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Mystery Shopper: Cannock, Staffordshire

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check agency appearance, brochure racking, product knowledge, sales technique and staff attitude

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper in association with Gazetteers Plus.     
























THE TARGET ? WANTED ?
Cannock, StaffordshireA Caribbean wedding

RULES
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.

Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper visited Thomson, Unit 2 Market PlaceTHOMSON
Unit 2 Market Place

As soon as the consultant revealed that she got married in the Caribbean I was expecting her to go into overdrive to sell me an overseas wedding, but I was disappointed. I had to push and prod to extract any information, and then she simply said all the islands were the same so it didn’t matter which one I chose. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any brochures to show me and she didn’t offer to order me one, but she did say the agency would take care of the arrangements. But what a pity she didn’t draw on her own experience.


Score: 30%

Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper then visited Co-op Travel, 27 Market Hall StreetCo-op Travel
27 Market Hall Street

The consultant, who was clearly new to the job and consequently lacking in confidence, said most clients opted for the Bahamas but she didn’t know why. After fumbling through a pile of brochures for a few minutes she suggested I considered a Sandals resort because it has its own wedding co-ordinators, but this implied I might be left to organise everything myself if I chose another resort. When I pressed her for more information she confessed she didn’t know anything about overseas weddings and offered to get a colleague to call me later.


Score: 31%

Travel Weekly's Mystery shopper also visited Thomas Cook Unit 7 Market Hall StreetThomas Cook
Unit 7 Market Hall Street

The very bubbly consultant said all the agency staff loved organising weddings and “believe it or not” they were very experienced at it. This made me feel I could trust her to organise mine. She said the choice of hotel was more important than the island and she suggested I went for something small such as the Crystal Cove in Barbados, where a colleague of hers had married recently. She said Mauritius was also popular if I wanted to go elsewhere. Unfortunately,she didn’t have any brochures, which dragged down her score.


Score: 66%

But this week, Travel Weekly's Mystery shopper allocated the highest score to Going Places, Unit 25 Market Hall StreetGoing Places
Unit 25 Market Hall Street

First of all the consultant pointed out that if I wanted to marry in the Caribbean I should do so before next April when the hurricane season kicked in, which was sound advice. She then selected the Tradewinds, Panorama and Thomas Cook dedicated weddings brochures. She said she had organised a couple of weddings in the Dominican Republic. However, she said it was more complicated to wed on the Spanish-speaking islands such as the Dominican Republic and Mexico because all documentation had to be translated. She added that Barbados was one of the most popular islands, and that Cuba was the most downmarket, but assured me the operator would take care of the organisation and provide a weddings co-ordinator in resort. She recommended Sandals’ weddings, organised by American weddings co-ordinator Preston Bailey, but pointed out these start at £1,700 to £3,000 – although they are “top notch” and the attention to detail is second to none. She gave me her card, told me to look at the brochures, choose a location, then leave her to do the rest.


Score: 69%

TOP FIVE TIPS

Tip 1: Many major operators have special wedding brochures featuring the Caribbean, and have a dedicated team who take care of the arrangements.


Tip 2: The most popular islands are Barbados and St Lucia. Grenada and Tobago are quieter and are offered by many operators. More exclusive destinations include St Kitts and the British Virgin Islands.


Tip 3: Many operators offer free wedding packages, but such a special occasion is an ideal opportunity to upsell, and include extras, room and flight upgrades.


Tip 4: Reservations must be made in conjunction with a holiday from the operator’s main brochure, so make sure you give this to the client as well.


Tip 5: Weddings can be found on Gazetteers Plus under the special interest holidays tab.

SUMMARY

After deciding to tie the knot in the Caribbean early next year, Mystery Shopper needed agents in Cannock to recommend the most romantic spot for a wedding. Was it Barbados, the Bahamas or Antigua?

Also, where was the easiest place to organise the ceremony? Was Jamaica easier than the Dominican Republic or Mexico?

Mystery Shopper was keen to avoid a property that offered conveyor-belt style weddings, preferring instead a more exclusive, intimate location.

She also wanted to be reassured that the travel agent or the tour operator would handle all the paperwork and that there would be no hiccups along the way.

And that’s exactly what she got from two of the agents, both of whom seemed very capable of organising such an important 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 www.gazetteers.com.




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