Brief: An affluent older couple want a 10-day escorted tour of the historical sights of Jordan and Syria with a great guide in spring next year.

Budget: £4,500.

Verdict: The winner has thorough destination knowledge and the ability to bring a holiday alive.

Flight Centre

Flight Centre, 10a Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells10a Camden Road

The shop was clean and attractive, and the agent here was friendly and seemed to regard my enquiry as important. So it was a shame she seemed to lack experience, and had little knowledge of the destinations I wanted to talk about.

I was given relevant brochures from On The Go tours and Kuoni, but was told that any costs would have to be emailed over to me after I’d left. The agent took my details to follow up but didn’t qualify my requirements fully or give me an idea of the holidays available.

The consultation was reliant on the fact I was sufficiently interested by the brochure to make a return visit.


Thomson, 117 Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells 117 Mount Pleasant Road

I would give this agent top marks for friendliness and patience, and she asked the right questions to determine what I wanted. Her knowledge of the area wasn’t huge but she promised to do more research.

She took my details and I did receive an email later in the day. During the consultation, we looked at Thomson Tailormade and Kuoni brochures, and she priced up the former’s Wonders of Jordan eight-day tour, but unfortunately this didn’t visit Syria, though she did suggest an add-on spending time relaxing at the Dead Sea.

She seemed inexperienced but went to a great deal of trouble to try to find the right answers.

Baldwins Travel Agency

Baldwins Travel Agency, 27 Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells 27 Grosvenor Road

This agent professed not to be too familiar with the Middle East, but she did a good job of helping me and was bubbling with enthusiasm.

She was very keen to discuss the trip and more than willing to call operators to discuss availability and prices and plug any gaps in her knowledge. We settled on Cox and Kings’ 10-day Ancient Lands of Jordan and Syria, which would cost £2,145 departing on April 2.

She gave me a photocopy of the brochure pages and details of the flights to take away. She only fell down on a few points – she didn’t take my contact details, or really try to close the sale.

Lupus Travel

Lupus Travel, 1 Lonsdale Gardens, Tunbridge Wells1 Lonsdale Gardens

This was an exceptional, text-book consultation. The agent quickly qualified my needs and budget. She was well versed and knowledgeable about all aspects of the destination and knew the historical sights and various tour options off by heart.

She presented details of the tour enthusiastically, making the holiday come alive and clearly demonstrating her reasons for recommending a particular tour – Cox and Kings’ 10-day Ancient Lands of Jordan and Syria, which would cost £2,125 departing on March 19.

She even suggested adding on a couple of days at the Dead Sea, which would cost £255 per person. I would recommend this agency 100%. The agent’s performance was almost faultless – she could only have improved by pushing harder to close the sale.

Judi Welch, senior retail consultant, Lupus TravelWinning agent: Judi Welch, senior retail consultant

“I’ve been in the travel business for more than 40 years so I should know a bit about it by now. Jordan and Syria are really up and coming, so I’ve been booking Explore and Cox & Kings trips out there quite a lot.”