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     

Whitby, North YorkshireA family winter holiday to Canada

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 gave Whitby Travel Agency of 35 Flowergate a score of 45% (8 Dec 2006)Whitby Travel Agency
35 Flowergate, Whitby

After browsing for a couple of minutes, a consultant came over and gave me the Inghams and Virgin brochures. I asked about twin-centre holidays and the possibility of staying at an ice hotel, but she said there weren’t any in Canada and it would be better if I took the brochures and came back when I knew whether or not I wanted a ski holiday. She didn’t give me any more information on skiing holidays or any other options to help me decide. When I pressed her for prices she said she couldn’t give me any until I decided what I wanted. This was disappointing, as it would have helped me find out what was within my budget.


Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper gave Thomson of 53 Baxtergate a score of 46%Thomson
53 Baxtergate, Whitby

I was left to look at the brochures for a while before an assistant offered any help. She gave me two brochures, but when I asked for more detail, she told me she wasn’t experienced enough to give me any advice on Canada. The consultant suggested I take the brochures away with me and once I had decided what I wanted she could give me some prices. I tried to get more information, but she insisted it would be better to call back later in the week when they would have the new Inghams brochure in stock. Overall, I didn’t gain much information from this visit, and I wasn’t given the chance to discuss the ice hotel or what activities I required.


Travel Weekly's Mystery shopperGetaway Travel
5 Flowergate, Whitby

This agency was being refurbished and was very busy. I browsed the brochure racks for a couple of minutes, before someone asked if they could help. When I explained what I was looking for the consultant advised me to speak to her colleague – a Canada specialist. Once she was available I explained what I was interested in. She immediately told me there was an ice hotel in Quebec but, if I wanted to ski, the best snow was in Whistler or Jasper on the west coast. She recommended booking a twin-centre holiday if I wanted to stay in the ice hotel, and handed me the ‘Canada Keep exploring’  and ‘Rocky Mountaineer Vacations’ brochures.This consultant was very pleasant and helpful and also apologised for the noise and mess created by the refurbishment. She gave me her business card and told me to call her if I had any more questions.


Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper gave Travelcare of 54 Baxtergate a score of 65% (8 Dec 2006)Travelcare
54 Baxtergate, Whitby

A consultant approached me immediately and asked if she could be of any help.After giving me the Inghams and Neilson brochures, she asked is she could be of further assistance so I asked about ice hotels. She said she didn’t know of any in Canada and then called Inghams and Neilson to see if she could get me on a twin-centre holiday, and gave me ideas on different ski resorts – such as Banff and Lake Louise, depending on my budget. Then she offered to get me prices on activities such as snowboarding, ice-skating and dog sledding, and gave me a quote for three different types of holiday. When I said I would have to think about it she gave me her business card and told me to phone her at any time. Overall, the information and advice I received was very helpful and this was definitely the best agency I visited in Whitby.



Tip 1: Canada’s ice hotel lies on the shores of Lake St Joseph in Quebec, 30 km from Quebec City.

Tip 2:The best ski resort in the area is the purpose-built resort of Mont-Tremblant. Although low-altitude, it has good snow from November to April. It is also possible to stay in Quebec City and ski in the nearby areas of Monte-Ste-Anne and Stoneham.

Tip 3:Several operators – including Crystal, Virgin, All Canada and Ski All America – can combine the Ice Hotel with the above resorts

Tip 4:Many operators also offer winter activities such as dog sledding, tobogganing and snowmobiling. These can be found on under the special- interest category ‘winter sports/activities’.

Tip 5:Ice hotels are also listed as a special interest holiday on They can also be found in Finland and Sweden.


This week, Mystery Shopper’s cold-calling mission was to hunt down a trip to Canada to see where’s best for skiiing and other winter activities.

Two of the agencies were very knowledgeable and gave Mystery Shopper some good advice as well as a selection of hotels and availability. A consultant at one of the other two shops did try her best but did not have the experience to advise on this type of holiday.The remaining agency did nothing but hand out brochures – even when prompted about certain hotels no attempt was made to find any information.


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