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Timor-Leste President launches Tourism Bid

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 1 October 2003

The President of Timor-Leste, H.E. Xanana Gusmao, welcomed delegates to the opening of the 26th PATA Travel Mart in Singapore Wednesday, saying that tourism was necessary to diversify his country’s economy beyond oil and gas.

For the first time in its history since independence in May 2002, Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) is exhibiting at a travel trade event. The world’s youngest country joined the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) this year and is promoting itself as a new destination where visitors can scuba dive and explore its scenic landscape and unique cultural heritage.

President Gusmao told travel buyers and sellers at Asia Pacific’s premier travel trade event for the leisure sector that the challenge was “by no means small”. “We are developing our tourism industry from ground zero,” he said. He added that competing with established destinations such as nearby Australia and Indonesia would be a major challenge. “We are going to find and develop our niche market, which will differentiate us from other destinations in the region,” he said.

The President acknowledged that properly managing tourism would be difficult. “In developing our tourism we will respect the social and environmental integrity of the country. In managing our tourism we will try to find the delicate balance between the required economic growth and sustainability along with community participation.”

On safety issues President Gusmao invited PATA Mart delegates to talk to people who had recently visited Timor-Leste and to the handful of inbound tour operators already based there. The private and public sector co-hosts at Timor-Leste’s booth at PATA Travel Mart will hope to attract business from the 190 buyers attending the three-day trade show.

PATA President and CEO Mr. Peter de Jong said: “Timor-Leste is embracing travel and tourism as a major component in its economic development. The Mart is its first foray in actively promoting the nation’s many unique tourism assets.”

In April this year, Timor-Leste joined PATA as a government member following a trip to Dili by PATA Vice President, Mr. Peter Semone. Mr. Semone met with Prime Minister, Mr. Mari Alkatiri and Secretary of State of Tourism, Environment and Investment, Mr. Jose Teixeira.

"Timor Leste has world-class beaches and scuba diving plus numerous land-based attractions," Mr. Semone said. "Once the destination receives much-needed investment in tourism infrastructure, its tourism future will be very bright.”

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