Mystery Shopper: Plymouth

    In association with Gazetteers Plus

PlymouthFamily self-catering holiday in France

Each week, Mystery Shopper calls on agents across the UK. Shops are judged on five criteria:

Agency appearance (15%)
Brochure racking (10%)
Product knowledge (25%)
Sales technique (25%)
Staff attitude (25%)

The top-scoring agency receives a Travel Weekly certificate of commendation. Agencies must score a minimum of 60% to qualify. Any agency that scores under 30% will be named and shamed as this week’s Shop of Horrors. Please note, no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper’s visits.

mystery shopper 030206 - first choiceFIRST CHOICE
35 New George Street

This agency had plenty of racks but few brochures. It had the smell of a new or freshly decorated shop, and I wondered whether it might have opened before they had found the time to fill the shelves. The consultant said, not surprisingly, that she didn’t have any France brochures to give me. She said she could order copies of Cresta France, French Life and a couple of others but they wouldn’t arrive for “a week or so”. I asked if any companies had accommodation near theme parks in France; she said the only theme park she knew was “Eurodisney”.

Score: 26%

mystery shopper 030206 - thomas cookTHOMAS COOK
63 Cornwall Street

An agent stopped filling the shelves with brochures and offered to help me. She ignored the Keycamp brochure on the rack in front of her and instead went to find me a copy of the French Life brochure. Handing it over, she said it featured accommodation all over France. When I said I was looking for somewhere close to a theme park she asked a colleague, who said she thought Parc Asterix was near Paris. The first consultant suggested I try to find it on the Internet. She seemed in a hurry to get back to stacking shelves so I left her to it.

Score: 34%

mystery shopper 030206 - going placesGOING PLACES
9 New George Street

The agent said she didn’t know of any theme parks in France but she asked a colleague who mentioned Parc Asterix. She gave me the Cresta France brochure and went off to look for others. Returning with the Inghams and French Life brochures she strongly recommending the latter. She said they all featured a wide variety of accommodation and suggested I returned to her when I had found something I liked. She said another colleague had confirmed that Parc Asterix was on the outskirts of Paris and suggested I check on the Internet.

Score: 50%

mystery shopper 030206 - thomsonTHOMSON
81-83 Cornwall Street

I was served after a few minutes by a pleasant consultant who immediately suggested we base ourselves close to Parc Asterix, which was close to Paris. She said this was also close to Disneyland Resort Paris, so we would have plenty of options. Opening the Thomson Al Fresco brochure she showed me a “campsite” with mobile homes close to Parc Asterix. She said there was lots to do on the site, but when I asked if there was a kids’ club she said unfortunately not. It was only when I pressed her for a place that might offer something more for the kids that she also gave me the Brittany Ferries brochure, although she didn’t highlight any holidays close to theme parks. She pointed out that the drive to northern France was relatively straightforward from Calais. When I asked what the weather would be like she said that, quite honestly, I couldn’t expect it to be any warmer than Plymouth. On a more positive note she said it was forecast to be “an excellent summer”. She didn’t give me her business card, but both brochures were labelled with the agency’s details. 

SCORE: 57%



Tip 1: The Parc Asterix theme park is dedicated to the cartoon character Asterix the Gaul. It’s situated near the town of Plailly, 18 miles north of Paris. It also has its own on-site hotel.

Tip 2: French Life and Brittany Ferries have a few gîtes close to Parc Asterix.

Tip 3: The Croix du Vieux Pont campsite is 50 miles from Parc Asterix. It has two kids’ pools, a playground and many activities. There is also a coach service to Disneyland Resort Paris and Paris.

Tip 4: This campsite is featured by many operators including French Life, Haven Europe, Keycamp and Thomson Al Fresco. All offer a variety of ferry crossings.

Tip 5: Gîte holidays can be found on Gazetteers Plus under the ‘Special interest’ category ‘Holiday homes’.


Mystery Shopper wanted to take her three children to France on a self-catering, self-drive holiday. She didn’t mind whether they stayed in a villa, gîte or campsite, as long as there were activities available locally to keep the kids entertained.

Ideally, she wanted to be based close to a theme park so they would be able to visit on a day trip. She wondered if there was an alternative to Disneyland Resort Paris, which she thought might be too crowded during the summer holidays.

Though three out of four of the agents came up with Parc Asterix as an alternative to Disneyland, only one bothered to find accommodation nearby. The others didn’t know exactly where it was and were only able to suggest to Mystery Shopper that she did her own research on the Internet – where she could presumably also book her holiday.

Logo: DG&G GazeteersAbout Gazetteers Plus

Gazetteers Plus, from DG&G Travel Information gives you a single website that means you need never fear being mystery shopped again! Gazetteers Plus combines all our unique and unbiased data – destination/resort guides, hotel reviews, tour operator details, passport and visa – and sorts it the way you want it. With superb search functionality and additional hi-tech features such as online brochures, photos and interactive maps, you’ll find it hard to believe that travel agents ever managed without it. Gazetteers Plus provides agents with all the product knowledge you need to meet and exceed customer expectations. Log on at

mystery shopper black thumbTo view more Mystery Shopper articles click here 

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.