Sustainable tourism and alternative livelihood development on Atauro Island, Timor-Leste, through pro-poor, community-based ecotourism

  • Jose Filipe Dias Quintas

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    Timor-Leste, as a small island developing state and a fragile, post-conflict nation, faces major human development challenges, particularly in the areas of poverty alleviation, rural economic development and development of the ‘non-oil’ economy. Tourism has been identified as a key sector for economic development in the Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2011–2030, with community-based ecotourism (CBET) and propoor tourism (PPT) identified as the major tourism models. Over the past two decades, Ataúro Island has been a national and international model of CBET and PPT development. This study assesses the economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts and benefits of CBET and PPT programmes for local communities on Ataúro Island through island-level, participatory mapping and spatial analysis of ecotourism assets and key infrastructure.

    A quantitative assessment of CBET development was conducted through a survey of 150 households in three villages of Ataúro Island (Vila Maumeta, Beloi and Bikeli). Among the 150 participants, additional CBET socio-economic data were collected from 29 individual CBET owners/managers. A SWOT analysis of CBET development was undertaken for two CBET enterprises, namely, the Tua Ko’in Eco-Village (representing a ‘bottom-up’ approach) and the Adara CBET (representing a ‘top-down’ approach). 

    The overwhelming majority of the survey respondents reported that CBET was important for their local economy (94–98 per cent) and strongly supported further CBET development rather than mass tourqism (88–96 per cent). Economically, CBET had created jobs, increased the value of local labour and materials, provided markets for local products and increased revenue for the local transport sector Socio-culturally, CBET had promoted and strengthened local culture through its support of Ataúrian traditional handicrafts. This benefit was mitigated by evidence of emerging sociocultural impacts on local communities. Environmentally, CBET enterprises were found to have had low or minimal impacts and had contributed significantly to sustainable tourism development.

    The results confirm that Ataúro Island has significant ecotourism assets that could be further developed through CBET and PPT development. However, infrastructure, human resources, land tenure issues and financial limitations are significant challenges. Most of the CBET activities on Ataúro Island have been initiated by local communities and assisted by local NGOs. Local communities recognise the need for effective management and are seeking greater regulatory support. Customary laws are viewed as a potential tool for managing the local impacts of CBET.
    Date of AwardMar 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKaren Edyvane (Supervisor), Owen Stanley (Supervisor), Aggie Wegner (Supervisor) & Julian Gorman (Supervisor)

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