Travel e-Commerce Makes a Difference in East Timor

By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, a country ravaged by conflict for almost 35 years, has entered the world of travel e-commerce with the successful launch of a new website – www.timorleste-hotels.com.

The site features most of the country’s commercial accommodation – just a few hundred rooms – and is run as a partnership between whl.travel and local operator Jim’s Getaway Travel.

Ligia Da Silva Amaral, co-owner of JGT, said:  “Arriving in Timor-Leste used to be like arriving at your first day at school, not knowing what to expect or what was available.”

“Now, for the first time in the history of the country, independent travellers in Timor Leste have a local partner who (can) provide them with secure reservations.”

She and her husband operate the site under a franchise arrangement from whl.travel, which began in 2002 as a pilot project by the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank) to bring third-world tourism into the e-marketplace.

Now a private company, whl.travel has built a global network of more than 100 web sites in more than 50 countries with an emphasis on developing and emerging markets.

The Timor-Leste site was supported by grants from IFC Advisory Services – Pacific through its Tourism Program, which is co-funded by the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

CEO of whl.travel, Len Cordiner, said tourism and e-commerce has a key role to play in the economic regeneration of Timor-Leste.

“Like many people, I watched with horror as conflict raged in Timor-Leste over the past decade,” Cordiner said.

“However, this tiny nation has shown enormous heart and resilience and has finally emerged as an independent state.

“The real challenge now, as with any post-conflict country, is to rebuild confidence with the people and with investors and to focus on jobs.

“Given the abundance of fabulous tourism assets in the country, tourism is one industry that can move quickly in generating employment, as well as allowing visitors a chance to meet the locals, see the sights and spread a positive word about the country.”

Travel Trends: January 12, 2009

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