Written by Eleni Karametaxas
As part of my master thesis I had the chance to work with SCOPE ASIA Timor. When I told my friends and family I will travel to Timor-Leste most of them responded with a clueless “Where?”. For many Westerners the young nation is still an undiscovered destination and thus for me, whose thesis topic revolves around multi-sector collaborations in sustainable tourism development, an even more intriguing study location. The reaction of one friend in particular kept me thinking. She said “East Timor… It sounds like an imaginary place”.
I started my trip in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. Here I realized that my field research would not be possible without the support of Barbara Lietz and her team at SCOPE ASIA, Dahlia Bernardo and Januario Carvalho. Their insights into Timor-Leste’s history, culture, people and politics helped me understand linkages much better and faster. One of the many assets of SCOPE ASIA is their diverse range of projects (water supply, health care, education, tourism etc.). Accordingly, their strong and long-standing network of local partners could not be more varied. These relationships are built on trust and are the reason that people like me, coming from outside, have the possibility to gain access to key local players and institutions.
After spending some time in Dili, where I got a first overview of the situation, we left for Oe-cusse, the enclave in the Western part of the island. In Oe-cusse I did not find the imaginary place my friend was talking about but a place of imagination. Not because it does not exist, it is very much real but because the people here are imaginative. They have a clear vision for their region and their working persistently to turn it from imagination into reality. Isolated for the longest time and forgotten in previous attempts to rebuild the country, it is impressive to see what the people of Oe-cusse have achieved in a very short period of time. Some of these efforts are immediately visible: the roads that are being built everywhere you go in Oe-cusse; the irrigation system to diversify rice plantations and make them less dependent on rainfalls; the street cleaners that keep the town and beach always spotless and so on. The portfolio of projects the regional authority (ZEESM) is currently implementing is diverse and ambitious. They range from basic infrastructure to an international airport and a top quality health care facility. But there is more to the movement in Oe-cusse than what you can see at first sight. Looking below the surface you soon realize that the level of coordination and collaboration is equally as impressive as the tangible achievements. I had the opportunity to talk to various people and to gain an insight into some of the projects and work processes. Even though my time in Oe-cusse was limited, I observed that assignments are approached in a very structured and well thought out manner. Most importantly however, people coordinate their work amongst each other and integrate all relevant stakeholders. In a world where NGOs, governments and private sector are all competing for mandates and funding for development projects, seeing a place where resources are used effectively and with a collaborative spirit is refreshing and inspiring. I, for one cannot wait to see what Oe-cusse will look like in a month, a year and a decade.
The fast paced hospitality and tourism industry with its manifold opportunities always fascinated me. I graduated from École hôtelière de Lausanne with a Bachelor in International Hospitality Management in 2012. Before, during and after my studies I consolidated my knowledge in varying working environments in different countries.
After my studies I worked in Laos for a hospitality training center. There I started to understand the importance of good education in the development of a sustainable tourism industry.
I am currently in the last semester for my Master degree in International Management from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. With the support of SCOPE ASIA I am writing my thesis on collaborations in the development of a tourism industry in Timor-Leste. At the same time I am working as an Assistant Manager in a hotel in Basel, Switzerland.