Mystery shopper: Newark, a week in The Gambia in 2020

Location: Newark, Nottinghamshire
Wanted: A middle-aged couple would like to visit The Gambia in 2020 for about a week. They would like to relax on the beach in the sunshine, but also to have the option of an excursion or two for some souvenir shopping and to see some wildlife. They would prefer all-inclusive if possible and are flexible about dates so would like to know the best time to visit so it’s not too hot.
Budget: £1,200


Each agency managed to find quotes within budget but several quotes were over budget. Carrick’s agent did a good job explaining why his quotes offered good value and showed enthusiasm about booking the holiday. The Co-op agent seemed to be rushing and Tui didn’t offer much information to seal the deal.

These visits were carried out before Thomas Cook ceased trading on September 23.

Winning agent

Nick Coleman, assistant manager

“The Gambia is not a common request for us, but we do get some people asking for it if they are looking for something different for a winter-sun holiday and don’t want to fly too far. Our shop had a refit last year and we donated four desks to a Gambian school.”


Carrick Travel
52 Carter Gate

Impression: The shop was well maintained with attractive, enticing window posters and an A board. The agent who served me looked smart with black trousers and a shirt.

Service: I was greeted by a friendly, focused agent who served me straightaway. He listened carefully and seemed genuinely interested in the holiday. The agent provided plenty of information about our options after consulting a brochure. He provided four quotations but no extras were mentioned.

Quotes: My quotes were all seven-day holidays using products from the Gambia Experience under Thomas Cook’s Atol, flying from Birmingham in late January or early February, 2020. The first was all-inclusive at Hotel Sunset Beach, for £1,572. The second was a half-board stay at Bakotu Hotel, for £1,242.

The agent said the second hotel was tranquil and good for nature-watching – and is used by TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham, which was a nice detail. The other quotes were Gambia Coral Beach Hotel and Spa (£2,034, all-inclusive) and Ocean Bay Hotel and Resort (£1,564, half-board).

Overall: I was very satisfied as this agent offered the best range of quotes. He was thorough and told me plenty about the destination and accommodation. I would have booked if it had been a genuine enquiry and felt that this travel agency looked after its customers.

1 Market Place

Impression: The shop was not very visible, being tucked away in the corner, so I walked straight past it initially. Staff looked smart in their uniforms but the displays in the small window were not very enticing – just pictures of palm trees and a beach.

Service: The shop was quiet so I was served immediately by a friendly agent who asked a few questions. The agent was not familiar with The Gambia and did not even know if they offered holidays there. They had virtually no knowledge about it.

Quotes: Both quotes were for seven-night breaks with Olympic Holidays, departing in January, 2020, from Manchester with Thomas Cook Airlines. With the first quote, we would stay at Palma Rima Hotel, on an all-inclusive basis, for £1,605.

That included transfers and a £120 saving if booked on the day of my visit. The second quote offered half-board accommodation at Badala Park Hotel, for £1,061. It also included transfers and a £147 saving if booked on the day of my visit. I was told this hotel was close to the beach, but a taxi ride from the town.

Overall: The agent was smiley, interested and positive but I would have preferred more information. The brochure I received only had two pages about The Gambia.

Co-op Travel
24 Middle Gate

Impression: The window display was rather drab and not eye-catching. However, the employees wore smart uniforms and the brochures were well displayed.

Service: The store was busy so I waited five minutes to be served. The agent did not ask me any open questions and was not very knowledgeable about The Gambia. They consulted the computer as there was not much information in the brochure. The agent seemed efficient, professional and produced quotes quickly.

Quotes: Both were for week-long Olympic Holidays breaks, departing in January, 2020, from Birmingham airport with Thomas Cook Airlines. The first would be on an all-inclusive basis at Palma Rima hotel, for £1,572.  This hotel has the biggest pool in The Gambia and is next to the beach. It included transfers and a saving of £120 if booked on the day of my visit. The second was half-board accommodation at Palm Beach Hotel, for £1,216, with transfers and a £120 saving if booked on the day of my visit.

Overall: The agent seemed to be rushing and did not have much time to serve me fully. I wondered if that was because it was coming up to lunch time. I would have liked more information rather than just a general brochure featuring a range of destinations.


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.

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