Charlotte Rose Mellis

Women Take the Lead in Papua New Guinea Ecotourism

March 4, 2024
In partnership with:

Divinai local and VilLink Tour Operator, Maleta Tokwakwasi has partnered with ICT Oceania. Promoting travel experiences online, from the highlands to the islands of Milne Bay.

In January of 2024, Director of ICT Oceania, Charlotte Rose Mellis conducted a successful Milne Bay ecotourism scoping trip with VilLink Tours & Expedition PNG founding director, Maleta Tokwakwasi. The purpose of the in-country supplier meetings and community-preparedness workshops was to develop sincere face to face relationships, map stakeholders and identify opportunities, urgent needs and challenges within the network.

ICT Oceania and VilLink have formed a global digital partnership, where both female-founded companies are dedicated to growing regenerative economic opportunities within rural Milne Bay Province through developing gold-standard online operations and marketing the region internationally. Due to the ecological significance and cultural richness of Papua New Guinea as a nation, ecotourism is a primary focus in terms of sustainable industry growth. As a trusted professional within the community and as a specialist inbound tour operator, Maleta Tokwakwasi plays a pivotal role in advocating for, mediating with and mobilising current and next generation business leaders in her community.

VilLink Tours & Expedition PNG will be online and handling all-inclusive getaway package bookings through by April 2024. New to market destination partners Kobala Waterfall Retreat, Kwame Holiday House and Mona'nauna Beach Camp will be available to book by domestic and global travellers, exclusively through VilLink.

As part of the worldwide launch, VilLink and ICT Oceania have curated a 9-night BEWILDER Immersion for 4 participants per inter-island journey to experience the spectacular people and places of "Massim". The intimate and sacred expedition will be available once per month from July - October, 2024 and is destined to sell out fast.

Charlotte and Maleta are ecstatic to actualise plans that have been developing since first meeting in 2017, during Natures Leading Women in Brisbane. The 5 day business program was a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Global Sisters, who engaged Charlotte as a passionate entrepreneur to facilitate a process for utilising technical strategies to solve ecological challenges in Asia Pacific. As a keen diver and sailor, Charlotte shared the same urgency and dedication as Maleta to protect the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Triangle that Queensland and Milne Province share as neighbours.

After several years of professional discussions, sincere friendship, duties of Motherhood and individual career pursuits, the value of partnership became infinite. Within the first 12 months of online operations, the VilLink online business is forecast to generate new income streams for 20+ members of Milne Bay community and their families. In preparation for growth, VilLink has also hired 2 internal team members - providing global industry skills and experience through employment that is severely lacking in the region.

By creating the first of its kind, local, private industry global partnership Maleta is setting a new standard in the region. In fact, VilLink is raising the bar for the nation of Papua New Guinea in terms of strategic expansion. The vision together, is for the VilLink platform to create a foundation for an equitable economy to grow, driven by internal pioneers for the best outcomes of residents and their homelands.

The future looks bright.

Did you know?

  • The capital of Milne Bay Province is Alotau (Gurney Airport)
  • The region covers 14,345 km² of land and 252,990 km² of sea
  • There are more than 600 islands, of which about 160 are inhabited
  • Milne Bay is home to one of the most pristine reef systems within the Coral Triangle
  • 86% of Papua New Guinea's population live rurally

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