The brief: A group of student friends want a week of guaranteed sun on the Red Sea during their Christmas holidays. They would like lively nightlife.

The budget: £600 each.

The verdict: Three of the agents showed good Red Sea knowledge, but the winner remembered insurance and airport parking too.


Thomson, 20 Pinstone Street, Sheffield 20 Pinstone Street

The agent I spoke to in this neat, well-maintained agency recorded my details and browsed the internet to look for a suitable holiday.

She then told me there were a lot of holidays available, and that I should take away a First Choice brochure and choose where I wanted to go.

Once I had decided she recommended that I return and then she would review my options and recommend hotels, as there were many good ones in Egypt. Though she seemed knowledgeable she wasn’t keen to share her expertise.

I got the impression her day was due to end and she didn’t want to get engrossed in a lengthy holiday search.

Ilkeston Co-op Travel

Ilkeston Co-op Travel, 129 Pinstone Street, Sheffield 129 Pinstone Street

This agent was friendly and helpful, and tried hard to find me good quality accommodation, recommending the Sonesta Club Sharm el-Sheikh as her in-laws had stayed there.

However, despite me telling her we were free to travel after New Year, she only looked for holidays travelling over the expensive Christmas period, so the best price she found was a week for four through Thomson for £2,456. I was given a printout with the agent’s contact details highlighted.

Unfortunately, all her colleagues were not serving other customers during our consultation, and were having a private conversation, which was noisy and a little off-putting.

Sheffield Travel Centre

Sheffield Travel Centre, 148 West Street, Sheffield148 West Street

The agent took my details, asked lots of open-ended questions to find out what I was looking for, and then summarised the information to ensure she was covering all my requirements.

She recommended two options with Airtours; the Stella Makadi Resort & Spa in Hurghada for £385 and the St George Three Corners in Sharm for £551. She described the hotels confidently, and went to fetch a brochure as she felt I’d get a better impression from that than a computer printout.

She offered insurance and tried to close the sale, saying the deals on offer were great value. It was a shame the agency was dusty and smelled strongly of food.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, 37 Fargate, Sheffield37 Fargate

The agent listened attentively to my enquiry, and had an excellent knowledge of the area and the hotels she was selling, showing me options and choosing carefully to make sure we’d get good facilities and nightlife within our budget.

She offered two hotels in Sharm, the Tropicana Jasmine Club Hotel for £497 and the Tropitel Na’ama Bay for £436. Although she hadn’t stayed in them herself, she was able to give recommendations from other staff and customers and talk knowledgeably. She worked hard to find me value for money.

She gave me a costings printout and her details, suggested I discuss my options with my friends, reminded me she could also organise additional luggage allowance, car parking and insurance, took my details and called me back as promised the next day.

Jenna Holmes, sales consultant, Thomas Cook SheffieldWinning agent: Jenna Holmes, sales consultant

“I’ll have been working for Thomas Cook for three years in March. I’ve never been to the Red Sea but I’ll be going there on honeymoon so I’ve done plenty of research.”

Tips: Selling the Red Sea

  1. Sharm el-Sheikh is the Egyptian Red Sea’s most established resort. It’s a good bet for young groups, with good-value accommodation and a lively nightlife.
  2. Sharm el-Sheikh’s airport benefits from a huge amount of airlift, with flight options from nearly all UK airports, so it’s likely customers can cut out the need for long transfers at either end of their journey.
  3. The Red Sea’s rich coral reefs make scuba diving a hugely popular activity here. Many hotels have on-site diving schools that offer learn-to-dive packages.
  4. Sharm el-Sheikh’s nightlife hub is the central area of Na’ama Bay, so for clients who want to be in the thick of the action make sure they stay in accommodation close by.
  5. For more information on the Red Sea and hotel reviews subscribe to