|THE TARGET ▼||WANTED ▼|
|Belfast, County Antrim||A week in Hurghada|
Agency appearance (15%)
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.
|SHOP OF HORRORS ▼|
88 Royal Avenue
This was a pokey agency at the drab end of a main shopping street. The consultant spent ages rummaging around in a storeroom for brochures and eventually found a copy of Olympic Holidays’, which she handed over without opening it up to show me what was available. When I asked if I could fly direct from Ireland, she said I could with Panorama, but the agency didn’t have any of its brochures available. She didn’t offer to order me one or even hazard a guess as to when the shop might have some in stock. She clearly wasn’t interested in the request.
|LAFFIN TRAVEL |
9 North Street
I had to ring a buzzer to be let into the agency. There were two staff, almost hidden behind partitions, but one offered to help straight away. She handed me a copy of the Panorama Red Sea brochure. It was only when I asked if I could fly direct from Belfast that she discovered the brochure didn’t feature Hurghada. She then checked the Kuoni Worldwide brochure, which featured Hurghada with flights from England. When I asked her to recommend a hotel for couples, she said the Hilton “and other four and five-star hotels” would be good.
Unit 35, Castle Court Shopping Centre, Royal Avenue
There were only two consultants and a long queue so I had to wait ages to be served. The consultant said holidays in Hurghada were still on sale and she recommended Budget Travel, saying it offered direct flights from Dublin to Luxor. She pointed out that the transfer to Hurghada would be four-and-a-half hours. She suggested it might be quicker to fly via London. Most of the hotels in the Budget brochure looked more suited to families, but she found one suitable for couples and urged me to book.
|GOING PLACES |
Unit 58b, Castle Court Shopping Centre, Royal Avenue
The first time I called at this agency, it was very busy, which might explain why there were brochures falling off the dust-covered racks and others scattered under chairs. I returned later to be served immediately. The consultant said there were “more than 30 operators” featuring Hurghada and she got a copy of the Airtours Egypt brochure. She showed me that it offered a few hotels in the resort and highlighted the five-star Grand Resort, saying it seemed the one most suited to couples. She checked availability and gave me a price of less than £360 per person for a week. She checked her system and found I could only fly direct from Dublin to Sharm el-Sheikh, not Hurghada. She said I would have to fly from Gatwick and suggested I book flights from Belfast to Gatwick myself with EasyJet. She said she could book them for me but there would be a charge. She checked the timings of the flights to and from Egypt and found I would have to stay overnight at Gatwick. She suggested I book as soon as possible.
|TOP FIVE TIPS |
Tip 1: The town of Dahab is on the Sinai peninsula, well removed from Hurghada. Operators are continuing to sell Hurghada as normal.
Tip 2: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to warn of a high threat of terrorism in Egypt. FCO advice can be found at Fco.gov.uk.
Tip 3: Libra Holidays offers the three-star La Perla Hotel with flights from Gatwick or Bristol, and it is possible to fly with EasyJet from Belfast to both these airports.
Tip 4: There are no direct flights from Belfast to Hurghada, but many operators can offer connecting flights from Belfast to London at reduced prices or even free.
Tip 5: Gazetteers Plus lists 20 operators under Hurghada, most of which will offer pre-bookable dive packages.
Mystery Shopper and her partner had been thinking of spending a week diving in Hurghada in late May, having already enjoyed a holiday a few years ago in Sharm el-Sheikh. However, they were worried the destination might have been ruled unsafe following the recent bomb attacks in nearby Dahab. They wanted to find out if it was still possible to stay in the resort and, if so, could agents recommend a nice but simple hotel suitable for couples. As they were going predominantly for the diving, they weren’t really looking for a hotel with lots of facilities, but they did want somewhere of a reasonable standard. Also, they wanted to know if they could fly direct from Belfast or, failing that, from Dublin. If they had to fly via England, they wanted the agent to arrange add-on flights.
About 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 www.gazetteers.com.
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