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Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire A family summer holiday in Scandinavia

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 200406 first choiceFIRST CHOICE
Unit 45, The Howard Centre

The shop was empty. The consultant said she didn’t think she had any Scandinavia brochures, which was not surprising as the agency didn’t seem to have many brochures at all. She opened a drawer and found a copy of Hoseasons Holiday Parks and Lodges, but after flicking through it, she said it wasn’t any good because it only featured Sweden, Norway and Denmark. I don’t know which part of the world she thought these were in. She said I needed the Scandinavian Seaways brochure, but she didn’t have a copy and she didn’t offer to order one.

Score: 30%

mystery shopper 200406 andes travelANDES TRAVEL
36 Fretherne Road

As one consultant was scouring the sparse racks for a brochure, her colleague said she thought Bridge did one for Scandinavia. The consultant looked at the back of a Bridge brochure and discovered it was Bridge’s sister brand Cresta that covered the region. She went off to look for a Cresta Scandinavia brochure but returned saying she didn’t have a copy. She offered to order one. I asked if she could suggest any alternatives. She said she couldn’t but, while she’d been gone, I had found holidays to Norway in the Inghams and Crystal Lakes and Mountains brochures.

Score: 43%

mystery shopper 200406 going placesGOING PLACES
38 Howardsgate

All three consultants were busy but one who was on the phone indicated she wouldn’t be long. Her colleague became free first and she said I needed the Bridge brochure, but she couldn’t find a copy on the racks. Her colleague dug out a file copy of the Cresta Scandinavia brochure, which I said looked interesting and so she offered to order me a copy. She also suggested I considered Switzerland or Austria instead and gave me copies of the Inghams Lakes and Mountains and Swiss Travel Service brochures. This was a valiant attempt to switch-sell.

Score: 53%

mystery shopper 200406 thomas cookTHOMAS COOK
44a The Howard Centre

I was served immediately by one of two consultants. She said she would normally recommend Cresta but she had just found out it had discontinued its Scandinavia brochure and she admitted she didn’t know which other operator to recommend.

She checked her system and said the only packages to Finland were during the winter. She suggested Norway instead and found a copy of the Inghams Lakes and Mountains brochure, which featured a couple of tours of the Norwegian fjords. She suggested a cruise of the fjords might be my best bet and got a copy of the Norwegian Coastal Voyages brochure. Uncertain whether its trips were suitable for children, she called the operator. She told me children were allowed on NCV ships but there were no special facilities. She then suggested P&O might be better for families and found a cruise that seemed ideal. She said she thought the ship had a kids’ club and was geared up to families, but double-checked and discovered it was adult-only. I left with only a couple of brochures but felt the consultant had done her best to fulfil my request.

Score: 59%


Tip 1: DFDS Seaways has a particularly good selection of family holiday parks, with five in Denmark, two in Sweden and two in Norway. Their Touring Collection brochure also features a selection of car touring holidays in these countries, with accommodation in hotels

Tip 2: While DFDS Seaways ships are essentially ferries rather than cruise ships, they do have a good range of facilities, including kids’ clubs.

Tip 3: Hoseasons also has several holiday parks with facilities for children in Scandinavia, with four in Denmark, two in Sweden and one in Norway.

Tip 4: Specialist operator Scantours features a one-week flydrive tour of Finland’s lake district, with accommodation in hotels.

Tip 5: Cruises to Finland can be found on Search2cruise.com under the area ‘Baltic’.


Mystery Shopperwas looking for a family holiday to Scandinavia. She thought it might be nice to go to Finland, but she stressed to agents she was open to suggestions and she would consider Sweden, Norway or possibly Denmark too. Ideally, she wanted to take a self-drive tour or a cruise, as long as the latter was suited to children. She told them she would consider a self-catering holiday or a holiday park, as long as there was some sightseeing in the area and plenty of activities nearby to keep her boys busy. With such a wide brief, Mystery Shopperwas disappointed agents weren’t able to come up with more suggestions. They were hindered by a lack of brochures, to be fair, but a couple of them didn’t make the most of the ones they had.

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