Timor-Leste has officially launched a travel association bringing together all religions to promote religious tourism, a sector that the Catholic-majority country is seeking to develop to diversify its economy. Source: UCA News.
The launch of the Timor-Leste Religious Tourism Association was held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili on Tuesday. It coincided with the anniversary of Pope St John Paul II’s visit in 1989 when the country, also known as East Timor, was still under Indonesian rule.
Archbishop Dom Virgílio do Carmo da Silva of Dili and Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, the apostolic nunciature’s chargé d’affaires, joined senior government officials at the launch, which was also attended by representatives of the United States Government, which sponsored the association’s establishment.
The launch follows the association’s official registration in July when it received a $US110,000 grant from the Timor-Leste Government.
USAID, the American government’s international development agency, said the new association seeks to capture a portion of the estimated $US18 billion global religious tourism market in which, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation, some 330 million tourists visit religious sites worldwide each year.
The next steps for the tourism association include a national survey of faith-based tourism attractions and hospitality and tour guide training for young people
The move to form the association had been in the pipeline since 2018, with USAID support through the Tourism For All Project in which the country’s religious leaders — Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Confucian — set up a working group to explore the potential for faith-based tourism and subsequently organised an international tourism conference.
Timor-Leste launches religious tourism association (By Ryan Dagur, UCA News)