Timor-Leste is experiencing the “tragedy” of being “completely hostage to Australian and Indonesian area companies operating” gangster behavior, “keeping prices disproportionately high”, Jose Ramos-Horta said.

“We have this country completely hostage to Garuda’s air gangsterism”, said the former President of the Republic, referring to the Indonesian state-owned company, which owns the Sriwijaya and Citilink companies, which fly to Timor-Leste.

“And we remain AirNorth hostages, which is a stealth robbery,” he said, referring to the Qantas company that maintains a monopoly on flights between Timor-Leste and Australia on one of the world’s most expensive routes.

Ramos-Horta was speaking in Dili at the official launch of the country’s first hotel association, HOTL, which was created by ten hotel units, located predominantly in the country’s capital.

The Timorese historic leader also said that prices were particularly high given the quality of some of the planes.

The issue of air travel prices is currently one of the biggest obstacles to tourism in Timor-Leste, which is already weak because of other challenges, especially in terms of infrastructures.

As of April 1, the country will become even more isolated, with the end of the flights between Dili and Singapore, one of only three current international connections, with the other two connecting to Bali in Indonesia and Darwin, Australia, to be most expensive in the world, in price per kilometer.

With a monopoly, since 1999, in connection with Darwin, AirNorth, of the Australian giant Qantas, continues to maintain prices per kilometer especially high.

For April, the indicative price for a Dili-Darwim round trip (722 kilometers for each route) is more than 600 US dollars (about 530 euros).

In the same period, a return flight between Darwin and Singapore (3,350 kilometers for each route) costs close to half.

The link with Indonesia also depends on a monopoly, in this case the Garuda group under the Citilink and Sriwijaya brands.

In the last six months, the prices of these carriers’ flights more than tripled.

A round trip between Dili and Denpasar, the capital of Bali (1,140 kilometers each way) costs more than $ 590, while a flight between Kupang, the capital of West Timor, and Surabaya, the second largest Indonesian city (1,236 kilometers each), costs only 150.

That means the price per kilometer and per Dili-Bali place is 26 cents, 20 cents more than the six cents between Kupang-Surabaya.

Ramos-Horta used the speech to leave messages to the Government, stating that “the leadership talks a lot about tourism, as an alternative to oil and gas,” but the statements “are not reflected in the budget.”

“I know that people in the Ministry of Tourism have struggled for years to have a decent budget that barely reaches the operating costs of the ministry itself,” he said.

The former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner also referred to a recent meeting with Foreign Minister Dionisio Babo on a campaign to promote investment in Timor-Leste.

“I told him that we should start to embrace, to praise the investors who are already here in this country, who came when nobody wanted to come, who took risks, invested,” he said.