Bringing sustainable tourism to the island nation of Timor-Leste
- Client: USAID/Timor-leste
- Partners: Chemonics International and Planet Partnerships
- Project Duration: January 2018 - December 2021
The overall goal of the “Turizmu ba Ema Hotu”, or “Tourism for All” project is to bring tourism to the island nation of Timor-leste, by working closely with the people and the government to promote sustainable business practices, increase competitiveness in the private sector, help combat environmental degradation, and reduce impoverishment as currently around half of Timor-leste’s population lives in extreme poverty.
Under the efforts of the USAID Tourism for All Project, Solimar began working with local communities of Atauro Island in 2019 to develop a strategic plan for tourism development in the region, with the hopes of creating more economic opportunities for local communities. Located 25 km to the north of Timor- Leste, Ataúro is a rarely-visited destination home to six sucos (or villages), the ancient and culturally significant Manucoco Peak, and over 300 species of fish. Situated in the Coral Triangle, this diver’s paradise is considered to have highest biodiversity of any marine environment in the world.
Through visioning, listening and planning exercises with local stakeholders and tourism advocates, Solimar helped to formalize and strengthen a Destination Management Organization (DMO) for the island in 2019, known as ATKOMA. By leading tourism development initiatives on the island, the Asosiasaun Turizmu Koleku Mahanak Atauro (ATKOMA) helps to ensure that tourism directly supports the community, and that its development includes the voices and vision of local people. From training local tour guides to selling day tours and multi-day itineraries exploring the most remote corners of the island, ATKOMA is the captain that steers the tourism ship in the direction that the community wishes to sail. With local leaders, forums for engagement, and membership programs with private-sector businesses, DMOs like ATKOMA are the focal point to achieving sustainable community-based tourism development in destinations all over the world.
- Developed a strategic business and operational plan to formalize and strengthen ATKOMA into a revenue-generating organization. Through this process, ATKOMA was introduced to various models of generating revenue to ensure the sustained availability of funds to run its activities. These models include fees from members, tour services, merchandising, reservation commissions, voluntary visitor contribution fees, the rental of equipment and grants.
- Successfully established the Ataúro Visitor Voluntary Contribution with each of the businesses on Ataúro Island, ensuring that guests are given an opt-out $2 donation to ATKOMA for every stay on the island.
- Supported ATKOMA to develop a series of seven new tour packages (that include transport, activities and food in some cases) for Ataúro island.
- Developed a new website for Atauro Islands to help sell tour packages, facilitate bookings and attract more travelers to the island.
- Developed a detailed map and collateral showcasing the available tours.
- Established an online library of the documentation, instruction and tools necessary to manage the organization. These will include organization formation documents, financial templates, board policy guidelines, login credentials, visitor services policy guidelines, brand identity and strategies, membership outreach materials, content marketing and communications plans, and annual reports
- Through Solimar’s partnership with HM Design, developed conceptual drawings for an Atauro Visitors Center that would serve as the office for ATKOMA. While funding is being secured for construction, Solimar is assisting to set up a temporary visitor center to promote tours and packages.
- Ongoing marketing of Ataúro Island through the ATKOMA Facebook and Instagram pages, including 2x weekly postings, translation of social postings to Tetum, and the creation of a social media contest that attracted hundreds of visitors to the new ataurotourism.org website.
- USAID estimates that the project will stimulate US$25 million in eco-tourism, and create 1,000 related jobs within three years of its implementation.
- Fulfillment of Timor-leste’s national tourism policy goals of 200,000 annual tourists, a US$150 million annual tourism sector revenue and the creation of 15,000 tourism sector jobs by 2030.
- Diversification of the Timorese economy, coupled with massive developments in infrastructure.
- Increased popularity of Timor-Leste as an “off the beaten path” travel destination.
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