Paulina Quintao – The general director for Tourism Jose Quintas appealed to all citizens to be responsible for keeping the capital, Dili, clean and beautiful because doing so will attract more tourists to Timor-Leste which will also raise the country's national revenue.
He said the national strategic plan 2011-2030 states that the tourism sector is key for the future economic prosperity of Timor-Leste, therefore there needs to be a plan and integrated intervention program by line ministries with the contribution from society to raise the economic standards of the country.
"We ask every Timorese to strengthen the country's stability and keep clean the city because we are a small country that tourists love to come and visit but people will leave disgusted if all they see is a dirty environment," he said in his office, in Farol, Dili.
He said a clean environment will not only benefit the tourism sector but also public health.
He added for any country, the tourism sector is a major industry, but it is complex because it required not only tourist attractions but also adequate infrastructure, public transport, telecommunication, clean water and security.
As an example, he mentioned the 2006 crisis that engulfed Timor-Leste, as a result the number of international visitors drastically decreased. Since then the number of visitors has been increasing gradually each year.
"Timor-Leste is a new tourist destination in the Asian and in the Asia Pacific region so everyone wants to come and visit," he added.
He said the numbers of tourists have increased annually and yet the tourism sector is not able determine its contribution to the tourism industry because there isn't an integrated revenue system about the revenues collected from the tourism sector.
He added Tourism Timor-Leste has already had coordination meetings with the Timor-Leste National Bank of Commerce (BNCTL) and other development partners to try and develop an appropriate system that reports on revenue collected from the tourism sector and its contribution to national economic growth.
Meanwhile, the program manager for community tourism at Haburas Foundation, Pedrito Vieira, said the issue of waste in urban areas is an ongoing issue that has not yet been resolved because there is no concrete action from the government on a waste management system.
"The traditional Taibessi Market is a potential destination for tourists to visit because they want to see how the Timorese people go about their business, but the market is in very poor condition, full of rubbish and no toilet," he said.
He said not only the markets but also other tourism attractions including parks also have very poor facilities, they lack especially toilet facilities and are full of waste that can be harmful to tourist's health.
He recommends the government applies a waste tax in Dili municipality so that the citizens in urban areas can contribute towards supporting waste management using local resources.
On the other hand, the Secretary of State for Environment, Demetrio de Amaral de Carvalho, said there are some positive efforts made by the government including in establishing an Environment Awareness Brigade in every suku to provide education and help families to manage household waste.
He added the brigade will help identify the problem and work with the households to create a strategic plan on waste management, including develop waste management infrastructure and create rubbish containers in every household.
"We raise awareness especially related to the environment sector. We go down and talk to the community and we inform youths so they can go down to the base and together with the families be responsible for adequate waste management," he said.
He said also that brigades have been established in all municipalities to help the government raise awareness to communities on how to look after the environment, including for example to combat illegal hunting, cutting down trees, and traditional slash and burn practices.