Since Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesian occupation in 1999, tourism has been put forward as one of the major industries that can help the country’s development. Along side petroleum and agriculture, tourism has been considered an economic priority by the government. Agriculture employs around 64% of population but contributes only 27% to the GDP. Despite this, Timor-Leste remains dependant on food imports including bottled water, rice, chicken, and noodles. La’o Hamutuk, an NGO which monitors and analyses Timor-Leste development, estimates that the Petroleum Fund used to save revenue from Timor Sea oil exploration may become empty as early as in 2018.
Timor-Leste has limited amount of time to convert oil money into other sustainable industries. Given the fact that about 40% of population lives below poverty line, tourist development is paramount as a way to diversify economy, bring employment and rural development.
Currently, tourism in Timor-Leste is at an embryonic stage.
Events such as the Darwin-Dili Yacht Rally, the Dili Marathon and Tour de Timor have generated some positive publicity. The Timorese government also participates in international tourism expos.
The Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry recemt;y employed Caroline Pemberton (Miss Australia 2007), to develop a series of videos promoting Timor-Leste as a tourism destination. Arguably, these efforts are not enough.