DILI, TIMOR-LESTE, March 25, 2019 – The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Tourism For All Project in collaboration with the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT) will sponsor the first major conference on faith-based tourism in Timor-Leste in May, the project announced on Monday.
The day-long conference, “Peace Harmony and Fellowship: Faith-based Tourism Development,” will be on May 17 at the Dili Convention Center, the project announced following a meeting of a faith-based working group that includes leaders of the Catholic, Konghucu, Muslim, Hindu, and Protestant religions in Timor-Leste.
The religious leaders signed a declaration of intent to work together for the development and marketing of faith-based tourism in Timor-Leste. USAID’s Tourism For All Chief of Party Peter Semone also proposed the creation of a new tour for visitors seeking a faith-based experience. The “Way of Light” would begin in Tasitolu in Dili on the ascent through the 14 Stations of the Cross. He also suggested the establishment of an Interfaith Peace Garden at the summit.
“Faith-based tourism is growing on a world scale,” Semone said. “More than 300 million tourists visit the world’s religious sites every year, generating an estimated $18 billion dollars. Timor-Leste has untapped potential for this kind of niche market, with sites like Cristo Rei and the shrine to the Virgin Mary at Mount Ramelau, in places of outstanding natural beauty. The different religious communities have harmonious relationships with each other and I think that faith-based tourism is a good fit in the context of Timorese society,” he added.
“The conference is an example of how the United States brings together Timorese organizations with others in the region to achieve common goals,” said Harold Carey, USAID Economic Growth Officer.
“Such networks are essential early pieces that help advance Timor-Leste’s economic relationships with its regional neighbors and the larger global economy as a whole. This contributes to establishment of a free and open economy in Timor-Leste,” he added. “It helps the country realize its own potential, increase its self-reliance and creates new economic opportunities for Timorese entrepreneurs to prosper and enter into more sophisticated business relationships with partners of choice, such as the United States and U.S. businesses.”
National and international speakers have been invited to make presentations at the upcoming conference, including presentations from H.E. Basilio Do Nascimento, president of Bishops of Timor-Leste/Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, Louis D’Amore, president at International Institute for Peace through Tourism, Carlos Cabecinhas, director of Fatima Religious Site and I. Gede Pitana, advisor to the Indonesian Minister of Tourism.
Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry, Haburas NGO, tour operators, as well as DIT lecturers and students participated in Monday’s faith-based working group meeting, which included presentations by USAID’s Tourism For All advisors Manuel Vong and Ratna Soebrata. Vong is working with DIT to prepare the conference and Soebrata has identified Indonesia as a significant potential market for faith-based tourism in Timor-Leste.