Location: Colchester
Wanted: A family of five – mum, dad, and teenagers aged 13, 15, 17 – want a summer holiday in Spain, probably somewhere on the mainland coast or Balearic Islands. They want activities for the teens and relaxation for the parents, such as spa or gym facilities and are interested in different board options, including all-inclusive, and different flight times and want airports within easy reach.
Budget: £5,000

2/3 St Nicholas Passage

Impression: The shop was clean, with no litter outside. Staff were neat, and the displays had summer and family holiday brochures by the entrance.

Service: The store was busy, but an agent immediately said he would be with me in a couple of minutes after he had completed his previous booking. I was given his undivided attention, as he showed lots of options on his computer. He recommended different areas and transport options, highlighting how certain resorts were more family-friendly, while some hotels were more authentically Spanish. He offered insurance but did not mention airport hotels, parking, car hire or other extras. I was given a business card along with the quotes, and he tried to close the sale by saying I could secure the holiday that day with a £25 deposit per person.

Quotes: Both quotes were seven-night all-inclusive First Choice holidays, flying from Luton with Ryanair. The first departed on July 29, offering SuneoClub Caribe in Es Cana, Ibiza, for £3,881. He said this was a good price for five people for a week in Spain during peak season. The second departed on July 30 to SuneoClub Villa Dorada in Salou, Costa Dorada, for £3,742. Both hotels had kids’ clubs and lots of activities.

Overall: The very friendly agent impressed with knowledge and enthusiasm to find ideal holidays.

Thomas Cook
124 High Street

Impression: The shop and employees were smart, while the window and brochure displays were colourful and attractive.

Service: The agent offered to help immediately and we looked at various options on the computer. He printed the ones that I liked but didn’t try to close the sale. He had stayed in Costa Dorada and Costa Brava, and shared his personal opinions about the suitability of different resorts for a family. The recommendations suited my needs as both hotels had a kids’ club and lots of activities. I declined a quote of £75 for in-flight meals because of the short flights and departure timings, and I was not offered any further products. The agent was enthusiastic, giving me his undivided attention. I was given a business card and told that I could phone any time if I had further questions.

Quotes: Both were seven-night, all-inclusive Thomas Cook holidays in August. The first featured Ryanair flights from Gatwick, and a two-room apartment in Festival Village and Aquopolis Waterpark, Cap Salou, Costa Dorada, for £4,866. The second offered Ryanair flights from Stansted, and interconnecting family rooms at Iberostar Las Dalias, Tenerife, for £5,327. I was told both quotes represented good value for money.

Overall: I was impressed by the agent’s knowledge, service and recommendations.

Co-op Travel
Montrose House, 3 Eld Lane

Impression: The shop and employees were looked presentable, and the displays were bright and interesting.

Service: As I entered, a friendly agent offered to help and we discussed my requirements. She didn’t have many options on her computer and didn’t try to close the sale – I only received a business card after I asked for one. The agent didn’t offer suggestions about the area or hotels, so I didn’t feel that the conversation was tailored to my needs. The recommendations did suit me, but the first quote was well over budget. I was not offered additional products to pre-book and the agent didn’t take my contact details. She gave me her undivided attention, but the service seemed a bit robotic.

Quotes: Both quotes were all-inclusive, seven-night Jet2holidays options in August, flying with Jet2 from Stansted to Majorca. The first was staying in a two-bedroom apartment at Zafiro Mallorca, Can Picafort, for £6,330. I was told that this option was good because the hotel had a spa and kids’ clubs. The second was a two-bedroom apartment at BelleVue Bonita, Alcudia, for a much lower price of £3,880. This hotel had a kids’ club and daily entertainment.

Overall: My experience was average and the agent didn’t give as much advice or choice as the others.

Winning agent

Gary Cook, travel advisor

“I’ve worked for Tui for almost 30 years – I was overseas for 21 years, as a rep and in resorts, and then in my home town here as an agent. We sell a lot of Spain and I know about all the resorts. I love being with customers and booking the right holiday for them.”


The service and options offered by Tui impressed the mystery shopper, who would have booked if it had been a genuine inquiry. Thomas Cook offered good quotes, close to the budget, but would have scored higher with more effort to close the sale or chase up afterwards. The Co-op Travel agent didn’t offer as much information or advice, so the shopper would be unlikely to book.


The top-scoring agent each weeks bags a £25 Amazon or Love2Shop voucher, courtesy of Elite Island Resorts.

Elite Island Resorts offers eight all-inclusive beach properties in the Caribbean.

Antigua: Galley Bay Resort & Spa; Hammock Cove Resort & Spa; St James’s Club & Villas; The Verandah Resort & Spa; and Pineapple Beach Club.

Barbados: The Club, Barbados Resort & Spa

Saint Lucia: St James’s Club Morgan Bay

St Vincent & The Grenadines: Palm Island Resort & Spa.

As well as all-inclusive Caribbean holidays in beachfront locations, Elite Island Resorts offers family and adult-only resorts, and free wedding and honeymoon packages.