Business Development Director
Home base: Sydney
Years in travel industry: 20+ years
If you were to ask Michelle Bassil, Business Development Director (APAC), what her main responsibility is at TourismSolved, expect a direct answer: “Ultimately, to help tour and activity providers be more profitable!” She’s got a proven track record at it, too. Michelle, a Sydney native, has spent the last two decades developing a deep knowledge of tourism businesses, and the destinations they operate in, at companies including Qantas, Adventure World, Viator, and Tripadvisor. Her background, she mentions, “allows me to work with tour and activity operators, no matter how big or small, to devise a plan that fits their business. In this sector of the industry, a one-size-fits-all approach is just not going to work.”
Michelle feels grateful for where her career has taken her, affording her some of her favorite travel destinations, most of which carry common themes: amazing hiking experiences, great food and wine, and water activities. Some of her most memorable travel memories include hiking the Hollyford Track on the South Island of New Zealand; swimming with humpback whales in Tonga; and wine tasting in Australian wine regions such as Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Orange, Mudgee, Margaret River, the Barossa, Clare Valley, and McLaren Vale.
Learn more about Michelle
What are some of your career highlights?
Early in my career I worked for Qantas Holidays in both Sydney and London. It was working in London that opened my eyes to all the great things there were to do in my own backyard. Typical Australian behavior! We are such great world travelers but quite often not totally aware of all the great things to do there are on our own doorstep.
I then went to work for outbound travel operators including Adventure World managing their product offering in India & South Asia, and South and Central America. What a gig! During this time, I travelled extensively through India, travelled almost every road and rail track in Sri Lanka, and spent days on seaplanes and boats sourcing resorts in the Maldives. Managing Latin America allowed me the opportunity to explore the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon, and the glaciers of Patagonia.
After a short stint living in Hong Kong and working with an inbound tour operator in the MICE space (another great gig!), I returned to Australia and started what was to be 12 exciting years with Viator, changing the landscape for the tours and activities sector.
What’s a favorite memory of a tour experience you’ve taken?
So many! Memories of travelling through Australia’s Northern Territory always make me smile. I have had so many great NT experiences. Watching the sunset at Uluru, followed by dinner under the stars — and when I say stars, I have never seen any as spectacular as they were in Australia’s Red Centre.
Joining a helifishing tour out of Darwin tops it all off. Just for the record: I did not catch any fish because it was the end of the season (I will stick to that excuse). While going home with a few barramundi under my belt would have been great, the day was not diminished by the lack of a catch. After flying over the top end of Australia with the doors off on our helicopter, I did get to enjoy someone else’s catch cooked to perfection that night at Hanuman, one of Darwin’s many great restaurants.
What is it about working in the travel industry that you love the most?
It’s always been about working with so many great, passionate people.
What’s been a big learning moment in your career?
There’s not a moment, per se, rather a mantra: Listening is better than talking.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?
There are many. I am passionate about working with tour operators to increase their sales and build their businesses by increasing their distribution in their respective region, as well as my time on a team that pioneered online bookings for tours and activities. I am always so happy to hear that my guidance has led a tour operator to grow their business in ways that could mean they get to purchase another vehicle, another boat, or generally have the ability to put on more tours.
How do you see travel changing over time? What’s exciting about these potential changes?
We are in very uncertain times, and my thoughts on this are changing weekly, if not daily. For now, I believe there are lots of opportunities in domestic and local experiences. From a consumer point of view, there is an elevated importance on safety and also being supportive of local businesses. More people will be looking to book direct and to have a direct relationship with those they are booking with.
What 3 things can every tour operator do to make their experience enjoyable for travelers?
1. Make the booking process as easy as possible. Only focus on collecting information that is essential. Nothing else matters in these initial stages. Don’t get bogged down in the minute details you think you need, you can collect this information post booking. Requiring too much information in the booking process will in most cases result in it all being too hard, and your potential customers backing out of a booking they had the intention of purchasing.
2. Hire passionate and dedicated guides — they are your best commodity. Over my years looking through Viator and TripAdvisor reviews, the guide is the one component of the tour that will be mentioned in the majority of reviews, and will either make or break the customer experience.
3. Include a component that they won’t find anywhere else. If this is not possible, highlight how you do it better than a traveler could do themselves.
When you’re not working, where can we find you?
On a walking track somewhere in the world, actually you will find me most days on a walking track, even when I am working. It is also my favourite meeting room — there is no better place for brainstorming or problem solving.