A Conversation with Michelle Bishop, Founder and Proprietor of Bangalay Luxury Villas at Shoalhaven Heads.
In a recent exclusive interview with Travel Weekly, Michelle Bishop, the visionary force behind Bangalay Luxury Villas, shared insights into the exquisite property nestled in the heart of Shoalhaven Heads. As the Founder and Proprietor, Bishop graciously talked us through the essence of Bangalay, and her thoughts on the industry.
Tell us about your role at Bangalay?
My role has evolved from Property Developer, Interior Designer in the pre-launch phase to the General Manager role. My time is predominately spent on Marketing, Human Resources, Finance and collaboration with other tourism industry people, my favourite thing is helping people create a memorable experience, sometimes its a small touch like suggesting a day trip itinerary or pulling off a perfect wedding.
What are your key priorities for 2023 and beyond?
Bangalay has been open for business for 5 years now and its fair to say the past 5 years have been anything other than predictable. My priority for the business now is to lean into our strengths and continue to develop our team and service offerings. I would really like to work more with the international market and luxe agents as our region has a lot to offer their guests and generally is though of as being “undiscovered” as opposed to other more established destinations in Australia.
What is the purpose and personality of the “Bangalay” brand and how do you, your staff and/or your guests live and breathe these values?
At Bangalay we have created a quintessentially “NSW South Coast” experience. We celebrate all things around us from the surrounding Bangalay Sand forest to the incredible local produce, brewers, distillers and wine makers. Our staff are locals who are passionate about showing the best of our region to visitors. The team patriciate regularly in industry famils to learn about what’s on offer so they are able to suggest experiences to our guests. Being a regional resort we prioritise engagement, friendless and willingness to acquire product knowledge (food, wine etc) when recruiting staff.
What’s the biggest trends and opportunities in the industry at present?
with trends we are seeing an increase in Destination dining, the Sydney Morning Hearld Good Food Guide have put a lot of effort in over the past few years of ‘discovering’ the best dining experiences in the regions. The NSW South Coast has several hated Restaurants (Bangalay Dining included) and many other establishments have been mentioned in the guide. In terms of opportunities, we cater very well to babymooners and newborns, kids in high chairs and prams, not many properties welcome families but at Bangalay it works really well. The villas are all self contained but serviced daily so are really well set up for people with new babies. Every cocktail we have on our list (including our famous saltbush margarita) can be made using non alcoholic spirits. We can arrange babysitters or offer in villa dining so guests can enjoy the restaurant meals however best works for them. We also offer the children’s menu at happy hour while parent enjoy a cocktail and some snacks.
What do you see as the biggest threat to the global travel industry right now?
The troubles in both the Ukraine and Middle East will have a continued flow on impact on global travel either directly or indirectly with the impact on increased cost of fuel etc
How do you think Bangalay differentiates itself from other hotels in the market here in the Australia?
Bangalay has its own personality being an independent resort. I had the opportunity from my many years of experience as an interior designer to understand that a strong concept creates a great foundation for any design but with Bangalay it flowed into the menu, cocktail list, style of service, and basically all components of the resort. Weve always had a clear style guide and menu concept, I love overhearing the staff considering options and saying “I think this is more Bangalay” our brand and style is very much understood by the team. We have a large number of repeat guests, people love being remembered and our team see it as a huge compliment to have people return.
What is the one thing you’d like Australian travel agents to know about Bangalay?
We are very good at doing the special touches to make your guests stay memorable, from setting up an engagement proposal to suggesting an itinerary for a family with special needs we are here to help. With the recent closure of Wolgan Valley many agents have been recommending Bangalay as an alternative as we can work with tour operators who can provide similar experiences in the Morton National Park and offer the Horse Riding experiences through Regal Riding School on Seven Mile Beach
What keeps you up at night?
I’m lucky to be someone who is generally a great sleeper, I have done a few very late nights when we’ve had some big projects on and I’ve just needed some distraction free time to get through it all.
How do you relax?
I’m a very keen bushwalker and try to catch the sunrise on Seven Mile Beach each morning with our Labrador Rosebud. I also love receiving and consuming hospitality as much as I enjoy providing it, there is nothing better than a long lunch with friends or family, a few cocktails with the girls or a wellness retreat weekend. I am also a great lover of the Arts and have been a very enthusiastic supporter of the Bundanon Art Museum (which I was also a board member of), The Sydney Dance Company and the local Albatross Musical Theatre Group and Nowra Players. I have 4 children and they love surfing and I really enjoy being their photographer and having multiple surfboard racks around the house. I also have a keen interest in politics and digest what some would describe as an unhealthy amount of news articles and podcasts.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about yourself or the about Bangalay?
I am the President of the South Coast Tourism Industry Association, The association was formed after the Black Summer bushfire of 2019/2020 and represents the tourism industry south of Sydney to the Victorian boarder. The Association works together to cohesively promote our region as an international destination as well as being a representative group to all levels of government and other industry organisations. The South Coast is a perfect road trip destination for the domestic market and self drive itinerary for the international market. There is a growing number of sophisticated commissionable products coming to the market, in particular Indigenous Cultural experiences which are becoming hugely popular in our high end/luxe markets.
Bangalay is an ideal first stop on an extended South Coast road trip being 2 hours from Sydney or 3 from Canberra. It is ideal for exploring Jervis Bay, Kangaroo Valley and the recently opened Bundanon Art Museum which is a National Collecting Institute and former home of Artist Arthur Boyd before he donated the property and a large collection of Art to the Australian People.