Tourism development

Improving the tourism potential of Atauro Island, Timor-Leste

Atauro is a small island close to Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste. The country is located in the Coral Triangle known for its rich and abundant marine life. The pristine natural environment is its biggest draw. With rugged mountains and a long coastline, such as those found in Atauro, Timor-Leste is one of the upcoming tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. With a population of 10,000 people, Arauro can be easily reached from Dili by ferry, water taxi, or charter plane.

Feature | 18 May 2016
The beauty of Atauro Island in Timor-Leste as part of the tourism development
Atauro is a small island close to Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste. The country is located in the Coral Triangle known for its rich and abundant marine life. The pristine natural environment is its biggest draw. With rugged mountains and a long coastline, such as those found in Atauro, Timor-Leste is one of the upcoming tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. With a population of 10,000 people, Arauro can be easily reached from Dili by ferry, water taxi, or charter plane.

Atauro is home for Avelino Pereira Fernandes, a 30-year-old entrepreneur who chairs the Grupo Turismo Atauro (GTA). The group works to promote tourism in Atauro, improve the capacity of local tourism businesses and provide a platform for planning, development and advocacy.

“I have been the chair of this group for nearly two years. We bring different businesses together so that we can support each other and contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Atauro. We directly involve local communities so that they can benefit from tourism,” said Avelino.

We bring different businesses together so that we can support each other and contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Atauro. We directly involve local communities so that they can benefit from tourism."

Avelino Pereira Fernandes, Chairperson of the Grupo Turismo Atauro (GTA)

A similar group was initiated in 2005. However, due to a lack of coordination and commitment, it did not function very well. With assistance from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the group was revitalized in 2013, with Avelino appointed as its chair.

This work was supported by the ILO through its Business Opportunities and Support Services (BOSS) Project. Jointly funded by Irish Aid and NZAID, the project works in partnership with the Institute for Business Support (IADE) to deliver business development services and unlock business opportunities in various economic sectors, including tourism.

To date, 20 tourism businesses, ranging from handicrafts, to restaurants, homestays and many others, have registered as members. By working together, GTA has identified potential tourism attractions in Atauro that can be further developed, such as snorkelling, camping and trekking.

In addition, GTA has provided training to its members on hospitality, cooking and business management. Promotional material such as brochures and a website were developed to market Atauro as an attractive tourism destination.

“I really appreciate the support given by the ILO. The capacity of local businesses is still weak and there is lot more help needed,” said Avelino.

To ensure effective collaboration, members of the group meet regularly once a month to discuss their work plans and new initiatives. However, Avelino admits that not all the members actively participate in this monthly meeting. Some are still hesitant and doubtful about the benefits that they can gain from their membership.

To attract more members and to build more solid commitments, GTA has developed priorities that bring beneficial results to the enhancement of tourism in Atauro. Building networks, particularly international networks, according to Avelino, is one of the priorities. Others include the improvement of marketing channels through the dissemination of brochures, as well as making more information on Atauro available on the Internet.

“I believe it is only a matter of convincing members by showing them the results of our work and not just discussing plans. I also believe these improvements will help the group attract more visitors and increase the number of days visitors stay on the island,” said Avelino.

He hopes that in future, GTA members can participate in more training for local guides and homestays. He believes that realizing the tourism potential in Atauro will benefit local communities.