In association with Gazetteers Plus

Kendal, Cumbria Family safari in Namibia

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.

MS going places 170306GOING PLACES
5 Highgate

This was quite a large agency; there were a couple of agents available but they both looked equally baffled when they heard my request. One said she thought it unlikely they sold such holidays but told the other to check Gazetteers Plus. Her colleague did so (after asking how to spell Namibia – she looked as if she hadn’t a clue where it was) but said that the agency didn’t offer any of the companies listed. She directed me to the town’s independent travel agency, which she said might be able to help because it sold “Internet companies”.

Score: 21%

MS global travel 170306GLOBAL TRAVEL
19 Finkle Street

The consultant found me the Travel 2 Southern Africa brochure, which featured flydrives in Namibia, and the Elite Vacations brochure that offered tours. When I asked if they both allowed children she said, “I don’t see why not,” and pointed out that the Travel 2 brochure did family discounts, but she didn’t offer to check that Elite allowed kids on safaris. She checked the Travel 2 brochure for the weather and said the best time to go was June to September, but she didn’t offer any further advice or make any attempt to encourage me to return.

Score: 50%

MS Thomson 170306THOMSON
5a Highgate

A friendly consultant seemed surprised by the request, saying she didn’t get many clients asking for Namibia. However, she found it in the Kuoni brochure and then spotted it in the Virgin brochure. She took the trouble to check whether Kuoni accepted children on its safaris but was told they had to be 12 and over. She said Virgin’s flydrive option would be better. She pointed out that the operator offered discounts for children and she said there were “shop discounts”. She checked the weather and said Namibia was warm and dry all year.

Score: 51%

MS thomas cook 170306THOMAS COOK
49-53 Stricklandgate

Before I had time to inspect the brochure racks, a cheerful consultant offered to help. She seemed doubtful she could find a holiday in Namibia, but she checked on her computer. Thankfully here was an agent who did know how to use the online Gazetteers Plus, and she found several operators listed. She went off to look for brochures and she was gone for quite some time, but at least she came back with several, including Kuoni, Thomas Cook Signature and Virgin. She checked with Kuoni to see whether it accepted children and seemed genuinely disappointed it didn’t take kids under 12. She then checked the Thomas Cook brochure and told me it seemed it was left up to parents to decide whether the tours were suitable for their children. Regarding Virgin, she said it must accept kids because it offered discounts for young children on its Namibia flydrive safari. She checked the weather on her system and told me the rainy season was in the early part of the year. She concluded the best time to go was during the school summer holidays.

Score: 57%


Tip 1: Many operators, including Kuoni, Travel 2, Thomas Cook Signature and Virgin, offer safaris in Namibia, on an escorted or flydrive basis.

Tip 2: Although not suitable for young children, most safaris would be okay for an 11-year old. Some tours have a minimum age limit of 12. Not all operators state this so you will need to check.

Tip 3: Kuoni’s 11-day Namibia self-drive trip takes in two for children under 12.

Tip 4: Tours and flydrives can both be found on Gazetteers Plus under ‘special interest’, either directly from the home page or under a particular country you have searched.

Tip 5: June to August is the driest in Namibia, with hardly any rainfall. Temperatures are also coolest then, with an average daytime high of 23C.


Mystery Shopper wanted to take her family to Namibia for a two-week safari.

As her son was only 11, she wanted to make sure that the holiday would be suitable for children. She was looking for an organised tour, or for a fly-drive holiday if the latter would be preferable for a child.

Ideally, she wanted to travel during the school summer holidays, but she wanted to know what the weather would be like in July and August and whether there was a better time to go.

The response from travel agents in Kendal was a little disappointing. One didn’t even know how to spell Namibia and her reaction to the request made Mystery Shopper feel she might as well have asked for a beach holiday on mars.

The others did manage to find a selection of brochures featuring tours or flydrives, but they clearly had no real knowledge of the destination.

Logo: DG&G GazeteersAbout Gazetteers Plus

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