Agora Food Studio produced a series of instructional videos to improve e-marketing skills and to help restaurants apply health protocols when they reopened.

The floods also served as a stark reminder of the impact of climate change.  Judges recognized three Climate Champions for their consistent efforts to encourage businesses and individuals to play their part in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.  Judges selected three winners:

  • Potenzo Lopes: A wildlife conservationist and nature photographer, Potenzo Lopes conducts birdwatching tours and runs education and outreach programs about wildlife and nature conservation for students. He co-founded the Tasi Mos movement that organizes community beach clean-up activities.
  • Fernando Madeira, DaTerra Agroecological Farm, Baucau: At this farm and guesthouse founded on the principles of ecotourism, visiting school groups learn about how to mitigate climate change by reducing the carbon footprint, using local products, planting trees, and conserving water and energy.
  • Eugenio “Ego” Lemos, PERMATIL: PERMATIL is a group working for sustainable farming through water and land conservation. Since 2008, more than 5,000 young people have participated in PermaYouth camps to learn about environmental issues and gain skills that can be taken back and shared with their communities.

The Tourism Champions Awards will help boost morale and confidence in the tourism industry,” said Acting USAID Mission Director Carey.  “All Tourism Youth Ambassadors finalists are up-and-coming leaders who give hope for the future of tourism in Timor-Leste.”

Good news is the thing we need most at the moment. I know all of the members of my team will be so happy,” said Pro Ema Director Simone Barbosa de Assis.

Winners of this year’s Tourism Youth Ambassadors award are Maria Pereira and Ronaldo Ima Dias do Rego, both students at UNTL. Judges selected these university tourism students at a recent public speaking competition on the World Tourism Day theme of “Tourism For Inclusive Growth.”  Their public speaking skills will be put to good use as Tourism Youth Ambassadors in a yearlong internship with USAID’s Tourism For All project. They will raise awareness of the need for sustainable, inclusive tourism development, spreading the word to young people and communities around the country.

In keeping with the World Tourism Day theme, competition organizers presented the Tourism Champions and Youth Ambassadors with glass trophies engraved by artisans from Centru Sover, a social enterprise for disabled people, using specialized equipment supplied to the group through a grant from USAID’s Tourism For All Project.

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For more information contact USAID/Timor-Leste at [email protected] and [email protected]

Staff at the national Tourism Information Centre (TIC) in Dili have been perfecting their skills and updating their database to help domestic and international travellers plan their journeys and leisure activities in Timor-Leste.  The centre – the first of its kind in Timor-Leste – was inaugurated on March 12th 2018 and it is situated on the beach road in Lecidere at the heart of the city.

The TIC keeps stock of a wide range of brochures and maps, covering tours, accommodation, travel agencies, restaurants and accommodation, as well as information about tourism attractions, cultural highlights and beauty spots throughout the country.

Staff can also provide accurate and reliable information about special events and Timor-Leste’s historical and geographical background, to help visitors understand and enjoy their journeys outside Dili, whilst assisting expatriate residents and travellers from the Municipalities find their way around the city.  Information is also available about Timor-Leste’s renowned scuba diving and the dive centres operating in Dili, as well as boat timetables for travel to Atauro and Oe-cusse.

Staff can also help visitors to find a range of goods and services that they might need during their trip, such as car and motorbike rentals, money changers, laundry companies, and local markets, as well as providing information about internet access and telecommunications companies. They can direct visitors to local markets, handicrafts shops and cafes where they can experience the flavour of freshly-brewed Timorese coffee and buy some to take home. The friendly and helpful staff speak Portuguese and English. The Lecidere Tourism Information Centre is open from Monday to Friday from 0800 to 1730 (closed for lunch between 1200 and 1400). The government also has plans to open more centres at Nicolau Lobato Airport, the land border crossing point at Batugade and in Baucau.


Tourism information is also available on line at the national website:

Facebook : Tourist Information Center

Landline : +670 331 1563

Location :,125.5862433/@-8.5485574,125.5162016,12z

It’s time to #ExploreTheUndiscovered!

Australian travel blogger Catherine Hopgood has been exploring Timor-Leste and sharing her travel experiences through her blog, Timor Tourist 2021. In her recent post from Aileu, she gives a complete guide to what to do, where to stay and farm-to-table culinary feasts to be enjoyed along the way. Click on the link to read more about her blog in Aileu

Market Development Facility (MDF) is putting together a database of photos that will be made available to tourism operators and partners so that they can raise awareness of beautiful Timor-Leste and promote tourism to this country. The Timorese Ministry of Tourism and several other tourism stakeholders have contributed to this effort.

To further support this activity and promote Timor-Leste’s tourism marketing efforts, MDF is partnering with the Professional Photographers’ Association of Queensland for a photo competition. This is a chance for both amateur and professional photographers to show off their beautiful pictures of Timor-Leste and win prizes. For more details about the competition click here

A group of tourism influencers, local media and tour operators were the first people to experience a new tour package to attract visitors to a small community in the mountainous Ainaro region of the country. The highlight of the tour was a hike to the spectacular Dokomali waterfall and the trip also included a lively welcome ceremony by local cultural elders in traditional Timorese costume, in Lebolau village.  After the hike to the waterfall, the community prepared a lunch highlighting locally-grown produce.

The guided tour also featured a presentation about the country’s struggle for independence during a stop in Aileu Municipality at the statue of Nicolau Lobato, Timor-Leste’s first Prime Minister. The journey took the group through breathtaking scenery of mountain peaks and lush river valleys, pausing at the Fleixa viewpoint for a photo opportunity, with Mount Kablaki in the distance.

The tour was well-received by local authorities: in his welcome speech to the group, the village chief said the event was unique for them as was the first time an organized tour had visited his community. He added that the trip was a great opportunity for tourists to explore undiscovered attractions like Dokomali waterfall and expressed his support and commitment to future activities to develop tourism in the area.


USAID’s Tourism For All project created the package for promotion to both international and domestic travelers and the pilot group was asked to evaluate the itinerary so that it can be refined and put to market. All of the participants said that they were satisfied with the experience, with 90% rating the trip as “good” or “excellent”. The cultural performance was a big hit with the group, who rated it equally with the waterfall visit as a highlight of the trip. All of the participants said that they would recommend it to a friend.


Timor Post journalist Augusto Sarmento commented: “I’m delighted to be part of this amazing fam trip! As a journalist, I have never had this kind of incredible experience in my life so with this experience I could learn how to get the right information out to people on what sort of good or bad things that need to be maintained or improved to attract more tourists visiting these amazing undiscovered attractions”

Journalist Jacky Neves from Televizaun Edukasaun-TVE also gave a positive review: “I’m really excited to be part of this wonderful fam trip, as this such a valuable tool that we can use to promote some of Timor-Leste’s attractions to domestic and foreign tourists to contribute to income generation”.

After the pilot excursion, the itinerary was presented to seven Timor-Leste based tour operators and they all agreed to promote the package in the domestic and international tourism markets.

The trip received extensive coverage in local print, television and social media, putting the spotlight on a little-known destination and enhancing the financial prospects of the community.  The media coverage also served to raise public awareness of tourism to the Timorese public, one of the goals of the national tourism policy.


Click on these links to view the films:

Travel Inspired (English Language):

Timor Post (Tetun Language):

Esplora beleza Natureza bee tudak Dokomali Aldeia Lebulau – YouTube

TVE (Tetun Language):

A scheme to protect the coral reef surrounding Atauro Island in Timor-Leste has been attracting attention from the international media. The local communities on the island are resurrecting traditional Timorese land management laws known as Tara Bandu, while developing community-based tourism initiatives to preserve the most biodiverse coral reef in the world.

click on the link to read the BBC Travel article by Richard Collett

The Timor-Leste Council of Ministers has approved a plan to develop an international-standard marina complex in the heart of the capital, Dili.  USAID’s Tourism For All project has been working with the government, the port authority and technical experts for the past two years to craft the proposal for a public-private partnership that will see the transformation of the current commercial shipping port into a tourism hub. The 50+ million-dollar project will revitalize the extensive waterfront area in the city centre, integrating marine and urban transport with cultural, recreational and residential facilities.

The Public-Private Partnership model is designed to leverage public assets and the commercial and operational strengths of the private sector. This milestone in Timor-Leste’s tourism development shows how the government, the private sector, and development partners can work together for the collective good.  Once completed the project will have a dynamic impact on Timor-Leste’s economic development, stimulating investment and investor confidence, as well as improving quality of life of its citizens and offering an exciting tourism experience to visitors.

The Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Mr Jose Agustinho da Silva expressed his appreciation: “We greatly appreciate the Dili Port Redevelopment and Commercialization project, which will serve to diversify Timor-Leste’s economy and help us to move away from dependency on the petroleum sector”.

The development will include the creation of a variety of tourism-related waterfront facilities for visiting cruise ships and yachts, whale-watching and dive boats, as well as serving as a terminal for local ferry services. The plan includes a dedicated area for passenger processing, immigration and customs, accessed by a pedestrian bridge, with ample parking and loading facilities. A marina will provide moorings for small and medium-sized vessels and allow for safe and easy embarkation of passengers and loading luggage, supplies and equipment.

Conceptual Design for the Dili Port Port Redevelopment and Commercialization Project (c. USAID’s Tourism For All Project)

The design concept aims to prioritise pedestrian movement throughout and around the development scheme, linking with footpaths along the waterfront and giving easy access to public transport, making provision for the future use of low-emission vehicles. The development will also provide greater resilience to the effects of climate change: all of the water frontage will be raised by one meter to protect against storm surge and flooding. Overall, the project aims to integrate modern architecture and construction techniques whilst preserving the Timor-Leste cultural identity.

Dili Port is also intended to serve as a tourism destination in itself, with boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes and handicraft retail outlets, whilst acting as a hub for tour itineraries connecting attractions such as Mount Ramelau, Atauro Island and places of interest in Dili. Tour and dive companies will have the option of providing booking facilities in this strategic location, whilst a tourism information centre will be incorporated into the plan.  The inclusion of residential and general retail units will create a new community, revitalizing the city centre. There will be pedestrian-friendly zones with spaces for cultural performances, exhibitions and public gardens, for all to enjoy.

For residents of Dili, the waterfront development would provide employment and commercial opportunities, with beneficial economic effects radiating throughout the city centre, stimulating urban development around the site.  It will also be a showcase for Timor-Leste’s tourism offering in the international marketplace, capitalizing on the country’s growing reputation for world-class marine tourism and serving as a gateway to the interior.

The downtown site will be available for redevelopment once the new commercial port in Tibar becomes operational. Following the ministerial approval, further technical work will be undertaken prior to offering the project for international tender in 2023. This process will include a feasibility study, final selection of the development option, financing and partnership model, and infrastructure design, followed by tender development, promotion and issuance.  The Dili Port Site Redevelopment and Commercialization project is expected to serve as a model for a number of future developments of state-owned sites with tourism potential, which are also in the pipeline.

Source: USAID’s Tourism For All Project

Visitors seeking a meaningful and authentic eco-tourism experience in Timor-Leste can learn about sustainable agriculture with a stay at daTerra educational farm in Bacau, just two hours’ drive from the capital, Dili. DaTerra is a social enterprise that has developed the concept of agro-tourism to ensure the project’s sustainability and to serve as a demonstration model for combining sustainable agriculture and ethical tourism. At the heart of the facility is an elevated bungalow inspired by the traditional Timorese houses, with some adaptations for visitors, built with local materials. DaTerra started receiving its first local and international guests in 2017, and reinvested the income to build a second traditional hut with two private rooms, which are available as guest accommodation.  Maintaining the focus on traditional local materials such as mud, rice straw, and sand, they also built a barbecue and are planning to add a pizza and bread oven to prepare food for guests.

DaTerra runs a varied plant and tree nursery as well a seed bank with over 200 species, making it probably the biggest seedbank in the country. The farm is also an educational facility, providing tours for schools and other entities while at the same time working as a research and permaculture demonstration site for developing local seeds and adapting other beneficial heirloom varieties. DaTerra embraces projects on Education for Sustainable Development, which is an educational vision that aims to balance both human and economic well-being, in harmony with cultural traditions and with respect for the planet’s natural resources. The main goal  is to reconnect with Nature, creating spaces that bring one’s true nature into full potential, strengthening relationships with all beings. The project shares a holistic perspective in which the world is more than the simple sum of its parts, but several interdependent elements and systems that interact with each other.

Through a deep approach to sustainability, DaTerra encourages active participation as a fundamental aspect of creating truly healthy communities. Working with the local community, DaTerra has started local boat trips for dolphin and whale watching, traditional deep-sea fishing and to explore secluded beaches. They plan to extend their partnership network to attract visitors to natural wonders such as waterfalls, lakes, caves, and mountains in the region.  Currently they are offering hikes to the top of Mount Matebian, from Quelicai or Baguia, and to the summit of Mundo Perdido (the “Lost World”) with stunning views and lush forest scenery, the hot springs at Venilale, and spectacular waterfalls in Laga and other parts of the district.  There are different levels of difficulty depending on the tourists’ physical condition. Meals during the excursions are provided either at natural beauty spots or in nearby social projects such as orphanages, religious communities or local houses, to support the local economy. The goal is to establish and promote a network of community-based tourism organizations and to empower youngsters to participate and to contribute new ideas to develop tourism attractions in a sustainable way.


Throughout the years of working with different local communities in Baucau municipality, some in strategic touristic spots, short-training courses have been provided to encourage the combination of agricultural activities with tourism by promoting local natural attractions, with the possibility of providing accomodation and traditional food from their gardens. Some events such as rice and corn planting and harvesting can be made into tourism attractions, organizing festivals that can provide unique experiences to tourists while encouraging the practice of ancient songs and dances within the old and young generations.

daTerra’s core belief is that it is very important to present low budget ethical tourism examples, in order to inspire the young generation to stay or go back to their home towns and start small tourism businesses. The aim is to promote their traditions and cultural aspects as well their surrounding natural attractions, to generate employment for local people, to support the local market and to reinforce the importance of preserving their culture, their natural resources, with intergenerational gatherings to share knowledge and stories.

The eductional farm provides free school tours for both students and teachers promoting environmental education, sustainable agriculture and agro-tourism as well training. Since daTerra started promoting their activities in social media, the farm has become a tourism attraction for members of the Baucau community, such as young people, health workers, and local police and military. Youngsters, health staff, PNTL and militars have been some of the latest visitors.

To date, over 3,500 individuals have visited the farm, including 700 school students, 150 local teachers, government officials, international organizations and former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Laureate Dr Jose Ramos Horta. “It has been really uplifting to see local guests getting inspired with the concept and willing to do something similar back in their home towns, said DaTerra Founder and Project Manager, Fernando Madeira, “Whilst the farm provides a deeper conection with nature and sustainable living, visitors can also realize the direct link between the land, the products and the food in the plate”. In a permaculture design, different elements are displayed in an integrated way, combining diverse aspects such as animal raising systems, worms and dry composting, tree and plant propagation at the nursery, seed saving, fish farming and water management. Compost toilets are presented as a model that can be adapted to all areas with special focus in places with difficult access to water.

Through its project “Sprouting seeds”, DaTerra has been establishing sustainable agriculture demonstration sites and collaborating with local farmers by providing training in sustainable agricultural practices and agro-tourism, as well distributing tree seedlings. Since 2011, the nursery has provided over 1500 fruit trees and other varieties to the surrounding communities every year.

DaTerra has had a difficult year due to Covid-19-related restrictions and the nursery was badly damaged during the catastrophic floods in April 2021. With a view to repairing the facilities and to becoming more independent in terms of tree distribution and collection of materials, the project has now set up a fundraising campaign. The campaign motto is “A Tree For A Dollar”, and it aims to distribute and plant 20,000 trees to raise the sum of $20,000. The pandemic and floods have caused a tremendous impact increasing the difficulties faced by most Timorese households. Some areas that were strongly affected have seen their access to food and goods blocked due to landslides over roads and brigdes destroyed, together with crops lost. These tragedies have revealed a stark image of something that was already a serious problem – food scarcity!

At the moment, DaTerra has around 10,000 tree seedlings growing in its nurseries, including 5,000 “Spinach Trees” – a very resilient tree and that is highly nutritious tree that can handle long periods of droughtand grows in any type of soil from sea level to mountain areas. It is a very fast-growing tree. The other 5,000 thousand seedlings are Neem trees, which is also very resilient, has medicinal properties and is used as a natural pesticide for agriculture.  It is also planted wordwide to prevend soil erosion and landslides and can also be used as timber for furniture and construction as well as firewood. Neem can grow in any type of soil from sea level to 1200 meters altitude and can survive Timor-Leste’s long dry seasons.


Click on the GoFundMe link to make a contribution to the campaign:

For more information you can also consult the daTerra website:

Source: DaTerra

All photographs copyright DaTerra