This week Mystery Shopper is an older couple wanting a once-in-a-lifetime trip to take in Peru’s major sights, with a budget of £6,000.


Well done to the three top-scoring travel agencies. It was hard to determine the best, and the final results were separated by just one point. First Choice would do well to look and learn from its rivals.


For more on South America, see last week’s feature on the region’s growth areas.


 


First Choice, 14 Low Ousegate, YorkFirst Choice


14 Low Ousegate
Score:
28%


The shop was light, airy, and clean, with attractive window displays. All the employees were well groomed. I was acknowledged with a friendly smile and clear eye contact as soon as I entered the shop.


However apart from appearance and greeting, it rated very poorly in comparison to the other agencies I visited today. I felt unwelcome and undervalued as a customer.


I explained the request, and the agent asked a colleague if they had anything on Peru. She browsed the computer before saying they didn’t do that destination.


She did not go to any lengths to provide information, help or advice and didn’t show any enthusiasm or interest. I didn’t feel my enquiry was taken seriously enough and left the shop feeling frustrated.


 


Acomb Travel, 41 Front Street, YorkAcomb Travel


41 Front Street
Score:
89%


The customer service here was excellent. As soon as I entered the shop a consultant looked up and said hello. Another consultant dealt with my enquiry, who was friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic.


She seemed intent on helping me make the right choice and had enough knowledge to help me come to a good decision. She discussed all aspects of the trip, including vaccinations, and expressed an interest in Peru and the places mentioned on the itinerary.


She said she needed time to work on the package, but gave a guide quote of £5,748 for two for the 15-day Discover Peru’s Hidden Treasures with Travel2, advising me that an organised tour is better for safety reasons.


She also bought her own travel experiences into the consultation, giving me a picture of what I could expect on a trip to South America.


 


Kanoo Travel, 6 Stonegate, YorkKanoo Travel


6 Stonegate
Score:
90%


The consultant acknowledged me immediately. She was working at her desk and looked up, made eye contact, smiled and said hello.


Although she wasn’t initially that knowledgeable about the trip, she did lots of research. She phoned the airline to see if it flew from a regional airport as well as London, looked into the standard of accommodation, and found some pictures online so I could see the accommodation.


She tried her utmost to give me as much information as possible, phoning tour operators to ask lots of questions. The quote was for £6,500, travelling with Latin America Travel.


She was patient, friendly and helpful and I again felt valued and relaxed. Like Acomb Travel, she suggested an organised tour for safety reasons.


 


Thomas Cook, 4 Nessgate, YorkThomas Cook


4 Nessgate
Score:
91%


The agent was helpful, knowledgeable was completely focused on my needs. She was very thorough, finding out details such as flight arrival times.


She also told me the holiday included free use of a lounge at Heathrow and explained the door-to-door chauffeur service provided by Thomas Cook.


She checked if she could discount the price for me, which she was able to do. The quote was £7,000 for The Lost World of the Incas tour with Thomas Cook.


She gave me a great deal of information regarding the Thomas Cook option, but I did feel she was pushing the company’s own tour operator rather than helping me make an informed choice.


She did price up a tour with another operator, but it was not as long or as detailed, so it was hard to compare the two. I was made to feel like a valued customer.



Tips



  1. Around 67,000 British tourists visit Peru each year. Famous sights include the Inca city of Machu Picchu, the Nasca Lines and Lake Titicaca, which is the highest navigable lake in the world. 
  2. Last month floods left around 1,400 tourists needing to be rescued near Machu Picchu. Rainfall this heavy is very unusual, but January and February are the wettest months in this region of Peru.
  3. There aren’t direct flights between the UK and Peru, so clients will most likely have to change at Amsterdam, Madrid or Miami.
  4. In terms of health and vaccinations, visitors need to plan for visiting the different regions of Peru. For example, in the Andes, advise lots of rest to cope with any altitude sickness, while in the Amazon region, Malaria tablets are recommended. 
  5. For more information on operators to Peru, visit www.gazetteers.com