Papua New Guinea bucket list: Walindi Plantation Resort

Nestled in PNG’s Kimbe Bay in West New Britain, Walindi Plantation Resort is a gem for divers eager to encounter some of the most beautiful, unspoiled coral reefs in the world. Sonja Heydeman learns more, as part of our ongoing tour of some of PNG’s leading tourist locations.

Credit: Tobias Friedrich/Walindi Resort

Credit: Tobias Friedrich/Walindi Resort

 

Cheyne and Max Benjamin of Walindi Plantation Resort

Cheyne and Max Benjamin of Walindi Plantation Resort

Established 30 years ago with just a couple of rooms, Walindi Plantation Resort now boasts more than 20, but actively works to retain its small, family feel.

The nearest airport, Hoskins, is a short hour and ten minute flight from Port Moresby, with the journey to Walindi a further hour by vehicle. The resort is also home to the MV FeBrina, a boutique live-on-board dive vessel.

General Manager Cheyne Benjamin, a second-generation operator at Walindi, says he’s acutely aware of the importance of business clients-currently their third biggest market behind diving and bird watching.

Brief stays

Benjamin says the trend is typically for brief stays but with repeat business, and it’s not just the expat community—wealthy Papua New Guineans also come over for short breaks, especially from Port Moresby:

‘Moresby is very important to us as a market because we get a lot of clients who want to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a relaxing break.’

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The PNG LNG project has contributed to a boost in the flow of business travellers over the past couple of years, and numbers have remained steady this year, although the strength of the kina has somewhat dampened Walindi’s earnings.

However, the resort is particularly rich in recognition. Walindi has this year been honoured with a Certificate of Excellence award from global tourism site TripAdvisor—an accolade earned only by the top-performing 10% of businesses it lists.

New target market

Credit: Marcelo Krause

Credit: Marcelo Krause

To cater to increasing executive demand, Benjamin says he is currently considering building a few luxury bungalows, and is keenly looking to fill gaps in the market.

‘While the conferencing market is well catered for in PNG, I see huge potential to target small executive meetings,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.

New developments would include building a dedicated boardroom and having several hire vehicles available for use during stays.

Regional potential

Benjamin says the regional potential is exciting, with Hoskins Airport about to undergo an extension and plans in place to upgrade the town’s wharf.

While he’s buoyed by domestic optimism, Benjamin also hopes in future to see growth in PNG tourism coming from the ex-Soviet bloc countries, plus India and China, but acknowledges current tourist visa restrictions stifle competitiveness.

‘There needs to be a lot of pressure put on the government to recognise this, because industries like agriculture and tourism are your long-term sustainable industries,” he appealed.

As Benjamin contemplates a possible third generation of the family taking over the reins one day, he says an emphasis on experience and excellent service will hopefully ensure Walindi both endures and grows as a premier destination for travellers to the region.

A Walindi bungalow. Credit: Juergen Freund

A Walindi bungalow. Credit: Juergen Freund

Sonja Heydeman is a freelance journalist with an interest in the Asia Pacific region.

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