Mystery Shopper: Cambridge

    In association with Gazetteers Plus

Cambridge Family holiday to Dubai

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: premier 050506Premier Travel
10 Rose Crescent

This was a big, attractive agency with lots of brochures, very neatly racked. The consultant asked whether I wanted a hotel on the beach or in the city centre. When I opted for the beach she suggested the Jumeirah Beach, pointing out that it offered free entry to the Wild Wadi Water Park next door, which she said was “great”. I was told it was expensive, however, and that the Oasis was a cheaper alternative. She said this was one of the few hotels in Dubai to include meals in the price – a good option for families as it wasn’t easy to find restaurants outside the hotels. Spotting the end of May was the half-term school holidays, she warned me that it would be very busy and when she checked availability she said both the Jumeirah Beach and the Oasis were “on request” so I would have to make my mind up fast. She also said that, in her opinion, May was too hot and I should consider going later in the year. She suggested I took the Virgin, Hays and Jarvis, Thomas Cook, Kuoni and Premier brochures. I asked about vaccinations and was told they are unnecessary.

Score: 49%

MS Thomas Cook 050506Thomas Cook
8 St Andrews Street

The consultant immediately picked up a copy of the Virgin brochure but she admitted she didn’t know Dubai and asked a colleague for advice. He retorted “Dubai isn’t like Spain” and pointed out that there were no kids’ clubs in the hotels, although they all catered for children. Just then the first consultant came across a couple of hotels in the Virgin brochure with kids’ clubs. Her colleague then said there was a lot of building work, which might affect my holiday. He should have kept quiet – the first consultant was doing fine on her own.

Score: 55%

MS: Going Places 050506 Going Places
35 The Grafton Centre, Fitzroy Street

The consultant picked up a copy of the Tradewinds brochure and flicked through it looking for an appropriate hotel. She came across the Jumeirah Beach, which she said had a kids’ club and pools for children. She then spotted Le Meridien had a kids’ club and said that should be a good quality hotel. She also suggested it would be cheaper than the Jumeirah, though she didn’t show me any prices. It would be very hot in May, she said, but pointed out that all hotels were on the beach and provided plenty of shade around the pools.

Score: 59%

MS Thomson 050506Thomson
14 Fitzroy Street

Both consultants were busy but one acknowledged me when I walked in and I only had to wait a minute before the other became available. She immediately suggested the Jumeirah Beach and said there was one other whose name she had forgotten. She picked up a copy of the Thomson Worldwide brochure and found the Madinat Jumeirah, which she said was recommended by a colleague who had stayed there recently. She said it was next to the Wild Wadi Water Park and it had children’s facilities including a kids’ club. For the jabs, she suggested I saw my GP.

Score: 79%


Tip 1: The Jumeirah Beach hotel is a large beachfront property. Facilities include five pools, a children’s pool, playground, a kids’ club, and rooms sleeping two adults and two children under 12. Guests have free access to the Wild Wadi Water Park next door.

Tip 2: The Royal Meridien and Meridien Mina Seyahi are also situated on Jumeirah Beach, and each has two pools, children’s pool, playground and a kid’s club.

Tip 3: There are no compulsory jabs for Dubai, but several are advised. Details can be found under the ‘health & visa’ tab on Gazetteers Plus.

Tip 4: The weather is hot between May and September, with an average daytime maximum of around 35C in May.

Tip 5: Air-conditioning is shown as an in-room facilities on Gazetteers Plus


Mystery Shopper and her two children, aged eight and 10, fancied spending the May half-term holiday in Dubai.

They planned to go for five nights and were looking for a child-friendly hotel on the beach.

They wanted outdoor swimming pools, rooms large enough to sleep four, and preferably kids’ clubs.

Mystery Shopper was concerned it would be hot in May, so she wanted to be reassured that the hotels had air-conditioned rooms and plenty of shade around the pools and on the beach.

She also wanted to know whether the family would need any vaccinations. It was pleasing to discover most agents were very well-informed about this expanding destination, and Mystery Shopper came away with several hotel recommendations.

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