Mystery Shopper: Newark, Nottinghamshire

Logo: DG&G Gazetteers    In association with Gazetteers Plus

Newark, Nottinghamshire A budget family holiday

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_Thomson 020606Thomson
1 The Arcade, Market Place

This was a nice-looking agency on the corner of the town’s main square. I was served immediately by a pleasant consultant who said it was a nice idea to travel with my mum. She said mainland Spain, Ibiza and Majorca would be the cheapest destinations. She recommended Costa Dorada as her friend used to go there every year and had fantastic holidays. She flicked through the Skytours brochure, saying this offered the cheapest family holidays. She pointed out that an apartment would not necessarily be cheaper than a hotel because I would have to pay under-occupancy supplements or the full adult price for the children. She said I should look at hotels as there were several, in Costa Dorada in particular, that sleep four in a room. Turning to a list of destinations at the back of the Skytours brochure, she put an asterix next to the ones she recommended. She also wrote down her name and telephone number on the front of the brochure. Before I left, she said: “Thomson would beat any price on the high street.”

Score: 47%

MS Going Places 020606Going Places
12 St Marks Place

The brief was perhaps too broad for this consultant. She said there were lots of destinations I could consider, but then admitted my desire to fly from Doncaster narrowed my options. Looking at the Thomson brochure she said Minorca, Majorca and Bulgaria were the cheapest destinations. She said an apartment wouldn’t work out cheaper than a hotel as the children wouldn’t count towards the occupancy and I would have to pay a supplement, which would bump up the cost. She told me to book soon as Doncaster flights were popular.

Score: 49%

MS_Ilkeston Coop 020606Ilkeston Co-op
11a Stodman Street

The consultant was quite negative, saying all holidays in August would be expensive. She said only Thomson and Thomas Cook had flights from Doncaster, but she didn’t have any brochures, although she found a Skytours brochure. With a little pushing and poking, she suggested the Costa Dorada, Majorca, Ibiza, Zante and Corfu would be the cheapest destinations. She said if I chose a hotel, I would have to book two twin rooms and pay full price for the children so she suggested an aparthotel, but told me I’d have to find them myself in the brochure.

Score: 49%

MS_Thomas Cook_020606Thomas Cook
19 Market Place

The consultant painstakingly wrote down my request before collecting an armful of brochures, which she said were good for families. These included Airtours summer sun, Aspro and JMC. She told me to consider mainland Spain, the Greek islands or Turkey. She said only Thomson had Turkey flights from Doncaster and she had a copy of its 2007 brochure, which she didn’t offer to show me. She said an apartment was a good idea as it would give us more space, but she said it would be more expensive than finding a hotel room with four beds.

Score: 59%


Tip 1: As an alternative to Spain, Greece or Turkey, Bulgaria is a good-value destination, where many hotels have family rooms and children’s facilities. Balkan Holidays and Thomson fly there from Doncaster.

Tip 2: Doncaster Airport serves a range of Mediterranean destinations, as well as Florida, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Tip 3: Thomson flies to a range of destinations from Doncaster. Its Skytours and Family brochures include a range of family holidays.

Tip 4: Other operators flying from Doncaster include Sunset, JMC, Thomas Cook and Airtours.

Tip 5: Gazetteers Plus shows the UK departure airports for all hotel and self-catering packaged holidays. This can be found by going to the tour operators page under a resort and clicking on the brochure link.


Mystery Shopper was looking for a cheap summer holiday with a difference. Instead of travelling with her husband, she was taking her mum along to help look after her two children.

She was looking for a beach holiday in August and didn’t mind where she went as long as it was cheap.

She had one request: the flights had to be from nearby Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airport as her mum lived nearby and refused to fly from anywhere else.

She said she would consider a hotel or an apartment and was hoping agents would advise her on the cheapest option for a family of four.

Most of the agents visited recommended Spain, Greece and Turkey, which was pretty elementary stuff, but only one narrowed down her recommendation to a four-bed hotel room on the Costa Dorada.

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