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Review of Tourism Industry in Timor-leste

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Tourism not only serves for regional integration, but also plays a significant role in diversifying the economy, providing comparatively low-skilled employment, and benefitting the entire country by bringing revenue and income earning opportunities to potential tourism sites . The Timor-Leste Government Strategic Development Plan considers tourism as one of five sectors significant to the country’s economic development. Despite the fact that Timor-Leste is one of the least visited countries in the Pacific region due to high cost of travel, the number of foreign visitors are increasing steadily.

According to the research conducted by The Asian Foundation and the Ministry of Tourism, it shows that the majority of travelers come from Australia, Indonesia and Portugal. Most of them come for business purpose and travelers primarily for holiday purposes are minorities. The majority of travelers rely on word-of-mouth for the information. Due to lack of available information online, relatively low percentage of respondents found enough information for their travels even during their stay in Timor-Leste.

Nevertheless, when travelers visit Timor-Leste for leisure purposes, they show high rate of satisfaction of activities related to Timor-Leste’s biodiversity, history, culture, and adventure-based activi¬ties such as hiking and mountain biking. The majority of travelers even find leisure activities in Timor-Leste deserves the price they paid. Despite this, almost half of travelers to Timor-Leste believe trans¬port is not value for money. Only third of respondents describe the country’s infrastructure as being either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ for their ability to travel.

The average expenditure of a traveler visiting Timor-Leste is US$638 per trip, which includes transportation, accommodation, leisure activities, and food. Based on this data, the annual income through tourism is approximately US$14.6 million.

Of total of 710 respondents, the ones visit Timor-Leste the most are Australian (39%), Indonesian(9%) and Portuguese (39%). 39% were female, and 61% were male. Almost half (49%) of respondents are aged between 25 and 44 years old. A relatively low proportion of respondents are aged 17-24 (10%) and the age of 65 (6%). 41% of respondents traveled to Timor-Leste with family, and 19% of these respondents traveled with children. 35% of respondents traveled alone, while only 4% of respondents traveled as part of a tour group. Out of all travelers interviewed, 29% stayed in Timor-Leste longer than three months, while 47% stayed for less than two weeks. 60% of respondents were return visitors, while 40% indicated they were visiting Timor-Leste for the first time. Of those that had traveled to Timor-Leste before, 55% had traveled to Timor-Leste more than three times before their current trip.

Respondents were asked to identify their primary reason for travel to Timor-Leste. More than half of respondents (56%) traveled to Timor-Leste for work, meetings or business-related activities, which 17% came for holiday. Prior to arrival, 75% relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to inform them ahead of their trip to Timor-Leste. Only 31% found information on internet.

91% of respondents answered that they would participate in activities relating to Timor-Leste’s biodiversity. This included wildlife appreciation (35%), snorkeling (31%), fishing (13%) and scuba diving (12%). 69% of respondents showed interest to visit historical sites and experience cultural activities, while 56% of respondents intended to do adventure-based activities of hiking and mountain-biking (Rajalingam, 2014, p.6).

The most popular destinations to visit were Liquiçá (47%) followed by Dili (43%), Baucau (43%), Hatu Builico (39%), Aileu (39%), Jaco Island (38%), Manatuto (36%), Atauro (35%), Maliana (35%), Balibo (32%), Maubisse (31%), Maubara (30%), Viqueque (18%), Oecussi (14%), Other (13%), Manufahi (10%).

Only 20% of respondents used rental vehicles as their principal means of transportation during their vacation. On the other hand, 39% of respondents used a personal, friends’, or family member’s vehicle for transportation. In terms of the use of transportation in Dili, 20% of respondents traveled within Dili primarily using taxis, while only 3% used buses or mikrolets.

Respondents were asked to grade three indicators related to hospitality, security and infrastructure in the context of entire leisure travel experience in Timor-Leste, and they were asked to rate levels of satisfaction towards each accordingly. 76% of respondents rated hospitality/customer service as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’, whilst 84% of respondents rated personal safety and security as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Only 33% of respondents rated infrastructure as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

The Importance of Coffee Tourism

According to Asian Development Bank, oil production in the first half of 2014 dominates nearly 75% of the government’s revenue. Timor-Leste desperately needs to diversify its economy and in particular focus on strengthening non-oil economic sectors to ensure sustainability beyond the life of the Petroleum Fund, the nation’s current life line. Of these non-oil economic sectors, the two that feature most prominently are coffee production and tourism.

The Timor-Leste government sees a great potential of coffee tourism and it is mentioned in the National Coffee Sector Development Plan of Timor-Leste, Focus Area 5; Domestic Consumption and Coffee Tourism. The goal is for coffee tourism is to promote the local coffee industry & support markets and services. In order to achieve it, the government emphasizes

  1. The importance of conducting a short study to evaluate tourism market potential for the coffee sector
  2. Work with the tourism industry and coffee stakeholders to select key locations for tourists to visit coffee farms and historial coffee sites. Based on the Development Plan, David Freedman, the country economist of Asian Development Bank gave a presentation referring the importance of coffee tourism in 2017.

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Review of Tourism Industry in Timor-Leste. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
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Review of Tourism Industry in Timor-Leste. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Oct. 2021].
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