Mystery Shopper: Blackburn, Lancashire

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.     

Blackburn, LancashireA city break to Kentucky

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.

Going Places
30 King William Street

I entered the shop and although two members of staff were free I browsed the brochures for more than 10 minutes. The shop was quite scruffy and most brochure racks were empty. Finally I asked a consultant for help. I explained that I wanted to book a holiday to Kentucky but could not find anything in the brochures they had on display. I was told that they did not ‘do’ Kentucky and to look on the Internet! I was taken aback by her reply and really could not believe what she had just told me. I asked for her name and left the agency.


First Choice
50 King William Street

After a couple of minutes of browsing I was asked if I needed any help. I explained the brief to the agent and she went into the back to bring me the Tradewinds brochure. Although she only had this one brochure she said there were more specialist holiday brochures to come in. The brochure didn’t feature Kentucky so I had to ask for a card so I could ring and check when any more had arrived. I also asked if it was worth looking on ‘the system’ but was informed it was “far too specialised”. I left the agency with no information at all to help me find a holiday to Kentucky.


Thomas Cook
48 King William Street

On entering the agency I was greeted by a friendly consultant. I explained I wanted a funky hotel in Kentucky. She said Kentucky was a specialist destination and that if I had Internet access I should look for Jetlife, Funway and United Vacations and request their brochures. She said the latter would be the most likely to offer Kentucky. I said I didn’t want to book online, so the agent gave me her card and told me to give her a ring when I had the brochures and she could book for me. (She attempted to look on Gateway but could not get on). The shop was clean and tidy and the staff were smart in appearance.


Travel Lines
747 Ainsworth Street

When I entered the agency the only member of staff was serving another customer, however she smiled and told me she would be with me shortly. When I asked about a city break to Kentucky she was interested to know why I wanted to go to Kentucky rather than Tennessee. The consultant did not think there were any package deals too Kentucky but had a good look through the Gold Medal brochures. When we could not find anything there she called Gold Medal and asked for a price for flights to Kentucky and also for a couple of hotel prices per night and checked the availability for my dates. She also offered me a flight with a stop-over in New York. Although the consultant knew very little about tourism to Kentucky I felt she tried her hardest to find something for me. I felt I was getting the best available advice and was made to feel comfortable and welcome at the same time.



Tip 1: The main airport is Northern Kentucky International, 12 miles from Cincinnati which lies just over the border in Ohio. Frankfort is the state capital but Louisville is its largest city.

Tip 2: Famous Kentuckians include Abraham Lincoln, frontiersman Daniel Boone, Muhammad Ali and World War 2 General George Patton.

Tip 3: The famous Colonel Sanders set up a chicken franchising business in Corbin in 1955 and you can visit his 1940s-style café there

Tip 4: Other sights include the subterranean world of Mammoth Cave, the bourbon whisky distilleries, Fort Knox gold depository and the horse racing around Lexington.

Tip 5: For more attractions and background information, try


This week Mystery Shopper was after a city break to Kentucky as her and her boyfriend had heard it’s a fun place to stay. She was looking for a funky hotel. The request seemed a little daunting for some of the agents.

The winning agent at least knew Tennessee bordered Kentucky and asked questions about the reason for the trip. Her knowledge was limited but she offered Mystery Shopper the option of a flight with a stopover in New York for a few days along with hotel prices and availability.

Two of the agents offered no information on Kentucky at all. Another agent even said her agency did not book holidays to Kentucky. Mystery Shopper was not even sure this agent knew where Kentucky was.

Overall this week’s visits were disappointing, with not a lot of effort being made by the agents to make a sale.


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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