Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check presentation, attitude and service.

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper in association with     

Fareham, HampshireA city break to Istanbul

Each week, Mystery Shopper calls on agents across the UK. Shops are judged on six criteria:

Internal/external appearance (25%)
Sales technique (25%)
Availability checked (10%)
Product knowledge (20%)
Details explained (10%)
Request matched (10%)

Please note, no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper’s visits.

First Choice, Unit 18, Fareham Centre, FarehamFirst Choice

The best thing that can be said about Mystery Shopper’s visit to First Choice was that things started well.I was served quickly on entering, but on explaining my needs the consultant admitted the shop did not have any brochures in stock that featured Istanbul.I was then handed the First Choice Adults brochure to take away – not a lot of use since it didn’t include my chosen destination.I prompted her to check availability. She did, and found there were lots of hotels with rooms. But rather than help further, she told me to come back when the brochures arrived. Oh dear, very poor.


Going Places, 89 West Street, FarehamGoing Places
89 West Street, Fareham

I entered the agency and began to browse the brochures. Consultants were available but none acknowledged me. After a few minutes I asked for help – otherwise I might have stood there all day.I explained what I was looking for and my consultant said the shop did not have many short-break brochures in stock. Still, she managed to rustle up a copy of the Thomas Cook Cities and Short Breaks brochure. At this point she gave me her business card. Again I had to prompt her to check some availability. She came up with a couple of options, but made no recommendations at all.Maybe she’d trained with the First Choice consultant?


Thomas Cook, 38 Westbury Mall, FarehamThomas Cook
38 Westbury Mall, Fareham

I entered the agency and browsed the brochure rack. Once again, I was left to wonder if I had suddenly become invisible, and it was a good few minutes before one of the consultants on duty spoke to me.When I explained what I was looking for the consultant seemed a little lost at first and was not sure which operator to recommend. She finally opted for Thomas Cook Signature. We looked through the brochure together and she recommended the Conrad hotel, which was 15 minutes from the old town in Istanbul.The property looked very luxurious and it had gym facilities, restaurants, bars and even tennis courts. Availability was checked for me and the details were given to me along with a full cost.To be honest, the service was a little perfunctory. Although we went through all the steps, there was little enthusiasm from my agent, which was perhaps down to her lack of destination knowledge.


Davis World Travel, 14 West Street, Portchester, FarehamDavis World Travel
14 West Street, Portchester, Fareham

As I entered this agency I was greeted by a friendly consultant. She asked me how she could help and I explained that I was looking for a trip to Istanbul for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday.She asked me to take a seat and we discussed the types of things we would like to do on holiday and type of hotel we wanted to stay in.She suggested we look at the Inghams Cities and Short Breaks brochure. We looked through it and decided on a specific property, the Four Seasons hotel in the heart of Istanbul. It looked perfect – there were restaurants, a health club and beautiful rooms, as well as being ideally located for sightseeing.The consultant checked the availability and gave me a price along with flight details. She said the availability was not too bad at the moment but advised me to come back quickly and book.I was urged to call back if I had any further queries and she gave me her business card with a contact number. After my other experiences in Fareham, the service was a real breath of fresh air.



Tip 1:Agents struggled to think of Istanbul operators – but there’s plenty of choice. Anatolian Sky, Carrier, Cox and Kings, Thomas Cook and Thomson all feature the city.

Tip 2:Istanbul’s population now stands at 15 million. Clients uncomfortable with the crowds should think twice about going.

Tip 3:Despite the unrelenting press of humanity, Istanbul is a fascinating mix of cultures, with superb architecture and brilliant shopping at every turn. Quality hotels are situated in the commercial Taksim area and northern suburbs.

Tip 4:Don’t miss the Grand Bazaar (and its 4,000 shops), for traditional items of copper, leather, glazed earthenware, jewellery and carpets.

Tip 5:Sightseers should seek out the famous Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque and the adjacent Hippodrome, where chariots once raced. The Ottoman palace of Topkapi is another must. Visitors should avoid the beaches close to Istanbul, however. Despite the crowds of locals taking a dip, the waters are very polluted.


This week Mystery Shopper wanted a trip to Istanbul as a surprise 30th birthday present. There was good money to be made – afive-star hotel in the city centre was required – but agents would have to work hard. Mystery Shopper wanted advice on attractions and restaurants.Sadly, three out of the four stores visited were let down by staff who showed a distinct lack of interest and product knowledge – two even had to be prompted to search for availability.Thankfully, the consultant at Davis World Travel saved the day with a goodall-round showing. Her colleagues in the multiples might fancy popping along to see how good service is done.


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