|Subject: East Timor Unrest Casts a Dark
Cloud Over Travel Industry
June 6, 2006
East Timor Unrest Casts a Dark Cloud Over Travel Industry
DILI, East Timor -- Tourism is a hard sell in East Timor, one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries. The capital, Dili, is a bleak place of arson fires, abandoned homes, shuttered shops, military patrols and bands of armed youths eager for a scuffle.
"It seems wrong that I'm spending my days at the pool and these bad things are happening," said Finnish tourist Carola Scharenberg, who once worked as a scuba-diving instructor in East Timor. Her return on vacation last week coincided with the worst violence since its 1999 break with Indonesia.
East Timor had big hopes for tourism after it gained independence in 2002, buoyed by a service industry that catered to thousands of United Nations troops and advisers.
But the violence has sapped East Timor's tourist industry of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellations for the rest of the year, said Gino Favaro, head of East Timor's tourist association. About 500 people visited each month on tourist visas before the crisis, he said.
Nevertheless, Mr. Favaro sees long-term potential, noting past upheaval including Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and a frenzy of violence in 1999 by the Indonesian military and militias after East Timor voted for self-rule.