Wanted: An older couple want to visit the Caribbean but they don’t want to just sit on the beach. They like history and culture so they want to explore – but aren’t sure about the best places to visit. They’re flexible with dates as they’re not restricted by school terms, but they do want to know about weather and holiday costs at different times of year. They like shopping and sightseeing so they’re keen to get ideas about the best island(s) to visit.
All agents performed well, offering interesting, varied options with ideas about cruises to visit several islands, and touring itineraries. Millington Travel slightly edged it as the agent was the most knowledgeable and the shopper was keen on the Cuba tour. The Tui agent seemed less confident with product and destination knowledge. The shopper wanted more details from Thomas Cook about the cruise.
Melanie Fowkes, assistant manager
“I have never visited the Caribbean but I know about it from friends and colleagues who have been there, and our inhouse training. We don’t get many Caribbean queries – we tend to get more for the Far East. I have been a travel agent for almost five years and at Millington for three.”
33-34 Market Place
Impression: The windows looked a little cluttered with stickers but the store had impressive brochure displays and staff were well-presented.
Service: I was dealt with immediately by an enthusiastic agent who looked at brochures and rang suppliers to find available options. The agent knew about suitable holidays and gave me their full attention throughout my visit. They highlighted the benefits of the holidays using the brochures and I would have happily booked the Cuban holiday. However, the agent did not try to close the sale.
Quotes: The first quote was for a 14-night holiday, cruising with P&O Azura in January 2020, with flights from Heathrow, for £3,770. We’d visit nine ports in Barbados, St Vincent, St Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. The second was an 11-night and-based Cuban Discovery tour with Titan Travel, flying from London to Havana in October. It cost £4,398, which included meals and transfers. The tour offered good hotels and interesting excursions such as the Hemingway Museum, a coffee plantation, tobacco plantation and Che Guevara museum.
Overall: Both holidays fitted the bill and offered good value, but were very different options to consider. The agent was confident and knowledgeable about the Caribbean.
Tui Holiday Store
60 Market Street
Impression: The shop was well laid out and clean, with smart staff and displays showing current offers.
Service: I was dealt with immediately and the agent guided me through options in the brochures and online. However, they did not seem to know much about the destinations although a colleague offered suggestions for alternatives. There was no attempt to close the sale, although both suggestions were suitable holidays within budget.
Quotes: Both quotes were for seven-night Tui holidays to Mexico in February 2020. The first was flying from Manchester for a tour called Mayan Trail of Mexico. It featured six hotels on a B&B basis, for a total of £3,612. It included visits to historical sites such as Chichen Itza. The second quote offered flights from Birmingham to Cancun, and all-inclusive accommodation at Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda Village, Playa del Carmen, on the Caribbean coast, for £2,398. Four excursions were included, visiting sites in Mexico City and Chichen Itza, and seeing the sunrise at the Teotihuacan pyramids.
Overall: The agent gave me their full attention throughout the visit, but lacked confidence as they seemed to know little about the destinations. However, the holidays were competitively priced and fitted our needs.
10 Market Place
Impressions: The shop had a clean and airy interior, staff were presentable and the window display was designed well, showing the offers available inside.
Service: I was greeted immediately and the enthusiastic agent gave me their full attention. They suggested a cruise and a land-based tour in Cuba, saying two colleagues had been on similar holidays. The agent said we could book excursions for the cruise, once the sailing had been booked. Looking at the options on the screen, they would have added significant costs, taking the holiday over our budget.
Quotes: The first was for a 14-night holiday onboard P&O Cruises’ Azura, flying from London in February 2020, for £4,274. The cruise would visit Barbados, St Vincent, St Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. The second was the seven-night Viva Cuba tour from Mercury Holidays in February 2020, flying from Gatwick, for £3,938. We’d stay in four hotels on a full-board basis and explore historic and cultural sites in and around Havana, Vinales and Cienfuegos before our final night in the seaside resort of Varadero.
Overall: Both holidays were interesting, especially the Cuba tour. I would have liked some more details about the cruise.
The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Oasis Hotels & Resorts.
Oasis Hotels & Resorts offers five all-inclusive beachfront properties and two city-centre properties in Cancun, Mexico. They are:
Hotel Zone, Cancun
Grand Oasis Cancun; The Pyramid; Oasis Palm; Grand Oasis Palm; and brand new Grand Sens Cancun.
Oh! The Urban Oasis; and Smart Cancun by Oasis. Oasis offers family-friendly resorts and adult-only experiences, as well as wedding and honeymoon packages.
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