DILI, 09 october 2021 (TATOLI)– The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), distributes three categories of USAID’s Tourism For All project awards to the winners participants during the commemoration of 2021 World Tourism Day, to recognize organizations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the tourism industry in Timor-Leste.
In keeping with the World Tourism Day theme, competition organizers presented the Tourism Champions and Youth Ambassadors with glass trophies engraved by artisans from Center Cover, a social enterprise for disabled people, using specialized equipment supplied to the group through a grant from USAID’s Tourism For All Project.
The winners were recognized by the USAID and partners at a ceremony on October 8 at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Dili.
The U.S Embassy in Timor-Leste, Chargé d’Affaires Tom Daley said The Turizmu Ba Ema Hotu Champions awards program is a show of U.S. support for Timor-Leste’s tourism sector, saying, therefore, It is a pleasure to celebrate the achievements of the men and women whose hard work is instrumental to helping Timor-Leste become a must-visit destination for tourists.
“They are keeping their business going during the COVID-19 pandemic and thinking creatively about how to expand tourism opportunities in Timor-Leste,” Tom Delay said.
Reflecting the challenges the tourism sector has faced in recent months, USAID’s Tourism For All project created three award categories: Tourism Champions, Solidarity Champions, and Climate Champions.
The winners were selected through public online voting and winners were also selected by the USAID, based on the comments given in the online nomination questionnaires and the number of nominations received by each candidate.
Following are the winners of the three categories of awards:
– Alito Rosa and Konservasaun Flora no Fauna: This volunteer group raises awareness of environmental protection at the Mangrove Centre in Hera, which has become one of Timor-Leste’s newest tourist attractions.
– Jeremias “Adino” Boavida, Head Waiter at the Caz Bar Restaurant: Adino has provided exemplary customer service to guests over his ten-year career. He was also recognized for his enthusiasm in offering tourism information and travel advice to visitors.
– Robert Crean and the Compass Diving Team: The award recognizes Robert Crean’s 13-year commitment to marine tourism in Timor-Leste, working closely with local communities in Atauro. Compass Diving has been active in marine biodiversity research and raising environmental awareness through field courses for Timorese students.
– Luis “Melky” Bere-Hunu and Dreamers Dive Academy: As the first Timorese to become a qualified dive instructor, Melky has been able to share his passion with young people keen to explore the underwater world in their own country.
– Danny Lee and Ocean View: Danny Lee invested in a restaurant and guest house in 2002 and has since expanded the business to include a dive center, whale-watching operation, and kite surfing school. Over the years he has engaged the local beachside community in activities to protect the marine environment.
– Manukoko Rek, Atauro: Operated by a local women’s group, this guesthouse, and restaurant invest 100 percent of its profits in the community, working with a network of small handicrafts businesses, and generating income to support families in one of the poorest parts of the island.
– Carlos Soares, Lauhata Resort Liquica: One of the first tourism entrepreneurs to invest in Liquica, Carlos Soares has trained and employed local youth to offer excellent service in his guesthouse and restaurant. Guests are encouraged to plant trees in the resort gardens.
– Francisco Alexandre Pereira, Bollore International: As air operations officer at Dili’s President Nicolau Lobato Airport, “Alex” Pereira has been recognized by grateful travelers for his support and assistance to passengers in difficulty and those with special needs.
The Solidarity Champions award recognizes tourism businesses that stepped up to help others who were affected by the dual tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic and the floods from Cyclone Seroja in April.
More than 40 people died in the floods, thousands of families were displaced to evacuation centers and the Government of Timor-Leste declared a state of calamity.
Although the industry was already reeling from the impact of COVID-19, some tourism businesses mobilized to help the community. Therefore the Solidarity Champion Awards were awarded to Pro Ema Training Restaurant and Agora Food Studio.
– Pro Ema Training Restaurant: Through its “Together We Are Stronger” campaign, Pro Ema raised more than $30,000 in relief funds, cooked, and distributed more than 30,000 meals to flood victims in evacuation camps, along with more than 20,000 kilograms of raw rice and 850 basic needs packages, including such items as groceries, bedding, kitchen utensils and face masks.
– Agora Food Studio: During the COVID-19 crisis, many small Timorese-owned businesses were dependent on social media marketing to offer takeaway and delivery services. With support from USAID, Agora Food Studio produced a series of instructional videos to improve e-marketing skills and to help restaurants apply health protocols when they reopened.
The floods also served as a stark reminder of the impact of climate change. Judges recognized three Climate Champions for their consistent efforts to encourage businesses and individuals to play their part in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. Therefore Judges selected three winners for the Climate awards, Potenzo Lopes, Fernando Madeira, and Eugenio”Ego” Lemos.
– Potenza Lopes: A wildlife conservationist and nature photographer, Potenza Lopes conducts birdwatching tours and runs education and outreach programs about wildlife and nature conservation for students. He co-founded the Tasi Mos movement that organizes community beach clean-up activities.
– Fernando Madeira, DaTerra Agroecological Farm, Baucau: At this farm and guesthouse founded on the principles of ecotourism, visiting school groups learn about how to mitigate climate change by reducing the carbon footprint, using local products, planting trees, and conserving water and energy.
– Eugenio “Ego” Lemos, PERMATIL: PERMATIL is a group working for sustainable farming through water and land conservation. Since 2008, more than 5,000 young people have participated in PermaYouth camps to learn about environmental issues and gain skills that can be taken back and shared with their communities.
“The Tourism Champions Awards will help boost morale and confidence in the tourism industry,” said Acting USAID Mission Director Carey.
“All Tourism Youth Ambassadors finalists are up-and-coming leaders who give hope for the future of tourism in Timor-Leste.”
The good news is the thing we need most at the moment. I know all of the members of my team will be so happy,” said Pro Ema Director Simone Barbosa de Assis.
At the same time, the judges have also selected Winners of this year’s Tourism Youth Ambassadors awards.
The winners are Maria Pereira and Ronaldo Ima Dias do Rego, both students at UNTL.
Judges selected these university tourism students at a recent public speaking competition on the World Tourism Day theme of “Tourism For Inclusive Growth.” Their public speaking skills will be put to good use as Tourism Youth Ambassadors in a yearlong internship with USAID’s Tourism For All project. They will raise awareness of the need for sustainable, inclusive tourism development, spreading the word to young people and communities around the country.
The event was organized with support from corporate partners Heineken Timor-Leste, East Timor Trading, the Hotel Owners of Timor-Leste Association (HOTLA), and Guidepost Magazine.
Journalist : Camilio de Sousa
Editor: Nelia B