USAID’s Tourism For All Project Hosts Faith-Based Tourism Conference

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USAID Mission Director Diana B. Putman accompanied by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, Minister of Defense Filomeno Paixao and Minister of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira
Cris Guterres/USAID

For Immediate Release

Monday, May 20, 2019

DILI, TIMOR-LESTE – Religious and political leaders attending an international faith-based tourism conference Friday agreed to work together to capture a portion of the $18-billion global religious tourism market, as a way of helping Timor-Leste diversify its economy.

The conference – organized by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Tourism For All Project in collaboration with Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry and the Dili Institute of Technology (DIT) – focused on the theme of “Peace, Harmony and Fellowship: Faith-based Tourism Development.”  It was the first of its kind to be held in Timor-Leste.

“Timor-Leste already has resources to develop its tourism sector,” said U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick in her remarks at the conference.  “As part of its cultural heritage, the country has many attributes that could help develop faith-based tourism as a vehicle for economic diversification,” she added. 

“United States is happy to be a strong partner with Timor-Leste in pushing for economic diversification through tourism,” said USAID Mission Director Diana B. Putman. “Development of the faith-based tourism niche here can – and I hope will – play a vital role in helping the government achieve its economic goals,” she added

Senior Timor-Leste Government officials, leaders of the Catholic, Confucian, Islam, Hindu, and Protestant religions, as well as national and international keynote speakers took part in the day-long event. Keynote speakers included Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Timor-Leste; Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, Chargé D’Affaires A.I. Apostolic Nunciature to Timor-Leste; Dr. Pedro Valinho Gomes, Director of Pilgrims at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal; Professor Dr. I Gede Pitana, Adviser to the Indonesian Minister of Tourism; and travel industry journalist Imtiaz Muqbil.

Last March, USAID’s Tourism For All project supported the establishment of an inter-faith tourism working group of representatives from the main religions practiced in Timor-Leste.  Under the vision and leadership of DIT Board Member and former Minister of Tourism Dr. Manuel Vong, the group organized the conference and will continue its collaboration in developing a strategy and management plan for faith-based tourism in Timor-Leste.

USAID’s Tourism For All project’s Chief of Party, Peter Semone, commented: “Faith-based tourism is a good fit in the context of Timorese society.  The country 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, but it is important to ensure that it is sustainably-managed and preserves the integrity of religious belief.”

Last updated: May 21, 2019

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