Mystery shopper: Bury St Edmunds, a relaxing family holiday to Dubai

Location: Bury St Edmunds
Wanted: Mum, dad and their primary school age child would like to visit Dubai in 2020. They want a relaxing break, five to seven days, with family-friendly facilities. They have to visit during school holidays but want to avoid the hottest time of year, so are looking at February half-term or the Easter holidays. They are flexible about the destination – if an alternative close to Dubai offers better value, they’re happy to consider that.
Budget: £5,000 but flexible.


All three agents produced suitable quotes that matched the budget and requirements.

Premier Travel’s enthusiastic agent shared the most information with the shopper, and Tui’s agent also offered lots of detail and personal experience. The three quotes from Fred Olsen were fine but the experience lacked any inspiration or excitement for the shopper.

Winning agent

Rachel Horne, travel consultant

“We do a lot of long-haul bookings so it wasn’t unusual to have a query for Dubai. I have not been there myself but my colleagues have been and we have spoken about it. We also get feedback from operators and reviews. I took a 15-year break from travel to have children but coming back, it’s like riding a bike.”


Premier Travel
12 Butter Market


Impression: The shop was clean and bright but the desk was covered in other quotes and papers. Staff were smart and displays were clear and legible.

Service: I was dealt with straightaway and given lots of options, explanations and information. The agent knew about the destination and local attractions, plus timings and costs of local transport. While on hold to the supplier, she researched local activities and told made about prices and ticket options. The quotes matched our requirements well and the hotels looked good.

Quotes: Both quotes were for seven-night breaks with Premier Holidays, flying with Emirates from Stansted in February. The first was the Citymax Hotel Al Barsha on a half-board basis for £3,646. The agent said nearby attractions included a ski centre and shopping mall.

The second would be Amwaj Rotana Jumeirah Beach hotel on a half-board basis for £4,562. We could pay more to upgrade to an all-inclusive basis. We also discussed Atlantis as it is good for families but would be above budget.

Overall: I felt well informed and the agent was warm, friendly and completely focused on me, showing me the attractions and hotels on the computer. She made me feel excited about the holiday options.

15 Butter Market

Impression: The displays were neat, clear and varied, and staff looked smart in uniforms.

Service: An agent was tidying papers and turned on the computer before helping me. Having visited Dubai, the agent could recommend hotels and attractions. Most options were quite expensive and I didn’t get a chance to consider hotels myself.

There was no attempt to close the sale or follow up afterwards. The agent talked to colleagues when phones were ringing and spoke to someone on the phone while a colleague was on hold.

Quotes: Both quotes were Tui holidays, departing from Stansted with Emirates in February. The first was seven nights at Sofitel the Palm, on a half-board basis for £5,409. The agent said it was perfect for families and had access to a water park. The second was six nights’ B&B at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel for £4,693. The agent said this was a nicer hotel so opted for a shorter, B&B stay to keep in budget.

They mentioned upgrading to an evening departure before the holiday, so we could leave on the Friday after school. The agent explained about local taxes, medications and passports.

Overall: They were knowledgeable and I could imagine what the holiday might be like. But I didn’t feel that I made my own choice about hotels and it took a while.

Fred Olsen Travel
33 Brentgovel Street

Impression: The displays were not particularly interesting. With lots of posters in the same colour it was hard to distinguish the offers. Staff looked neat in their uniforms.

Service: The agent asked me to wait until they had finished their task. They weren’t enthusiastic and didn’t give much information – but the prices were good and hotels seemed to be the right quality. The service was speedy with minimal chat but could have been more personalised and engaging.

Quotes: I was offered week-long holidays with Travel 2, departing from Stansted with Emirates in February. The first would be Oasis Beach Tower on a half-board basis for £4,755. The agent said this was a superior room in a quality hotel on the beach. I was told about the tax payable on check-in.

The second was also half-board, at Amwaj Rotana Jumeirah Beach Hotel, for £3,778. A third option was Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, for £4,295. The quotes matched my needs but the agent was not very engaging and I did not feel like I should book or fully understand why the specific options were given.

Overall: I got the information required but the experience was a bit boring and I didn’t feel excited about the holiday.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Casa de Campo Resorts & Villas

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