Lack of air links makes tourism development in Timor-Leste difficult

10 August 2018

The few air links that serve Timor-Leste (East Timor) are the main obstacle to the growth of the tourism sector in the country, according to an article published in the China-Lusophone Brief (CLBrief), a news service on China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.

Timor-Leste is currently served by only three flights linking the capital Dili to Bali, an Indonesian island, to Darwin in northern Australia and to the city-state of Singapore.

The article notes that the government’s own tourism plan recognises that because of its remote location and the country’s economy operating in US dollars, “Timor-Leste is relatively expensive and unattractive compared to the cost of many neighbouring countries and territories.”

Timor-Leste’s new Prime Minister, José Maria de Vasconcelos (Taur Matan Ruak), pledged to support the development of tourism in order to create jobs and reduce dependence on hydrocarbons.

“The number of tourists, however, remains small,” according to the article published in CLBrief, which states that Timor-Leste has a long way to go before being put on the tourist map of Southeast Asia.

The government intends to triple the official number of visitors from 66,000 in 2016 to 200,000 in 2030, as well as doubling tourist revenues in the same period, which would mean that tourists would have to increase current spending by 400%.

Estimates of the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) point to US$15 million, but the article said this figure likely includes spending by business people who travel to the country.

The report noted that official figures appear to exaggerate the number of tourists, based on arrivals at the capital’s airport, with non-governmental organisations and consultancy firms claiming real tourism figures are less than half of the official numbers. (macauhub)