Mystery Shopper: Bristol, a holiday in the Bahamas avoiding hurricane season

Location: Bristol
Wanted: A couple in their 30s would like a holiday in the Bahamas to escape the British weather. They heard the destination was hit by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 so want to check it’s OK to visit again, and to avoid the next hurricane season.

They want advice about where’s the best place for a relaxing, fun time with an excursion or two and are after a trip of one week to 10 days, half-board or all-inclusive, and are flexible with dates.
Budget: £3,800


All three agents offered options that matched the shopper’s needs and budget, but STA Travel and Thornton’s Travel shone with their levels of service and determination to find suitable holidays. The STA agent edged it with her infectious enthusiasm. The enthusiasm of the Flight Centre agent seemed to fade and the shopper had to press for a quote that fitted the brief.

Winning agent

Pippa Day, travel expert

“The Bahamas is quite an unusual request for us as we are tailormade experts. But we know how to find the best flights and accommodation and focus on getting the best deals. A couple of colleagues have been there.

I haven’t – but we share information on destinations and have lots of updates from suppliers. I have been an agent for three years.”


STA Travel
43 Queens Road

Impression: The shop is in an impressive building with clear branding and eye-catching window posters. An A-board sign encouraged passers-by to enter. Staff were dressed in a smart casual manner which suited the agency. However, the open-plan layout and shared tables meant I was distracted by other conversations.

Service: I spoke to an agent immediately and we discussed my requirements and what was available within the budget. The agent was confident about the best time of year to travel to get the best value for money and good weather. They listened closely to me and persevered for a long time to find options within the budget.

Quotes: Both were seven-night all-inclusive holidays with STA Travel in March 2020, flying from Heathrow to Nassau with Virgin Atlantic and Delta. We would fly out via New York and return via Boston. The first would be staying at adults-only Warwick Paradise Island and the holiday came to £3,906. The second hotel option was Lighthouse Pointe, which the agent recommended because of its spa. This would have cost £3,569 in total.

Overall: The agent was enthusiastic and engaged from start to finish and she genuinely wanted to find the best options. Her excitement was infectious and her confidence in her service filled me with confidence.

Thornton’s Travel
54 Baldwin Street

Impression: The shop looked clean and presentable, if a little dated. The window was full of holiday ideas, each including a picture, which piqued my interest. Staff wore smart-casual clothes.

Service: I spoke to an agent immediately and we discussed a wide range of options before narrowing them down to fit budgets and requirements. The agent had not visited the destination, but a colleague who had recently been was able to share their knowledge and anecdotes. They made good suggestions about the weather and when best to visit. The recommendations made were exactly within the requirements and it was clear that the agent had listened to my preference and tailored the search accordingly.

Quotes: Both were seven-night all-inclusive holidays with Gold Medal, departing in January from Heathrow. The first was flying direct with British Airways and staying at Breezes Bahamas, for £3,847 plus £122 for transfers. This was recommended as excellent value for money. The second was flying with Delta via New York and staying at Rui Paradise Island, for £4,113 plus £122 for transfers. This property had a higher star rating.

Overall: The agent was entirely focused on me, with a positive, professional and enthusiastic manner. I had a friendly conversation with the agent and their colleague and the quotes suited my needs.

Flight Centre
46 High Street

Impression: Vibrant window posters made me want to go in and the brochures were displayed like artwork and clearly showed holiday options. Staff wore smart-casual clothes but the store layout meant I was distracted by other agents.

Service: I was warmly greeted straightaway and talked to an agent about what I wanted. The agent did not know about the destination but rang a colleague for information about resorts and activities. Initially I was offered options that were over budget or bed-and-breakfast so we had to revisit the choices.

The agent was very engaged to start with until an old friend visited the shop in a professional capacity. Rather than ask if I would mind pausing for a moment, the agent hugged the friend while dealing with me.

Quotes: Both were seven-night, all-inclusive holidays with Flight Centre, departing from Heathrow in February. The first was flying via Atlanta with Delta staying at Melia Nassau for £3,668. The second was in the same hotel, flying direct with British Airways for £3,996.

Overall: As our conversation continued, the agent grew less animated. The options did not initially meet my requirements and the agent didn’t appear particularly confident in their recommendations. However, they took time to share reviews of the hotel, sought information from a colleague and ultimately recommended a holiday that fulfilled my requirements.


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