Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper - in association with Gazetteers Plus - calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check agency appearance, brochure racking, product knowledge, sales technique and staff attitudeTravel 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.     

Travel call centresFamily cruise in the Mediterranean

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.

Freedom Direct
Tel. 0845 389 1460

Although the consultant answered the phone pleasantly, it was all downhill from then on. When I told her what I was looking for, she stopped me and said she would put me through to a cruise specialist. I was put on hold, and the original consultant then came back to me and said there was no-one available to help, and it would be better if I looked through some brochures, picked out what I wanted and then called back. The call was ended at this point. All in all, the results of this call were very disappointing.

Score: 15%

Hays Travel
Tel. 0870 320 1048

After a short wait a consultant answered the phone in a friendly manner. When I explained the holiday I wanted, she began to search on her computer. She found a cruise with Thomson Holidays, which sounded perfect, went through the ports of call and gave me information on some of them. However, she failed to give details of travel insurance or the excursions that would be available. Overall, the consultant was very pleasant and helpful, but I had to keep asking for information rather than it being volunteered.

Score: 42%

Fleetway Travel
Tel. 0870 730 9300

The phone was answered immediately. As soon as I explained what I wanted I was transferred to a consultant, who was very helpful. She looked at a couple of alternatives and compared prices. The options she gave me were ideal and as she had travelled on cruise ships herself she was able to make recommendations about the ships as well as ports of call. She also explained how to reach the centres by public transport. Overall, I was given excellent service and would not have hesitated to book a holiday with her.

Score: 79%

Thomas Cook
Tel. 0870 750 5711

The phone was answered immediately by a machine, which put me on hold for about four minutes. A consultant then greeted me in a professional and polite way, giving her name. She asked me a series of questions to establish my requirements. She then asked me for my name and phone number in case we got disconnected. After establishing these facts the consultant began to probe into my specific requirements, using anecdotal information to reassure me and provide me with background information. The consultant displayed background knowledge with regard to cabin types. However, she did not make any personal recommendations. She established my budget fairly early on in the conversation and provided me with options to fit this budget. We discussed extras such as excursions and personal insurance, which made me feel she was doing her best to assist me. Overall, I felt confident in the service provided and actually felt like booking the holiday.

Score: 88%


Tip 1: Cruises are one of the biggest growth areas in travel and offer agents a good opportunity to earn substantial commission.

Tip 2: A Mediterranean cruise would be ideal for a first-time cruiser, allowing them to experience cruising closer to home in more familiar surroundings.

Tip 3: Many cruise companies, such as Ocean Village, Island Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises, cater well for families, with clubs for children and teenagers, and a wide choice of activities and entertainment for all. All offer a variety of itineraries in the Mediterranean.

Tip 4: Try to boost your commission by selling on-shore excursions at the time of booking.

Tip 5: The website provides details of itineraries and ships for cruises throughout the world.


A family Mediterranean cruise was requested, with some excellent results from some call centres.

Two consultants were very knowledgeable, having been on several cruises themselves, so they were able to make recommendations about different ships and ports of call. They described everything you would expect to find on a cruise and ‘painted the picture’, which is important when you cannot see who you are selling to.

One call centre failed to provide any information and Mystery Shopper was told to call back when they had picked something out of a brochure.

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

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