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East-Timor

 | 
Frédéric Durand
, 
Christine Cabasset-Semedo

Part 4. Tracks for the construction of the future

Thinking about tourism in Timor-Leste in the era of sustainable development. A tourism policy emerging from grass-roots levels

Christine Cabasset-Semedo

Texte intégral

  • 274 For an estimation regarding the arrivals in Timor-Leste for tourist purposes, see for instance AFP (...)

1It is impossible to speak of tourism in Timor-Leste without first recalling the terrible shape of the country in 1999 –witness the many destroyed buildings still standing today- and the numerous challenges, such as the strengthening of institutions, agriculture, health, education, etc., that the State of Timor-Leste has faced since the withdrawal of the Indonesian army and the advent of the country’s independence on May 20, 2002. As in many “developing” countries, tourism in Timor-Leste appears to be one of the few activities likely to be developed in regions little equipped to that effect, and to provide income opportunities not only to the State but also to individuals and communities bearing little or no qualifications in that regard. Several factors encourage the State on this path. The main external factor is the growth of international tourism, in particular in the Asia-Pacific region which constitutes since 2002 the second largest tourist region –especially leaded by Northeast and Southeast Asia-in the world, behind Europe. Internal factors are connected to the socio-economic realities of the country where jobs and potential economic resources for the population have become priorities. Thus tourism has been considered by all successive governments as a means to develop the country’s economy and to fight poverty. But the country’s lack of visibility, and several undermining events – such as the crisis of 2006, the tensions connected to the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2007, the double attacks against President José Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in February 2008-explain why very few international “tourists” have made it to Timor-Leste up until now. According to the World Tourism Organisation, “tourism” is defined by all the activities carried out by persons during their travels or stays in places located outside of their usual environment for a consecutive period of no longer than one year, for leisure, business, or other goals not connected to the carrying out of an income generating activity in the visited location. In the absence of tourism statistics, we do not know the number of “tourists” arriving in Timor-Leste. Between 2003 and 2005, 3,000 to 4,500 foreign visitors were estimated to arrive annually for tourist purposes274. As of late, the strong development of hotel, restaurant, and entertainment businesses, especially in the capital Dili, is primarily due to the presence of foreign workers in Timor-Leste since 1999 (United Nations, embassies, NGOs, etc.). These international residents provide the main support to the budding leisure and tourist activities. As in many other countries/regions which recently started their own brand of local tourism, its on site development in Timor is mostly the works of the private sector, including Timorese nationals especially outside of Dili.

  • 275 i.e. Aldeia Alves. 1973. Timor na esteira do progresso, p. 46; Cabasset-Semedo. 2008. “Timor-Leste (...)
  • 276 IUCN, 1994, Guidelines for protected areas Management categories.

2The country had a short history of tourism from the end of the 1960s up until 1975; in 1972, it welcomed almost 5000 international tourists, especially from Australia275. The recent re-opening of the country to tourism is taking place in the era of sustainable development. Increased attention is thus given to natural habitats, to local communities, and to the fight against “poverty”. “Demands” must now also address those of global warming, of CO2 emissions, of economic realities, and of natural resources’improved management (water in particular) in the most vulnerable countries. Tourism is undergoing important changes with hotels and hotel chains following green policies (such as the decrease in energy consumption) and with the development of other forms of tourism since the 1990’(adventure tourism, ecotourism, ethical tourism, etc.) These types of tourism emphasize smaller accommodation units and greater involvement and control from local populations, and a strong link to other existing socio-economic sectors, as local agriculture. Community-based tourism, but also “ecolodges” following, from the most basic to the most luxurious, different levels of social and/or environmental policies, have risen in different parts of the world. Beyond the recurrent pro and con debate around the construction of “big hotel”, tourism faces more than ever the following challenges: how to innovate, how to manage local resources, what related part shall be played by local populations, how to insure a smooth interaction between international tourism, a “modern” state, local powers, and traditional values. In Timor-Leste, the preservation of natural resources and of cultural heritage, the defense of natural environment, and the promotion of sustainable development are written in the Constitution, but with almost no more details than that. Timor’s first national park, the Nino Konis Santana park located in the Eastern part of the country, was set up in 2007 and was placed in the V category of IUCN – long term interaction between man and nature and upkeep of human activities276 – with eco-tourism as a foreseeable activity. For the time being, tourism in Timor shows two main traits: on the one hand, that it is rather “virginal” outside of Dili (the coastline, a privileged tourist area, offers only a small number of rooms, with few of them meeting international standards’requirements), and, on the other hand, that it benefits from initiatives and actors-often small entrepreneurs-directly or indirectly connected to tourism. This article will focus on the latter as they make up the traditional backbone of tourism worldwide aside from major tourist attractions, and as they are essential players in the emerging tourist industry of Timor-Leste.

1 - Tourism: a political and socio-economic stake

  • 277 Durand Frédéric. 2002. Timor Lorosa’e, pays au carrefour de l’Asie et du Pacifique, un atlas géo-h (...)
  • 278 Pat Walsh, 8 November 1999, “From opposition to proposition: the National Council of Timorese Resi (...)
  • 279 Prideaux Bruce, Carter Bill. 2003. “East Timor-steps to building a tourism industry”, p. 459, 461.

3The idea that tourism has a role to play in East Timor's development is quite old. In the short pre and post 1999 referendum periods, several conferences –i.e. Algarve/Portugal, October 1998; Melbourne, 5-9 April 1999; Tibar/East Timor, 30 May-2 June 2000; Brisbane, 20-21 July 2000-were held on the perspectives of economic development. Because the excuse of the non-viability of the country was for a long time used to justify the Indonesian occupation277 and to halt to the process of self determination, the main concern was then to examine the means at the country’s disposal to insure its economic viability. The main goals of the policies of the economic development planned by the CNRT278 seemed at the time to be the building of a market economy with the help of the local private sector and of foreign investments, and the urgent development of rural areas through the increase of existing agricultural resources and the diversification, owing mostly to tourism, of rural economies. A consistent theme expressed through these conferences was “the need to develop sustainable tourism, based on natural and cultural resources of the country, and developed by local communities for local community – economically and culturally-growth”. In this spirit, the Tibar conference conclusion was as follows: “If we are not to be an aid-dependent country in the future, we must be proactive. If we do not take the initiative, external investors will determine our tourism future, with profits leaking offshore. Our communities will merely be employees, not owners"279.

  • 280 Presidency of the Ministers'Office. 2007. IV Constitutional Government Program 2007-2012, p. 15.

4These few aims reflect an international context influenced by the concept of sustainable development and tourism. They show a concern to favour a kind of tourism which would primarily benefit Timorese nationals. Nevertheless, while fully involved in the country's “Reconstruction” – mainly in its physical and institutional tasks - the UNTAET government did not implement this tourist policy though in 2002 the National Development Plan had identified tourism as one of the means to reach general development and to fight poverty. The pages relating to this (p. 249-254) show very generalized aims reflecting more “what a tourism strategy ought to be” in the minds of representatives of the international consultants than what realities on a local level are. The first goal given the Direction of tourism, “To build a tourism industry in East Timor that generates employment and maintain culture”, results, because of its extreme vagueness, in a country where international tourism is almost unknown, in the recourse to two other objectives: 1) to attract foreign investment which could increase the number of tourists and consequently generate direct and indirect employment; 2) to give the Direction of tourism the major role of insuring the promotion of the country in order to render it attractive to tourists and investors. True, the Plan suggested that the Direction of tourism help coordinate the improvement of the infrastructures (water and sewerage networks, telephone connections) including those dedicated to tourism (number of rooms, etc.). But the overall results revealed a focus more on the Direction of tourism's mission to promote tourism, than on parallel efforts to initiate the “building” of tourist activity and the implementation of related goals with the country’s different actors and communities. The apparent discrepancy between the National Development Plan and local realities (not only in the tourism sector) resulted in the new 2007 government’s will to work on the drafting of a new document taking into account the “real needs” of the country280.

  • 281 Government changes in July 2005 led to the removal of tourism from the Secretary upon which it dep (...)
  • 282 op. cit. UNDP/UNWTO. 2007. The UNDP/UNWTO "Sustainable Tourism Sector Development and Institutiona (...)

5The first conference of the post independence era called “Turismo em Timor-Leste: Vias para o futuro”, which was organized on 24-25 April 2003 in Dili, saw the entrance of the country in the “family” of international tourism through the welcoming of the first official delegations of the World Tourist Organization (UNWTO) and of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). Changing the image of the country and rendering it visible on the international scene became priorities. The country received some media coverage, especially during its first participation to the PATA Travel Mart, one of the main annual international tourist fairs in the Asian-Pacific region, in Singapore in October 2003-an event in which Timor-Leste has taken part every year since. Between 2002 and 2005, tourism was connected to the ministry of the development and the environment in the State secretary of tourism, environment, and investment. As a result Mari Alkatiri, who was then prime minister, emphasized in his introduction speech during this first conference the strong connection between these 3 sectors and the State’s wish that the country set an example of sustainable development in tourism as well281. However, the fact that the State Secretary of tourism was, at that time, in charge of the environment, of investments, but also of mining resources and of oil and gas undermined the importance given to this goal. Moreover, the budget allocated to the Direction of tourism was extremely small during the first years of the post independence era, as almost all of it was dedicated to the payment of employees’salaries: 2003-04: 43,000 US $; 2004-05: 56,000 US $. With 248,000 US $ for the year 2006-07, the Direction of tourism saw a considerable increase in its budget as an extra 100,000 US $ was allocated on top of the initial budget as a “national contribution” for works initiated in 2006 with the UNWTO282. This weak budget resulted from the many greater priorities –agriculture, education, health, water, etc. – confronting the State and from the lack of development of concrete policies beyond that of attracting foreign investments.

  • 283 www.turismotimorleste.com
  • 284 RDTL-Government, “Draft law on external investment” approved on May 2, 2005 and implemented on 27 (...)
  • 285 UNDP. 2006. Human Development Report 2006, Timor-Leste. The Path out of Poverty: Integrated Rural (...)

6Deprived of consistent means to dedicate to this sector, the State turned its attention to the training of personnel within the national Direction of tourism, a priority in a country where access to education, training, and more generally to jobs carrying more responsibility was for a long time very marginal for Timor nationals. The State also focused on communication in order to improve the image of the country and attract tourists and investors. The strategy was then to view the arrival of foreign investment as a means to generate structural improvements needed by the country and to provide employment in significant numbers. The participation of the country to the PATA Travel Mart, the launching in 2004 of the official tourist web site283, the creation in 2005 of TradeInvest (an agency supporting foreign investment), the implementation of external investment law (May 2005)284, etc. bear witness to this endeavour. These efforts contributed to the feeding of quasi-permanent rumors –the main media in Timor- regarding the “imminent” arrival of huge projects, of great resorts, and even, for example, of a casino on the island of Atauro. However, next to these enticement efforts, fundamental questions such as those regarding ownership titles, banking credits, insurance for companies, etc. remained unresolved. Moreover, except for the Northern road, road infrastructure remained rather mediocre, and the population’s access to drinking water or electricity was far from general (45% of the rural population has access to drinking water, 35% to a sewerage network, and 10% to electricity285). A support to national entrepreneurship was for a while contemplated, as shown by the creation of the agency IADE Instituto de Apoio do Desenvolvimento Empresarial (2005) or by the law on internal investment (May 2005), but it bore little connection to tourism.

  • 286 World Bank. August 11, 2005, World Bank Country Assistance Strategy for Timor-Leste FY 06-08. Crea (...)

7The political and military crisis of 2006, with its civil war climate, a thousand burnt houses in Dili, 150,000 displaced people, the paralysis of the State apparatus, and an international military intervention, has shed a light not only on important dysfunctions, but also on the weariness of grassroots people, mainly those living in the districts. A gap was increased between Dili and the rest of the country. The heavy centralization of expenditure management, weak capacity in ministries, and inexistence of effective disbursement system to send funds to the districts explain the slow budget execution on a general level and, specifically in the districts, a lack of funds to support national programs or local service delivery286.

  • 287 Cabasset-Semedo Christine and Durand Frédéric, 2007, “Les élections présidentielles de 2007 à Timo (...)
  • 288 Agencia de noticias LUSA, 15/09/2007.
  • 289 Op. cit. UNWTO, 2007, vol. 2, p. 68.

8The elections of 2007 – presidential elections in April-May and parliamentary elections in June–resulted in the eviction of Fretilin from all the power centers. During the political campaign, the main parties focused on “poor people”-José Ramos Horta campaign motto was “a president for poor people”; the slogan of his opponent Fretilin, José Guterres “Lu Olo”, was “president of the people for the people”-, and in particular on access of the population to basic services (water, electricity, roads, health, etc.). José Ramos Horta was finally elected as President of the Republic with 69.2% of the second round votes, thanks to the rallying of the main opposition parties287. Former president Xanana Gusmao, who became Prime minister, headed the fourth government led by the Alliance for Parliamentary Majority (CNRT, PD, PSD, ASDT), and Fernando “Lasama” de Araujo, leader of the Democratic Party (PD) embodying the “new generation”, became president of Parliament. To distance itself from its immediate predecessors, the fourth government (August 2007) emphasized, in the presentation of its program and the interim budget, the necessity for the State to carry-out great works to renovate or build infrastructures, to provide support to existing activities and actors, and to attract foreign investors288. Construction of these infrastructures is essential because, as more than half of the population has no access to water, it will be hard to justify the arrival of water pipes for the sole benefit of hotels289.

  • 290 Op. cit. World Bank, 2005.
  • 291 National Statistics Directorate, 2006, Atlas. Timor-Leste Census of population and housing 2004.

9In a country listed since 2002 as one of the Least Advanced Countries and ranked at number 140 on the Human Development Index of world countries, where each revenue usually feeds close to 10 persons, tourism also becomes a socio-economy challenge. Aside from agriculture-80% of the active population is involved in small farms agriculture-and public services (6% of the active population), job and income opportunities are rather slim while new needs are appearing daily, as with education for example. The creation of jobs is also required by the presence of a very young population (in 2004, 55% of the population is under 20) and by the fact that the 2004 census revealed that the country has the highest birth rate in the world (7,8 children per woman). The related natural growth index, amounting to 3% per year, will see Timor’s population (924,000 persons in 2004) double by 2022290. If poverty, which results mainly from a difficult access to basic services (water, electricity, health care centers, transportation of people and goods), affects mostly rural populations, urban populations of Dili and Baucau are faced with a very high unemployment rate. The district of Dili, which concentrates the bulk of the country’s political, administrative, and economic activities, offers greater employment opportunities outside the agricultural field, mainly because of the presence of the United Nations and other agencies – more than 14% of the district’s active population versus 3.8% for the country at large291. This explains in part the quick demographic growth that the district, and especially the capital, has known between 2001 and 2004 (from 120,000 to 175,000 people). As it concentrates the largest part of the education field with around 20 “universities”, Dili is home to a great number of young people. This fact greatly influenced their involvement in the crisis the country faced in 2006. It is estimated that 14,000 young people arrive annually on the job market while only 400 jobs are created each year.

10The country nevertheless has the means to develop itself because of important oil and gas resources. However, this sector is unable to become a major source of employment. The public sector, with great works such as the building of roads, schools, hospitals, etc., and the private sector, which includes tourism, may help achieve an economic growth outside of oil and gas and offer job opportunities.

2 - Initiatives of private entrepreneurs in tourism

  • 292 Op. cit. UNWTO/PNUD, 2007.

11The rising of tourist and leisure activities is connected to the peculiar context of the presence of the United Nations: the arrival to Timor-Leste in 1999 of thousands of workers connected to the humanitarian crisis and the temporary administration mandate given to the United Nations (UNTAET) resulted in the rapid growth of the hotel and restaurant business. Dili saw the reinforcement of its role as the political, administrative and economic centre. The city has especially benefited from this huge international presence. The country in 2006 had more than 1,300 hotel rooms, 84% of which located in the capital292. The great majority of the clientele is made of employees of the United Nations, embassies, NGOs, cooperation agencies, etc., who most of the time arrive for long term missions (more than a year). As a result, the activity resembles a kind of tourism for locals. The influence of these foreign residents on tourism is important since they have stayed since 1999 with family and friend visiting often. They have become the main support of connected activities such as craftsmanship. A small number of foreign tourists had visited the country between 2003 and 2005. It included 1975-1999 activists and tourists who, for some, had come before 1975, individuals attracted to the novelty of the destination who came for a short stay from Bali or Australia in order to scuba dive (for example) or who arrived within the framework of organized travels (i.e. the tour operator Intrepid Travel/Australia).

12Alongside a few hotels that made it through Timor’s contemporary history since the Portuguese colonization, such as The Dili, The Resende (destroyed in 2002), The Turismo, the Timor, many other hotels were built as of 1999, in the city centre but also on the road to the airport, on the water front, towards the East (Bidau-Areia branca), and towards the West (embassies’neighborhood). The specific profile of the international clientele-high revenues and long terms stays for the most part-resulted in a great hike in prices for rooms which were often quickly built, small, and of mediocre quality. In several district capitals, such as Maliana or Suai, “international” hotels were built for the UN and related clientele. After the 2002 independence, the departure of a great number of these expatriates resulted at the time in an economic crisis following the strong decrease of the demand for goods, services and employment, and in the dramatic fall of the occupancy rate of hotels in Dili. In May-June 2006, the arrival and follow-up stay of a new multinational force and the pursuit of the United Nation’s mission revitalized the hotel and restaurant industry, as well as the business of taxis, commerce, home employees, etc., but only in the capital and in the districts’capitals as the feelings of insecurity pervasive in Dili and other areas of the country resulted in less week-end or leisure trips.

13Since 2000, two scuba diving centers have been created in Dili. In the very short term, Scuba diving is considered as the most promising leisure activity because of the presence of these two professional centers, of sites easily reached from the Northern coastline (connected to the best road of the country), and – last but not least-of very rich and preserved underwater sea worlds located in the coral Triangle. Two or three connected agencies created by Timorese nationals are able to organize tours of the main tourist areas, such as Tata Mai Lau, Matebian, Tutuala, etc., for a few days. The leisure and hotel infrastructures based in Dili are created by Timorese entrepreneurs and moreover by foreign entrepreneurs (Australians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, etc.). A few of these people make up the core of the Association for Tourism in Timor-Leste (ATTL) which was created in March 2003 and plays a role with the government, in particular when it comes to representing the country in international tourist fairs and on tourism information through dedicated web site. Foreign residents, who often drive 4x4 vehicles, also contributed to the creation of hotel rooms and leisure activities outside the capital.

14Outside of Dili, structures inherited from the Portuguese period such as the pousadas – colonial houses built for tourism purposes or former administrator’s residences transformed into hotels before 1975-were quickly returned to their tourist activity (between 2000 and 2003). The ones in Baucau and Tutuala in the coastal area, Maubisse and Maliana in the mountains, are prime examples. As properties of the State, they were endowed to several businesses in the form of concessions. Outside of Dili, the lack of hotels directly located on the coastline-an essential location in the context of contemporary tourismconvinced a private Australian investor to build and open in 2001 a resort at the entrance of the village of Com (on the North-Eastern coast and the Occidental border of the Nino Konis Santana national park). Since then several village inhabitants have built homestays and guesthouses. Other guesthouses were built in several areas of the country at the initiative of private Timor individuals and their families, most often in hinterland and mountain areas: in Hatu Builico near the peak of Tata Mai Lau, in Same which now has five guesthouses (2007), in Ainaro, in Baguia near the peak of Mont Matebian, but also in Ossu, in Los Palos, in Suai, even on the coastline in Baucau, etc. From these guesthouses it is possible to organize walking treks, horseback rides, or boat trips with the “host family” or with the neighbors and, when sharing a common language (i.e. Tetum, Indonesian, Portuguese), one may listened a number of stories coming from personal and local histories.

15One of the examples of the dynamic activity of rural areas and of the “cultural renaissance” taking place since 1999 is the obvious drive to return to the former habitat areas, especially in high locations (living in these areas was prohibited during the Indonesian presence for reasons of control and security), through the rebuilding of “traditional” hamlets and of sacred houses following traditional rituals. Another example is that of, highly related to tourism, craftsmanship: many “traditional” objects and their modern adaptation are products such as weavings (tais), jewelries, weaved baskets, statues and other wood sculptures, potteries, leather goods, wood or bamboo furniture, pillowcases, etc. The main buyers since 1999 are foreigners working in Timor; as a result, a certain number of these crafted objects –but also salt and other agricultural products-are sold on the main road axes, on the Northern coast, between Maubara-Liquiça-Dili-Manatuto-Com and Tutuala. Several associations and organizations support this craftsmanship and the men and women involved, such as fishermen or farmers. The purpose is to generate revenues to craftsmen and, through this financial recognition, bring value to these professions, and to encourage the transfer of these know-how. As in many other countries, young people have generally little inclination to learn this hand-made craft and prefer to hold administrative jobs.

162003 through 2005 was a stable period which brought much hope to this activity. Entrepreneurs were then really optimistic and they had plans. Following the initiative of Pedro Lebre, a Timor professional involved for a long time in the business of tourism who created the Vila Harmonia guesthouse in Dili in 1989, a housing and tour guide network was set up in the country (Oecussi, Same, Atauro, region of Matebian, etc.), together with a “plan” to develop other welcoming structures in several villages. But the plans quickly stalled following the crisis of 2006 and the turmoils of 2007 connected to the parliamentary elections; parts of Vila Harmonia were burnt in August 2007, and the Timor Village Hotel network was reduced to the two housing centers created in Dili and Loihonu (near Viqueque). Along the same line, José Maria Borges, a Timor national who in 2005 built the Baucau Beach Bungalow-5 wood and bamboo bungalows perfectly located in the shade of a coconut tree farm on the ocean front-saw 4 of his bungalows go into flames in August 2007 as well.

3 - The emergence of community eco-lodges

17Up until today, the few tourist housings offering aesthetics and locations likely to satisfy the demands of international tourism (attractive areas and/or view overlooking pleasant sceneries) indicate either a relationship between the project manager/entrepreneur and foreign networks, or an inspiration taken from Bali or from existing community eco-lodges.

18As in many other places in the world, Timor-Leste is experimenting with projects of community-based tourism. In 2008, the two existing community housing centers were created on very attractive sites on the waterfront with nearby mountains. Built by different individuals from communities connected to the projects and with the strong support of foreign people and NGOs, the concept (bungalows with small balconies facing the sea) and the aesthetics (local materials, “local” architecture) of these two facilities fit the tastes of contemporary tourists. Their realization is also based on the involvement of all or part of a community, from the decision taking to the building and management phases of the project.

  • 293 The project received its financing especially from AusAid, NZAid, and the Australian Conservation (...)
  • 294 The project mainly received funds from the European Commission.

19The first to open in 2003 was the eco-lodge Tua Koin on the island of Atauro. It provides green housing (solar energy, waste treatment, etc.) and has a capacity of 20 beds. The project was conceived and is managed by a local NGO called Roman Luan, highly inspired and guided by an Australian woman. Before the crisis of 2006, when the eco-lodge was full every week-end, a dozen members from the local community worked there on a full time or part time basis. The income generated by this resort finances actions to promote education, a kindergarten, etc293. As it is the most ancient resort, it is also the most famous one. Since its opening, it has welcomed several groups of Timor villagers (from Baucau, Oecussi, Tutuala) or individuals wishing to build a tourist facility. Another community project, “ethical tourism”, was started in the village of Tutuala-included in the perimeter of the Nino Konis Santana national park-with the support of two Portuguese NGOs (CIDAC and IMVF) and by their local counterparts (Haburas Foundation, the main and oldest Timor NGO specializing in the environment)294. Indeed, since 1999, the fishermen of Tutuala have welcomed “tourists” who come to spend the week-end in a tent on the beach, located 8 kilometers below the village, and have made some money from tourism (boating around the island of Jaco, cooking of grilled fish, etc.). From the beginning (2005), this project was based on the integration of the seven clans making up the village, each one being traditionally in charge of one natural resource: beaches, caves, mountains, etc. A housing facility was built during the first semester of 2007 (four bungalows and one restaurant). 68 persons from the community are directly involved in this project and are in charge of its management in four groups taking turns. Beside the Fishermen’s activities, the creation of other tourist activities (trekking guide, production and sale of arts and crafts, etc.) is also planned.

Conclusion: what kind of tourism for what local project?

  • 295 Cabasset Christine, 2000, Indonésie, le tourisme au service de l’unité nationale?; Cabasset Christ (...)
  • 296 Palmer Lisa, Carvalho d. A. Demetrio, 2007, “Nation building and resource management: The politics (...)

20The evolution of tourism in Timor-Leste remains closely tied to safety conditions. While “waiting” for the desired foreign investments, the country may as of now benefit from assets other than its natural environment. Although the presence of a United Nations mission has normally little chance to be seen as a tourism “asset”, the foreign residents constitute nevertheless the main market, as they support since 2000 the tourism and leisure activity and the emerging tourism entrepreneurs network. This market plays a similar role to that of domestic tourism. Indeed, the weight and the role of internal tourism, estimated to ten times greater than that of international tourism, is now well known worldwide. Research done in Indonesia showed that Indonesian tourists’ activity is the reason why many hotels and restaurants did not close during the crisis of 1998 and the severe decrease in international fluxes. Since then, domestic tourism continues to be an essential and coveted market295. In Timor, the involvement of different actors from civil society and a certain sense of entrepreneurship are main assets. Several researchers such as Lucia Palmer and Demetrio de Carvalho in Tutuala, Lucio Sousa in the region of Bobonaro, or Alexander Loch in the region of Laga-Baguia296 underline the structure of local Timor societies, and some of them point their desire to fully take part in the nation building process and in the management of local resources. The same observation of dynamism can be made about tourism and related activities through accommodation, restaurant, hiking, horse or boat tour, handicraft… This finding contradicts images of inertia often spread concerning rural areas.

21Should tourism become a real priority for the State of Timor, State intervention will be required not only to insure safety and free travel in the country but also to provide material help to tourism entrepreneurs and to encourage other ways and initiatives. Beyond this, and more generally, State intervention could give to small individual or community entrepreneurs the means to become more competent and, through financial or technical help, to provide more attractive and quality oriented services. The intent of this last remark is not to emphasize the great gap between existing services and international standards, as is often said, but rather to show that a number of these entrepreneurs are partners who are susceptible to offer what is needed to the country. This strategy could insure their participation and, beyond it, that of local communities, an important matter when the gap between Dili and outside Dili economic life, services delivery, etc. has severely increased during the last years. Such policies would also help circumvent the focus on large foreign investment, often seen in developing countries, which tends to distract political leaders from planning tourism at different scales, on diversified territories (and not only on the coastline).

  • 297 Op. cit. Presidency of the Ministers'Office. 2007. IV Constitutional Government Program 2007-2012.
  • 298 http://www.uncdf.org/english/countries/timor_leste/index.php
  • 299 Actually, the program was aiming to start in Jan-Feb 2006. http://www.uncdf.org/english/countries/ (...)

22Recent evolutions show that decentralization, local development, and support to the private sector are at the heart of the implemented policies297. In its 2007-2012 program, the government reasserted the role of tourism (: 27-28) and its aim to support policies which, among others, would promote private initiatives and would set up a National Tourism Centre with delegations in the thirteen districts. The government’s intent is also illustrated by (1) the introduction in late 2007 of the UNCDF Local Governance Program in four pilot districts-Bobonaro, Lautem, Aileu, Manatuto-and its extension, in 2008, to four more districts-Baucau, Covalima, Ainaro, Manufahi-298; (2) the establishment on April 11, 2008 of the National Directorate of Local Development and Territorial Management (DNDLOT); and (3) the launching on 18 April 2008 by the United Nations (UNCDF and UNDP) and by the Government of the five-year, US $ 5 million program called Inclusive Finance for the Under-Served Economy (INFUSE), aiming to provide small business loans to thousands of low-income people299. While it is too early to gauge the results of these programs, it will be interesting to identify the means actors and communities involved in tourism are given to reach this help, and their impact on the field.

Men that know very well the places, paths, founding myths, and local stories. Here, three generations of them, in front of the Tata Mai Lau, the country’s highest peak. © 2006, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.

Fishermen of Tutuala. © 2007, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.

Sculptor from Makili village, Atauro. © 2007, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.

Notes

274 For an estimation regarding the arrivals in Timor-Leste for tourist purposes, see for instance AFP, April 30, 2006; UNWTO/UNDP. 2007. Sustainable Tourism sector Development and Institutional Strengthening project, Vol. 2, p. 21.

275 i.e. Aldeia Alves. 1973. Timor na esteira do progresso, p. 46; Cabasset-Semedo. 2008. “Timor-Leste: quelles stratégies de développement touristique dans une situation postconflit?” pp. 176-178.

276 IUCN, 1994, Guidelines for protected areas Management categories.

277 Durand Frédéric. 2002. Timor Lorosa’e, pays au carrefour de l’Asie et du Pacifique, un atlas géo-historique, p. 134.

278 Pat Walsh, 8 November 1999, “From opposition to proposition: the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in Transition”, http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood.

279 Prideaux Bruce, Carter Bill. 2003. “East Timor-steps to building a tourism industry”, p. 459, 461.

280 Presidency of the Ministers'Office. 2007. IV Constitutional Government Program 2007-2012, p. 15.

281 Government changes in July 2005 led to the removal of tourism from the Secretary upon which it depended and its placement under the Ministry of development. Following the parliamentary elections of June 2007 and the change in government in August, tourism was placed under the responsibility of the new Ministry of tourism, commerce, and industry.

282 op. cit. UNDP/UNWTO. 2007. The UNDP/UNWTO "Sustainable Tourism Sector Development and Institutional Strengthening Project in Timor-Leste" was the topic of a presentation called “Tourism Planning dialogue” in Dili on November 24, 2006 and of a report published in January 2007.

283 www.turismotimorleste.com

284 RDTL-Government, “Draft law on external investment” approved on May 2, 2005 and implemented on 27 May 2005; and “Law on domestic investment”, approved on May 9, 2005 and implemented on May 27, 2005.

285 UNDP. 2006. Human Development Report 2006, Timor-Leste. The Path out of Poverty: Integrated Rural Development, p. 18.

286 World Bank. August 11, 2005, World Bank Country Assistance Strategy for Timor-Leste FY 06-08. Creating the conditions for sustainable Growth and Poverty Reduction, p. 46.

287 Cabasset-Semedo Christine and Durand Frédéric, 2007, “Les élections présidentielles de 2007 à Timor-Leste.”

288 Agencia de noticias LUSA, 15/09/2007.

289 Op. cit. UNWTO, 2007, vol. 2, p. 68.

290 Op. cit. World Bank, 2005.

291 National Statistics Directorate, 2006, Atlas. Timor-Leste Census of population and housing 2004.

292 Op. cit. UNWTO/PNUD, 2007.

293 The project received its financing especially from AusAid, NZAid, and the Australian Conservation Fund

294 The project mainly received funds from the European Commission.

295 Cabasset Christine, 2000, Indonésie, le tourisme au service de l’unité nationale?; Cabasset Christine, 2004, “El turismo interno en Indonesia: transmisor de la cultura nacional y actor de una red turistica paralela”.

296 Palmer Lisa, Carvalho d. A. Demetrio, 2007, “Nation building and resource management: The politics of “nature” in Timor-Leste”; Sousa Lucio, 2007, “Denying peripheral status, claiming a role in the nation: sacred words and ritual practices as legitimating identity of a local community in the context of the new nation”, communication presented to Euroseas Conference 2007; Loch Alexander, 2007, “Nation building at the village level: First the house, then the church and finally a modern state”. Communication presented to Euroseas Conference 2007; See also McWilliam Andrew, 2001 and 2003.

297 Op. cit. Presidency of the Ministers'Office. 2007. IV Constitutional Government Program 2007-2012.

298 http://www.uncdf.org/english/countries/timor_leste/index.php

299 Actually, the program was aiming to start in Jan-Feb 2006. http://www.uncdf.org/english/countries/timor_leste/index.php;ProDoc_draft_20060208b.pdf

Table des illustrations

URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/678/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 247k
Légende Men that know very well the places, paths, founding myths, and local stories. Here, three generations of them, in front of the Tata Mai Lau, the country’s highest peak. © 2006, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/678/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 145k
Légende Fishermen of Tutuala. © 2007, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/678/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k
Légende Sculptor from Makili village, Atauro. © 2007, Christine Cabasset-Semedo.
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/678/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k

Auteur

Christine Cabasset-Semedo holds a PhD in Geography and Planning (Paris-Sorbonne), she's part-time university lecturer in several French universities, and works also as an expert and adviser on tourism. For the last 15 years, her academic research focused on different aspects of tourism and notably: socio-economic integration, spatial concentration/extension, contribution to national unity… Her main field surveys were undertaken in Southeast Asia, and particularly in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, topics and countries on which she published many articles. For the past ten years, she visits almost annually Timor-Leste. Her 2007 and 2008 missions to enhance teaching of tourism at the National University of Timor Lorosa'e were supported by the France Embassy in Indonesia and East-Timor. Contact: christine.cabasset@free.fr

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