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Exeter, Devon Extended family holiday to Gozo

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.

177 Sidwell Street

I was served after I’d been browsing the racks for a while. The consultant picked up one brochure and flicked through the pages, but said the largest villa it featured only slept eight people. She couldn’t find any other brochures featuring Gozo so went off to hunt for more. She was gone for ages and when she returned the only new thing on offer to me was an apartment block. I asked whether she could find me a couple of smaller villas side by side, but she said the brochures wouldn’t state how far apart they were. I gave up.

Score: 45%

153 Sidwell Street

During the few seconds I had to browse, I noticed the agency was well-stocked with brochures on Malta and Gozo. An agent selected the Belleair Holidays Malta, Gozo and Comino brochure and the overbranded Worldchoice Sunspot Malta and Gozo brochure, saying they both featured quality farmhouse properties on Gozo, although she didn’t show me any of them. She said First Choice also had selfcatering holidays in Gozo, but the first two options were better. She said they both offered flights from Exeter and I should book soon for the school holidays.

Score: 58%

7 High Street

The consultant looked through brochures until she found a few villas in the Belleair brochure. She called the operator to check availability but they were on request only. Another colleague started looking through brochures and a third consultant eventually found a six-bedroom villa in the Thomson brochure. The first consultant called to check availability (while her colleague told me what a great holiday I would have). The property was available and I was given a price, but the consultant struggled to divide it between three parties. However, this was an excellent team effort.

Score: 71%

28 High Street

The agency was busy but I was served after only a short wait. The consultant picked up the Thomson Villas brochure and immediately found a villa that sounded perfect. It slept 10 guests in six rooms with three bathrooms and an outdoor pool. However, I asked if there were any other brochures she could offer me in case this villa was not available. Instead, she called Thomson to check and found it was available during August. She gave me the full price, minus a decent discount, and divided the cost between the three families to show the full amount for each of us. She told me I could secure the holiday there and then for a low deposit, but when I said I would obviously have to speak to the others first she offered to reserve it for me until the end of the next working day. She put me under a little pressure to book, saying the large properties usually sold very quickly. Altogether this was a very swift, efficient, friendly service but it would have been nice to have had more choice, particularly as there was a large under-occupancy supplement to pay on the property selected.

Score: 76% 


Tip 1: Gozo has many rural villas. Some are purpose built but most are converted from old farmhouses. Many have their own pool.

Tip 2: Belleair, First Choice, Sunspot and Thomson all feature villas in Gozo with flights from a wide selection of regional airports, including Exeter.

Tip 3: Belleair has a particularly good selection of villas of different sizes, all of which include car hire.

Tip 4: Thomson’s Villas with Pools brochure features a six-bedroom villa near the capital town of Victoria.

Tip 5: Villa holidays can be found on the Gazetteers Plus website. You have to click the ‘Individual villas’ tab under the resort. Each entry gives the number of bedrooms of the villas in the operator’s brochure. There are currently seven operators featured under Gozo.


Mystery Shopper and her in-laws were planning to holiday together for a week on Gozo, near Malta.

There would be a total of five adults and five children, including granny, and they were looking for a villa or farmhouse large enough to accommodate the entire family, or two neighbouring villas sleeping four and six or five and five. They wanted at least one pool to share.

They wanted to travel during the school summer holidays with flights from Exeter, although they were prepared to travel to Gatwick if necessary. There was no fixed budget, but wanted the most affordable option.

Mystery Shopper was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response she received from two of the agencies. Both Thomson and Going Places rose admirably to the challenge.

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