Subject: East Timor To Get Its First Luxury Resort

East Timor To Get Its 1st Luxury Resort

By Siti Rahil

DILI, Oct. 31 (Kyodo News) -- A Singaporean businessman plans to build the first luxury resort in East Timor, a move that could boost the tourism dream of Asia's newest country as it struggles to develop its fledgling oil-based economy, officials said this week.

Malaysia-based Edward Ong will invest about $250 million to build the resort on a sprawling site in the country's capital Dili, East Timor's minister for tourism, commerce and industry said in an interview with Kyodo News.

A basic agreement for the project was signed between Ong and the Timorese government earlier this month, Gil Alves said.

The resort will be built between two ridges in Taci Tolu on the coast of western Dili and will have a five-star hotel with about 350 rooms, a 27-hole golf course set amid lakes, and a business park.

''This will be the first five-star hotel in East Timor,'' Alves said.

The resort is expected to bring new job opportunities for the country that is still struggling to achieve stability since independence from Indonesia in 2002.

The country's unemployment rate is at 40 percent.

Alves estimated about 2,000 workers will be needed for construction of the resort, which, when ready, will employ about 1,000 workers.

Ong is well known for having successfully developed the Sutera Harbour luxury resort in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of East Malaysia in Sabah. The resort has two five-star hotels offering nearly 1,000 rooms and a 27-hole golf course.

In a telephone interview, Ong confirmed that a master-plan has been done and the resort in East Timor could be completed by 2012.

He said the resort will initially target business travelers as more businesses are now heading to East Timor to look for opportunities.

But he also sees a big potential for tourism in the longer run.

''We feel there's lot of potential, but it may take longer than we expect. It's a virgin place that people have not explored yet,'' Ong said.

The resort will have its own power plant and a water treatment facility and the business park will cater to businesses facing difficulty finding office space due to the country's poor infrastructure.

Alves said Ong has also expressed interest in expanding the resort in a second phase that could boost the number of rooms to nearly 1,000.

The proposed resort will be near the former center where Japanese peacekeeping troops helped train locals in the use of vehicles for construction several years ago, Alves said.

East Timor is trying to build infrastructure to support tourism, which is one of the industries it is planning to grow as to avoid over-dependence on the country's oil and gas resources.

The country is home to one of the world's most beautiful scuba diving sites.

It hopes to complete the expansion of its airport in two years, lengthening the runway from 1.8 to 3.3 kilometers to accommodate bigger planes.

Currently there are only three air routes to the country -- from Denpasar on the Indonesian island Bali, from Darwin in Australia and more recently from Singapore.

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