Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper - in association with Gazetteers.com - 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 presentation, attitude and service.

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper in association with Gazetteers.com.     

THE TARGET ▼WANTED ▼
Newcastle, Tyne and WearA seven-night stay at a cool hotel in Tunisia for a couple

RULES
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.

Thomas Cook
6 Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

The agency was brightly lit but busy. I browsed the brochures and waited to be seen while the consultants dealt with other customers. When I was eventually acknowledged I was given a brochure and told to look through it I was not offered any other help or guidance.

I pushed for more help but the agent simply told me to choose something from the brochure and call back.

The consultant said several times that she would beat any other travel agency’s price. That may be, but with a service like that I would not contemplate going back to this agency.

Score:32%

Travelcare
117 Newgate Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

I found this was the best agency on price and was approached immediately by a friendly consultant who searched for suitable accommodation.

She came up with two options and although the hotels were on a large scale, the facilities and location were excellent. The price quoted was really competitive.

I was also given details on car hire and offered free insurance with an option to upgrade for only £15 to the Gold policy.

I was fairly satisfied with the information I received but a little disappointed with the types of hotel offered. On arriving home the consultant phoned with two more options, reducing the prices I had already received by nearly £100.

Score:54%

Dawson and Sanderson
26 Ridley Place, Newcastle upon Tyne

A large, clean shop with very competent staff that showed a kind, friendly approach, making me feel comfortable throughout the visit.

Knowledge of the resorts was excellent. I told the consultant exactly the type of hotel I wanted to stay in and she looked for something suitable, discounting many because of their size.

Eventually a suitable alternative was given along with the price and a full description; these details were printed out for me to take away as well as the consultant’s business card.

She was very thorough and did everything she could to help find me a suitable holiday, putting my mind at ease and making me feel very confident about this agency.

The consultant could have improved the score by offering more add-ons, but overall my request was matched adequately. The sales technique was impressive and I left feeling that I would have booked the holiday.

Score:74%

Thomson
124 Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

This shop was very clean and well presented with three large departments including a bureau de change. I was seen by a very pleasant and helpful consultant, whose knowledge and fervent study of each hotel was a customer’s dream.

She showed me the variety of apartments and hotels bearing in mind the underlined ‘quiet and cool resort’ I had asked for. I also mentioned riads but this type of accommodation was not offered to me. I was given quite a lot of information on three different large hotels but all of a good standard and in good resorts.

She looked into flying from Manchester instead of Newcastle to find out if she could get a better deal. She compared the two and gave me several options to consider, leaving me in no doubt that she would be only a call away for further advice.

The consultant was friendly and helpful throughout the visit; I would recommend this agency to friends and family.

The score could have been even higher if she had offered extras such as car hire and insurance.

Score:81%

TOP FIVE TIPS

Tip 1:Tunisia has its own take on the riad concept – they’re called dars here and although not as plentiful as Morocco, they’re springing up all the time.

Tip 2:Look out for Tunisia specialists and upmarket operators such as Wigmore and Classic Collection Holidays – if they can’t find exactly what the client is looking for they will be able to suggest an alternative.

Tip 3:If you’re stumped, call the tourist office, which will be more than happy to help with more esoteric requests. The Tunisia National Tourist Office can be reached on 020 7224 5561.

Tip 4:For small, intimate hotels, bypass the big resorts such as Hammamet and look at more out-of-the-way places such as the Island of Djerba. Carthage also has a very modern boutique hotel, the Villa Didon.

Tip 5:Spa holidays are also very big in Tunisia – thalassotherapy in particular. This kind of treatment uses saltwater and minerals from the sea

SUMMARY

This week Mystery Shopper challenged agents to find cool and unusual accommodation for a young couple who want to go to Tunisia for a week in May.

The couple have been to Morocco and loved the traditional riads and don’t want to stay in a hotel owned by a big chain.

Most of the agencies provided a good service but the two who scored lowest were let down heavily by their lack of knowledge.

However, none picked up on the fact Mystery Shopper wanted a small hotel and only looked in the main brochures: Airtours, Thomas Cook and Thomson.

 

Gazetteers.comAbout Gazetteers.com.

Gazetteers.com, from DG& G Travel Information gives you a single website that means you need never fear being mystery shopped again! Gazetteers.com 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 Gazetteers.com.

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