Location: Exeter
Wanted: A retired widow would like to book a relaxing holiday in Malta, to enjoy some guaranteed sunshine in the company of like-minded people. She has travelled by herself before and likes to have other mature British holidaymakers in the same hotel and/or resort. She can travel outside the usual school holiday dates to get a better price. Local flight departures would be preferable to avoid travelling too far to a UK airport.
Budget: £1,200

Thomas Cook
7 High Street
89%

Impression: The shop was clean and neat, with well-displayed brochures and staff in uniforms.

Service: When I arrived, one agent was dealing with a customer and the other was on the telephone. I waited less than five minutes to be helped by a third member of staff who entered the shop. She was friendly, enthusiastic and patient, and gave me a lot of choices. I was asked if I wanted to book but I didn’t feel pressurised, and the agent offered to ring the next day to follow up the inquiry. She had good knowledge and spoke to a colleague who had visited one of the resorts that they were talking about.

Quotes: The first quote was an 11-night holiday with Sunspot Tours, flying from Exeter to Malta with Ryanair in June and staying at Preluna Hotel in Sliema, for £982. The second was a seven-night Thomas Cook package in June, flying from Exeter with Flybe to Majorca to stay at Cook’s own-brand Sentido Tucan Hotel, Cala Dor, for £807. The agent felt the flight times were similar to the Maltese holiday and the destination offered a reasonable alternative to compare with the first quote.

Overall: The hotels looked attractive, and the alternative holiday suggested in Majorca was an ideal substitute if the shopper wanted something cheaper.

Hays Travel
14, St Thomas Centre, Cowick Street
85%

Impression: It was an attractive, welcoming agency with plenty of brochures, tidy desks and uniformed agents.

Service: As I walked in, a friendly agent smiled, said good morning and began to help me. The agent asked lots of questions and offered plenty of advice, adding they would contact me afterwards to follow up the query. When talking about Malta and the hotel in question, the agent knew a lot and said other clients had stayed there and were happy with their holidays.

Quotes: The first was for a seven-night holiday with Belleair, departing in June from Exeter with Ryanair. It would be staying at Qawra Palace Hotel, Qawra, Malta, on an all-inclusive basis for £775 including taxi transfers and pre-allocated seats on the plane. The agent said they had booked guests into this hotel on many occasions and a lot of them made return bookings. Alternatively, a 10-night stay in July would cost £1,175 and the flight times would be more convenient. The agent also rang solo holiday specialist Just You but there was no availability for this year, so I was given a relevant page from the brochure showing eight-day holidays from £999.

Overall: I felt that the agent listened closely to me and the hotel and resort that were suggested looked suitable.

Tui
The Guildhall Shopping Centre, Paul Street
78%

Impression: It was quite cramped with lots of desks – but it was neat and staff were very smartly dressed in uniform.

Service: The staff were busy when I arrived but after less than five minutes another agent arriving at the store greeted me and offered to help. The agent was pleasant and offered lots of choices but suggested I consider other destinations such as Cyprus or Tenerife, as they may be more likely to offer warm sunshine. They gave me a quote for insurance but did not ask if I already had travel insurance, At one point they needed to speak to another colleague who was being trained but they apologised for having to do so.

Quotes: Both were Tui holidays, flying from Exeter in September, staying in Tui’s own-brand hotels. The first was a seven-night break at Sensimar Los Gigantes Hotel, in the resort of Los Gigantes, Tenerife, on a full-board-plus basis for £867. The second was a nine-night holiday at Sensimar Atlantica Bay Hotel, Amathus Bay, Cyprus. It was an all-inclusive adults-only hotel and would have cost £1,169, including insurance for £78.48.

Overall: The agent was helpful and the Cyprus holiday in particular matched the brief in several ways – but offering at least one option in Malta would have been better.


Winning agent

Theresa Partridge, sales consultant, Thomas Cook

“We have had quite a few inquiries for Malta since flights with Ryanair started from Exeter. A colleague also went on an educational there with Thomas Cook and she talked to us about what there is to do in Malta, what the hotels were like and the coastline, and who it would be suitable for.”


Verdict

The Thomas Cook agent offered a suitable option in Malta, alongside an ideal alternative in Majorca – and was ably assisted by a colleague who had visited the destination. Hays Travel also performed well, offering advice and quotes that matched the shopper’s criteria. The Tui agent was helpful and keen to please, offering good-value alternatives, although neither were in Malta.


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