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.     

Cardiff A luxury family Caribbean cruise for a special occasion

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.

Three Arches Travel, Fidlas Road, Llanishen, Cardiff scored 56% when Mystery Shopper paid a callThree Arches
Fidlas Road, Llanishen, Cardiff

This agency was a little untidy and the desks looked cluttered. After a few minutes browsing the racks, I was approached by a consultant. She asked what I was looking for and gave me some brochures to take away. When I asked if she could check prices and availability, she offered me a seat. She found that Cunard and Royal Caribbean International were full, so checked Costa Cruises and recommended a ‘back-to-back’ cruise, gave me the prices and assured I could upgrade flights. The consultant was very helpful and had a good knowledge of the product.

Score: 56%

Thomas Cook, Penlline Road, Whitchurch scored 63% when Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper paid a surprise visitThomas Cook
Penlline Road, Whitchurch

The first time I called at this agency, at 12:30pm it was closed. On my second visit, both consultants were busy. I browsed for a few minutes, until the consultant busy with paperwork offered to help – but then asked if she could call me in the morning as they were short-staffed. I said I would like some prices and information today, and was offered a seat. She looked at some of the brochures, checked availability and gave me the details, as well as two DVDs for P&O Cruises. Despite her initial reluctance to assist, she was quite helpful and knowledgable.

Score: 63%

Mystery Shopper also surprised Regal Travel, Whitchurch Road, Cardiff Regal Travel
Whitchurch Road, Cardiff

The agency was quiet and there were two consultants at their desks, one of whom approached me and asked if she could help. The consultant fetched a P&O Cruises brochure and flicked through it. She did not seem familiar with the product, and kept asking her colleague for advice. Eventually she found a 15-night cruise on Oceana with P&O, and called the company for prices and availability while the other consultant showed me Fred Olsen and Ocean Village brochures. The girls in this agency were most helpful and I received the information I requested.

Score: 65%

Caerphilly Road, Birchgrove, Cardiff

As I entered the agency there were three consultants at their desks. I was immediately asked by one of them if I needed any help, and when I explained what I was looking for she asked me to take a seat. She then reached for the P&O and Celebrity Cruises brochures, then went through both of them in great detail and checked availability and prices for me. She was very knowledgeable about the product since she had been on several cruises herself. I felt relaxed in this agency and was offered a cup of tea. The consultant recommended two cruises and assured me that I could upgrade on the flight when I came to book the cruise. I left the agency with enough information to be able to book the cruise, was given all the details and brochures as well as the costs of personal insurance. I was very impressed by the service I received here and would not hesitate to return to book my own holiday.

Score: 77%


Tip 1: Don’t be put off by a cruise request – take your time and use brochures, your colleagues’ experiences and the operator.

Tip 2: Make sure the cruise company you use is suitable and ensure you have all the customer’s needs before recommending one, such as their budget and the individual requirements of family members.

Tip 3: A Caribbean cruise can be a wonderful experience, and although the weather should be hot and sunny, advise your customers to be prepared for all weather conditions.

Tip 4: Advise customers that the next time they see their checked-in luggage it will be on ship – sometimes this does not always arrive at the same time as when they embark and it could arrive a few hours after they do.

Tip 5: Some cruiselines have set dining times, while others have freestyle dining which gives the customer the freedom to dine when they want rather than being restricted to a set time. Again these dining choices are something you can discuss with the customer when finding out their needs.


This week’s request for a luxury Caribbean cruise should have had most agents jumping through hoops to try and secure the booking. Most agents visited did go that extra mile, but one was a little reluctant to help at first as she was too busy.

Cruise products can be a little daunting if you haven’t booked one before, but agents should remember cruise operators are there to help. Also, many cruise companies hold training seminars for agents, of which details can be found in the trade press.

Logo: DG&G GazeteersAbout Gazetteers Plus

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