21 April 2005 Timor-Leste, the world’s youngest country, has become the newest applicant for membership of the United Nations tourism agency, a global forum that plays a decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
The South-east Asian country’s request, together with those of Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and Belarus, which announced their intention to join earlier this year, will be submitted in November to the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) General Assembly in Senegal.
Tourism potential in Timor-Leste, which only became independent three years ago, includes snorkelling and scuba-diving in the clear ocean waters of the Timor Sea, dolphin and whale watching, bird watching, trekking and mountaineering and exploring cultural treasures from the Portuguese colonial times in Dili, the capital, and other towns.
With the new members WTO will comprise 148 Member States, seven territories and over 300 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, destinations and education, serving as a forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how.
Headquartered in Madrid, the agency plays a major role in stimulating public-private sector partnerships and encouraging the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to ensure that member countries, tourist destinations and businesses maximize the positive economic, social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits, while minimizing its negative social and environmental impacts.