Mystery Shopper: Surbiton, Surrey

Logo: DG&G Gazetteers    In association with Gazetteers Plus

Surbiton, Surrey A family holiday to Greece

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 surbiton 070406 - avant gardeAVANT GARDE TRAVEL
76 Victoria Road

The consultant pulled a long face when she heard my request and simply said I could travel with any operator to any hotel to any island in Greece. When I pressed her to make more specific recommendations, she said Corfu and Crete are the most popular with families but she said all the hotels were child friendly. She gave me the Libra and Manos brochures and told me to look through them to find hotels I liked the look of. She said some still had free or discounted child places, but she didn’t know which ones.

Score: 39%

mystery shopper surbiton 070406 - travel plansTRAVEL PLANS
27 Claremont Road

This agency had a large collection of brochures, all neatly racked against two walls. The consultant recommended I steer clear of the larger operators and gave me a selection of specialist brochures instead. When pushed, she recommended the island of Lefkas, as it was easy to get to from the mainland. She said lots of the smaller islands had nice small hotels, all of which welcomed children. She said the hotels would be basic, but she said they weren’t “in the dark ages”. She said there was no rush to book as “everyone is leaving it later these days”.

Score: 50%

mystery shopper surbiton 070406 - flight centreFLIGHT CENTRE
74 Victoria Road

I was served by a bubbly consultant who had visited several of the Greece islands. She said Rhodes and Crete are the best islands for families, as long as I stayed away from the mass-market resorts. She said both are beautiful and had lots of history and archaeological sites that might interest the children. She said I could consider some of the smaller islands, but she pointed out they might not offer enough activities for the children. She also recommended Santorini. She said there would be availability, but warned I might have to pay full price for the children.

Score: 54%

mystery shopper surbiton 070406 - travelcareTRAVELCARE
8 St James’ Road

Zante is the place for families this summer, said the consultant. However, when I told her I wanted a small, typically Greek resort, she recommended Halkidiki on the Greek mainland or one of the smaller islands, such as Paros. Looking in the Kosmar brochure, she found a small hotel in Paros, but when she checked on the system, there were no flights to the island with that particular operator. She then recommended Santorini, saying it was a beautiful island. In the Argo brochure, she found an apartment in Santorini sleeping four, which she said would be a lot cheaper than booking two bedrooms in a hotel, for which I would have to pay four adult prices. The apartment holiday came in just under budget; the hotel option cost twice as much. I said I was concerned the apartment would be cramped, but the consultant said it would be of a good standard and, trying to sell me the idea, she said at least I would have a fridge and cooking facilities. Giving me the First Choice, Olympic and Argo brochures to take away, she said that if I found a property I liked, she could check the description in the Gazetteer guide.

Score: 75%


Tip 1: Of the larger Greek Islands, Cephalonia is probably the most unspoilt, although many villages were rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake. Lourdas is one of the quieter and more traditional villages.

Tip 2: The green and scenic island of Lefkas has a more traditional atmosphere than many other islands, and a good selection of small, family-run hotels.

Tip 3: On the mainland, the resort of Stoupa in the Peloponnese is peaceful and unspoilt. Most of the accommodation here is self-catering.

Tip 4: Kosmar, Manos and Olympic all have a good selection of hotels and apartments on smaller islands and mainland resorts.

Tip 5: Suitability of resorts can be found on Gazetteers Plus by looking at the resort list page under a country or area.


Mystery Shopperwanted to take her family of four to Greece for two weeks in August. She was looking for a small, traditional but child-friendly hotel in a quiet resort. She was happy to stay on a bed-and-breakfast basis and eat out in the evenings, as long as there were tavernas and restaurants nearby. As it was a long time since she’d been to the Greek islands, she also wanted reassurance that the hotels were of good quality, though she wasn’t looking for five-star facilities. She had a budget of £2,000, but she was concerned she might have left it too late to book. The advice she got was contradictory to say the least. One agent recommended the bigger islands, another recommended the smallest; one said she needed to book ASAP, a couple of others said there is lots still available. The winner was the only one who tried to find her an actual 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.