Wanted: Two friends in their 30s would like to visit Sri Lanka during 2020. They would like to see some of the island’s wildlife and historical sites but aren’t sure about the best way to travel to see the highlights. They would like to know about the best times to travel – for their budget and for the weather – as they’re flexible about dates. They would also like to know about security in the country following the terrorist attacks earlier this year.
Tui’s service stood out for the shopper because the agent was enthusiastic and produced suitable holidays. Options offered at Liberty Travel also fitted the brief, but the shopper was disappointed with the experience and quotes at Dragon Travel Agents.
All quotes were well under budget so there was plenty of scope for up-selling – or offering a rather more expensive holiday.
Mel Evans, travel advisor
“I’ve had a few inquiries for Sri Lanka but it’s not a usual destination – although we do get asked about many destinations. I’ve never been there but I would love to go. The holiday quote was a bargain. We learn about destinations from clients, and colleagues here and in other stores. We advise people to look on the Travel Aware website for any security issues.”
16 Bailey Street
Impression: The shop was neat with good corporate branding, and staff were smart in uniform with name badges.
Service: I was served immediately by a friendly agent, who listened to our requirements and gave us two detailed, easy-to-read options. They had good knowledge of the country and its security situation.
They checked the government travel advisory website but advised us that – just as visiting anywhere – we must be sensible and minimise any risks. Insurance and room upgrades were offered.
Quotes: Both quotes were for Skytours holidays departing from Gatwick with Emirates in March, 2020. The first was 17 nights’ half-board accommodation at Coco Royal Beach Resort, Kalutara, for £3,116. It included excursions such as a river safari, visits to Kandy, Sigirya, Dambulla and Colombo, plus an elephant 4×4 safari, and a quad bike and kayaking adventure.
The second was a 14-night multi-centre Sri Lanka Discovery Tour and Stay holiday. It started with a seven-night tour featuring similar visits to the first quote, and the rest of the holiday would be at Coco Royal Beach Resort. The total was £3,044. We were very satisfied with both quotes.
Overall: The agent was totally focused, professional and enthusiastic and we would have booked if it had been a genuine enquiry. The service was miles above the experience elsewhere.
5 Cross Street
Impression: The shop was clean. Staff were dressed differently, with no name badges, but presentable. Window and brochure displays were well ordered, featuring the same font which gave clarity and continuity.
Service: I was spoken to immediately and the agent was reassuring and knowledgeable about the security situation. They said there were no current issues but didn’t seem to have a great deal of destination knowledge.
However, they spoke about visa costs, day excursions and room upgrades. I couldn’t get quotes immediately but returned an hour later to collect the quotes and a brochure from a colleague.
Quotes: Both were 14-day holidays with Travel 2, departing March, 2020, from Heathrow with Sri Lankan Airlines. The first featured an eight-day tour, including Yala National Park, followed by six days at Mermaid Hotel and Club, Kalutara, on a B&B basis.
Upgrading to half-board would be £314. It cost £4,005. There were options to book a leopard safari and whale-watching excursions, each costing about £100 per person. The second featured a six-day Scenic and Wildlife Tour followed by nine days’ B&B at Mermaid Hotel. Half-board would cost an extra £216. The holiday cost £3,803.
Quotes: The enthusiastic agent gave me their undivided attention, although it was a shame I was just handed the quotes and brochure by a colleague when I returned.
Dragon Travel Agents
37 Bailey Street
Impression: The shop was clean and had handwritten offers on a sandwich board outside and cards in the window. But the different handwriting styles made it look disjointed.
Service: The shop was quiet so I was dealt with immediately. The agent was not enthusiastic and didn’t ask questions that would have uncovered more details about our requirements. They demonstrated little knowledge of Sri Lanka or its security situation but referred to the government website and advised that travel was fine.
They said October was the best time to visit, after consulting a weather and climate page which I didn’t get to see. It felt as if they were too busy to deal with me in the shop even though there was no-one else there. They emailed quotes to me later that day.
Quotes: Both were with Mercury Holidays. The first was flying from Heathrow with Qatar Airways on a 17-day escorted tour called Grand Tour of Sri Lanka, for £3,898. The second was a 14-night holiday, flying from Manchester with Qatar Airways, staying at Coco Royal Beach Resort on a half-board basis, for £2,630.
Overall: The quotes were very limited in detail and not ideal. The experience felt rushed as if the agent did not have time to look for options.
The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Casa de Campo Resorts & Villas
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