Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of USAID’s Tourism Expo

My respects to:

  • HE. Mr. José Lucas do Carmo da Silva, Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Industry of Timor-Leste.

Hello everyone and welcome to the Domestic Tourism Expo!

I am very pleased to be here with Minister of Tourism Jose Lucas do Carmo to Open this Tourism Expo, who’s theme this year is:   “Let’s promote and develop domestic tourism.” Today as we promote domestic tourism, we are also launching the US and Timor-Leste #HauniaTimorLeste campaign as part of the “Timor-Leste Explore the Undiscovered” campaign. USAID’s Tourism for All Project is launching this together with the Ministry of Tourism, fully in support of Timor-Leste’s goals to expand the tourism industry here.  Please go out into this beautiful country, and post your photos on social media with the hashtag:  “Ha’u nia Timor-Leste.”

This is a very important week to celebrate tourism, because World Tourism Day is September 27.   During these difficult times for tourism worldwide, we must keep our eyes on how we can get ready today for the future. We are all looking forward to seeing all the tourism related programs and products here today and during the week. Timor-Leste has so much to offer and so much of the undiscovered to explore. But it is an interesting and fascinating destination for tourists. Every day I marvel at what Timor-Leste has to offer: The natural beauty of Timor-Leste’s oceans and mountains, the friendliness of the Timorese people, the beauty of the traditional culture, music, weaving and other arts. It is especially important to honor the role of Timor-Leste’s women in producing the signature cultural artifact of Timor-Leste: the beautiful tais that represent various districts, regions and organizations. We are proud to have helped Timor-Leste present its application to UNESCO to include Timor-Leste’s Tais as World Cultural Heritage. We also enjoy traditional Timorese food and agricultural products and some of the creative and innovative uses of traditional Timorese food that entrepreneurs here are now offering. Of course, the diving and snorkeling here are spectacular, especially at this time of year as the dolphins and whales are beginning to pass through the Wetar Strait. We are very proud that our USAID Tourism for all Project, along with the Ministry of Tourism, worked with the prominent international environmental group called Ocean Blue to declare the Wetar Strait a “Hope Spot.” This designation signifies the importance and value of this waterway – one of the most biodiverse in the world.

This has been a challenging year for the whole world as COVID-19 has deeply affected tourism and other economic activities worldwide. We are impressed by Timor-Leste’s ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Of course, the health and safety of Timorese citizens is everyone’s first priority, as it should be. The United States continues to support Timor-Leste’s prevention of COVID-19 and economic recovery following the pandemic. The United States has contributed over $2.4 million to the fight against COVID-19 in Timor-Leste. We have also provided a variety of supplies and innovative programs that strengthen Timor-Leste’s health infrastructure, support local workers and buy locally made products. We are all adapting to the new challenges brought on by the global pandemic and developing a stronger domestic tourism market is one way we can adapt.

This program is part of our U.S. Embassy, USAID Tourism For All Project. This project began in 2018 with the goal of supporting Timor-Leste reach its own inclusive and sustainable tourism growth goals. Since the global pandemic USAID has expanded their Tourism for All Project to include a new emphasis on domestic tourism. The main branding phrase of Timor-Leste’s tourism effort is “Timor-Leste: Discover the Undiscovered.” And adding to that, to promote domestic tourism, we have added the hashtag: “Hau-nia Timor-Leste.” My Timorese and foreign friends in Timor-Leste love this country for its culture, natural beauty and friendly people. Timorese and others who live here should also join in exploring Timor-Leste. And this also spreads economic activity around the country, and increases understanding and appreciation of Timor-Leste. That is why tourism is so important . Through the interactions that happen between a Timorese shop-owners, tais weavers, chefs and restaurant staff and local guides with tourists, everyone learns from each other and tourists come away with a love for Timor-Leste. And hopefully they post their positive experiences with beautiful photos on facebook, Instagram or twitter so many others can learn about Timor-Leste.

So let’s together discover “Hau-nia Timor-Leste – the Undiscovered – for now!

Thank you.