Mystery Shopper: Rayleigh, Essex – 22 Feb 2007

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     

Rayleigh, EssexA family trip to a UK holiday park in Cornwall or Devon

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.

46 High Street, Rayleigh

This agency scored zero for its shoddy appearance – its sign above the door had fallen off and not been replaced. The consultant, who picked up Pontin’s, Butlins and Haven Holidays brochures, said they offered great value and good fun for children.

She recommended a Haven Holiday at Devon Cliffs and checked prices and availability, although she seemed confused, which did little to inspire confidence.

As the consultant had been on this type of holiday herself, I was baffled by her poor product knowledge – she was completely incapable of answering my questions without using the brochures.

Score: 40%

First Choice
97 High Street, Rayleigh

Although I was approached quickly in this well- presented agency, the consultant seemed to think that after giving me a few brochures her job was done.

I pushed her for help, only to be told to come back when I had looked through what I’d been given. My request for some help with prices was met with a sigh, accompanied by a reluctant invitation to sit down.When I asked about the holiday parks’ facilities, she read out loud from the brochure as if I was stupid.

The consultant’s manner was so offensive that if I had been a genuine customer I would have walked out then and there. It was not a case of her lacking product knowledge – but rather that she wasn’t in the mood to help.

Score: 41%

109 High Street, Rayleigh

Although this agency was quite quiet and I was assisted immediately, again I got the distinct feeling the consultant couldn’t be bothered to do any more than palm me off with a pile of brochures and let me figure it out for myself.

It was only after pressing her for information that I was finally offered a seat and guided through the brochures. Afterwards, the consultant recommended Dorset’s Waterside Holiday Park from the Hoseasons brochure, and checked for availability and prices.

She proceeded to tell me about the nearby Eden Project and tried to get some information on the attraction for me. She didn’t manage to find anything, but suggested that I look for myself on the Internet when I got home.

I did feel that the more interested I became about booking, the keener she got – funnily enough.

All in all, she turned out to be pleasant and helpful; though we had clearly got off to a shaky start.


Going Places
123 High Street, Rayleigh

It was a while before I was acknowledged, but the consultant that did come over was helpful, offering me lots of information without needing any prompting.

She recommended Devon Cliffs through Haven Holidays, although she did say it was a little more expensive than some of the others because of the standard of the park and the fact that it included a spa.

She then looked at the Hoseasons brochure and recommended Riviera Bay or Waterside Holiday Park as they had lots of entertainment for children. She also explained about the accommodation and was positive about the mobile homes’ facilities.

She telephoned the company and found out about prices and availability, and even got me a price for travel insurance.

I was told about the Eden Project, its close proximity and that it would be an ideal family day out.

The consultant was helpful and professional, her product knowledge was quite good and she promised to follow up my visit with a phone call. That said, she would have scored much higher if her sales technique had been more polished.



Tip 1: Try it yourself. Holiday park operators such as Butlins and Haven offer free guest passes to agents, who can take their families along too.

Tip 2: Sell close to home. Did you know the top market for many holiday parks is the local area? Families are happy to go on holiday a short and convenient drive away. Gen up on holiday parks within a three-hour drive of your agency.

Tip 3: Target families with pre school-age children at off peak times – they can benefit from good deals. Also consider selling a holiday park break as a secondary holiday to a family who has booked a main overseas holiday.

Tip 4: Stress the entertainment and facilities – holiday parks offer more than accommodation. Holiday park operators have poured millions of pounds into upgrading facilities in recent years and now offer luxurious spas, household name headline acts and excellent children’s entertainment – a far cry from the days of Hi-De-Hi.

Tip 5: Visit to research options.


Mystery Shopper’s brief this week was to browse for a break in a West Country holiday park.

While one of the low-scoring agents showed a clear need to swot up on her product knowledge, another did her score no favours with an apparent reluctance to help with Mystery Shopper’s enquiry.

If only she had shared the runner-up agent’s hunger for commission she might have shown a similarly sudden turnaround in her performance when pressed by keen Mystery Shopper.

The winner impressed with her attitude, effort and for coming up with the best overall results.


Gazetteers.comAbout, from DG& G Travel Information gives you a single website that means you need never fear being mystery shopped again! 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.comprovides agents with all the product knowledge you need to meet and exceed customer expectations. Log on at

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