Winners of the Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Tourism Champions Awards

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”