Location: Bolton
Wanted: A middle-aged couple would like to escape for some winter sun but not fly too far. They like the idea of the Middle East, Egypt and Israel but happy to consider the Canaries or Madeira, or other parts of north Africa. They want a short break, flying from a local airport to save travel time. They would like a relaxing hotel in a beach resort for a few days of relaxation. They can travel any time in December, January or February.
Budget: £1,800


Althams and Thomas Cook offered great levels of service and product knowledge. The Althams agent edged it with her enthusiasm and personal experience. The shopper had to work hard to extract details from the Hays agent. All quotes were well under budget – many of them considerably so – meaning there were missed opportunities to upsell to a more luxurious holiday or secure upgrades.

Winning agent

Becci Hughes, assistant manager

“We get a lot of winter sun enquiries, especially this time of year when people return from their holidays. I went to Hurghada last year and loved it. Tunisia is popular now it is back on sale – with people who went before and want to return, and those who want to go for the first time.”

Althams Travel
9 Market Street

Impression: The store was tidy with smart, uniformed staff. The window displays were interesting but rather busy.

Service: Two agents were serving customers but one nodded at me after three minutes. A colleague arrived in the shop after five minutes and invited me to discuss my holiday. The enthusiastic agent asked lots of questions and shared their experiences of Hurghada in Egypt, bringing the resort to life. They explained in detail about excursions and asked if I could extend the holiday to include a Nile cruise. I felt like a valued customer as the agent worked extremely hard to find two suitable holidays.

Quotes: Both quotes were for all-inclusive seven-night Thomas Cook holidays, flying from Manchester in January. The first was Sunrise Holidays Resort, Hurghada, Egypt, for £1,024. The agent said it would provide the perfect base for a relaxed holiday with sightseeing. The second was Medina Belisaire & Thalasso Resort, Yasmine Hammamet, Tunisia, for £598. It was so cheap that there would be plenty of room in the budget for shopping and excursions.

Overall: I would have been happy to book as both options matched my brief, with money to spare to upgrade elements of the holiday. The agent knew a great deal about Hurghada and gave a vibrant flavour of the holiday with their personal recollections.

Thomas Cook
25 Victoria Square

Impression: The clean shop had well-stocked brochure racks, eye-catching posters and smart, professional-looking staff.

Service: There was one agent who was busy when I arrived but after six minutes they were free to deal with me. They asked plenty of questions, listened carefully and offered lots of information about the accommodation, resorts, sightseeing and security questions. The agent mentioned many positive aspects of both holidays and explained in detail about Hurghada and the surrounding area in an upbeat way. The team member could have however provided more information about Fuerteventura when I asked. Excursions were mentioned but not costed, and the price of extra luggage was explained. The agent was friendly and totally focused on me throughout my visit.

Quotes: Both were seven-night all-inclusive Thomas Cook holidays, flying from Manchester in January. The first was at Sunrise Holidays Resort in Egypt’s Hurghada, for £1,066. The agent said it offered a relaxing environment with good range of local shopping and excursions. The second was at Suite Hotel Atlantis, Corralejo, Fuerteventura, for £1,336. I was told this was a high-quality resort that was very popular with customers.

Overall: The recommended holidays matched my requirements and I was confident in the agent’s knowledgeable and professional service.

Hays Travel
Unit 1 The Galleria, St Andrews Court

Impression: The shop was tidy, with staff in uniform and eye-catching displays.

Service: I was acknowledged immediately by a polite, cheerful and friendly agent – but I had to prompt all the time to continue the conversation and get quotations. The agent didn’t take my details or follow up afterwards. Most of the essential questions were not asked, and the agent failed to pick up on my prompts about certain destinations or my budget. The agent demonstrated little knowledge of the resorts, simply responding: “Look on Google,” when I asked questions. The only ancillary discussed was extra luggage and this was as a result of my prompting.

Quotes: Both were week-long holidays in January, flying from Manchester. The first was with Tui, at Hotel Taburiente Playa, Los Cancajos, La Palma, on a half-board basis for £920. The second was Thomas Cook, at Sentido Le Sultan, Hammamet, Tunisia, on an all-Inclusive basis, for £865. The quotes seemed basic and amateurish, and omitted many details I had requested.

Overall: I was satisfied with the holidays but felt I had to drag the conversation along. I did not have confidence in the agent, who seemed inexperienced. They would have gladly thrust brochures into my hands and let me leave, had I not pushed for a quotation.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Oasis Hotels & Resorts.

Oasis Hotels & Resorts offers five all-inclusive beachfront properties and two city-centre properties in Cancun, Mexico. They are:

Hotel Zone, Cancun
Grand Oasis Cancun; The Pyramid; Oasis Palm; Grand Oasis Palm; and brand new Grand Sens Cancun.

Downtown Cancun
Oh! The Urban Oasis; and Smart Cancun by Oasis. Oasis offers family-friendly resorts and adult-only experiences, as well as wedding and honeymoon packages.