Shirley and Dave Carlos have both worked in education, community development and social research for over 30 years. Their contact with the Timorese community in Melbourne Australia began in 1998. Over the following years their connections with the Timorese community grew and culminated in separate visits to Timor-Leste. Shirley took local buses and then Dave rode around on a motorcycle. Their reflections about the country were similar; It was very beautiful, the people in the districts were generous and friendly but very poor. The country had a very young population, unemployment was very high and the money they had from oil and gas is going to run out.
They wanted to do something to support development of the country and the people in the districts in particular. After exploring various strategies that had been used in other developing countries they identified tourism as an industry that was likely to be sustainable and have a positive financial impact across many districts. The idea that tourism would be one of the key employment industries along side agriculture was subsequently identified in the Timor-Leste 20 year strategic plan a few years after Timor Adventures commenced operations.
Moving from the idea of developing a social business to actually making it happen has been a long,complex and exciting journey over a number of years. Timor Adventures has achieved many of its goals but there is so much more to do. Tourism is very small in Timor-Leste; it is rated as one of the 25 least visited destinations in the world. Having such few tourists means limited income, guides don’t get to practice their skills and there is little competition with the result of little incentive to improve quality.
Shirley and David aim to increase sustainable tourism in Timor-Leste as a means for local people to reap economic benefit into the future. This will be best achieved by an approach that protects and preserves what is unique about the country, that is its cultural heritage and natural resources. Tourism4development provides a framework to achieve these outcomes.
Dave & Shirley