Mystery Shopper: Newport, two middle-aged friends want a short break in the UK

Location: Newport
Wanted: Two middle-aged friends are seeking a short break, perhaps for two nights, at a UK hotel. They would prefer it to be adult-only, with indoor and outdoor activities, ideally with a spa and evening entertainment. They don’t mind sharing a room but would like to compare prices for single and twin occupancy. They’d be happy to make their own way to the destination and are flexible with dates.
Budget: £450

Mystery shopper Newport verdict

All three agents found it hard to provide suggestions that matched the budget. Nassa Travel impressed the most, with the mystery shopper even planning to book one of the suggested hotels with the agency. The Holiday Shack and La Vida Travel didn’t give any reasons to book with them rather than going direct. The agents might have had more success had they sought options from a trade-friendly brand such as Warner Leisure Hotels.

Winning travel agent: Mollie Western

“We don’t often get enquiries for the UK but when we do, we use suppliers such as Leisuretime for coach tours and Stuba for hotels. This is only my third week in the job. I studied travel and tourism at college and now I am in training here, with lots of help from [owner] Jayde Nassa.”

Pictured: Douglas, Isle of Man

Nassa Travel, 87c Commercial Street, 79%

Impressions: The shop was neat and tidy and the agents looked smart. There was lots of information in the window but the displays were nothing special.

Straightaway I spoke to a friendly agent who asked me plenty of questions to develop a good rapport. She didn’t know too much about the UK but was willing, friendly and helpful. She initially focused on self-catering lodges but I wanted hotels, so I suggested the Isle of Man and  Ayrshire in Scotland as I have been there before.

Quotes: I was quoted for a four-night break in August on a twin-share room-only basis at the Marine Hotel in Troon, Ayrshire. The total for a twin was a little over budget at £545 and two single rooms would be £1,017. This hotel had a hot tub, indoor pool, gym, spa, sauna and steam room, a beauty salon, massage treatments and hydrotherapy. The hotel really looked like a gem. The second quote was for the Claremont Hotel in Douglas in the Isle of Man and would cost from £844 for a twin-share room for four nights.

Overall: The agent was very enthusiastic but I had to make suggestions about places to search. We may well book a break at the Marine Hotel with her.

The Holiday Shack, 133 Chepstow Road, 70%

Impressions: This shop was tidy with eye-catching displays. Agents wore smart, casual clothing, but the radio was playing very loud music.

Service: I was served immediately by an agent who searched online. A cruise was suggested, which sounded interesting, but not what I was after. The agent was not familiar with UK destinations and made little effort to close the sale. My details and name were not taken, and I had to ask for a business card. The agent did not ask many questions, or seem overly enthusiastic.

Quotes: Two quotes offered were both for two-night half-board holidays with Great Little Breaks. The first was for June, in a standard twin room at Best Western Lamphey Court Hotel & Spa in Pembroke. It cost £362. The second was for February, in a standard double room at Mercure Bridgwater Hotel in Bridgwater, Somerset, for £250. Both included a packed lunch and walking maps for one day. A third quote was for Best Western Premier East Midlands Airport Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth, Derbyshire, which cost from £59 per person per night.

Overall: The breaks were interesting but nothing beyond what I could have found by myself online. The agent was friendly but didn’t highlight any advantages of using the agency’s services. I would have wanted to know more about the products.

La Vida Travel, 14 Corelli Street, 50%

Impressions: The store looked professional and tidy, with staff wearing smart but casual clothing. It was a converted residential property, so there was not much of a window display.

Service: I was invited to take a seat, as the agents were busy with customers, but had to wait only a few minutes. The agent asked very few questions and had difficulty sourcing prices. They said this type of holiday was niche, explaining they used to use a specialist operator but the firm was no longer in business. I was given a business card with details for the agency’s Cardiff branch rather than Newport. The agent took no details, not even my name.

Quotes: The first was for a one-night break for two at Vale Hotel & Spa Resort in South Wales for £129. The agent said only one-night breaks were available, and gave no more information than could have been gleaned from the hotel’s website. The second quote was for two nights at Shrigley Hall Hotel & Spa in Cheshire in May for £168. Both seemed to include vouchers for a spa experience with afternoon tea through Do Something Different, but this was not fully explained.

Overall: The service felt rather rushed and I was left with the impression that I could have found the same options by searching online myself.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Atelier Playa Mujeres.

This outstanding brand new five-star adults-only allinclusive resort is situated on the beautiful coast of Playa Mujeres in Cancun. Its innovative atmosphere blends harmoniously with the breathtaking natural landscape. Created as an authentic masterpiece by Mexican creatives, Atelier Playa Mujeres will take guests into a new luxury experience, where art, technology, nature and experiences are combined to set up a new world of relaxation.

• Brand-new, five-star, adultsonly, all-inclusive resort
• Located in the Playa Mujeres private gated community
• 1,360sq m Infinity Pool
• Art and Design Gallery
• 429 beautiful suites
• Eight restaurants offering the finest flavours
• Total relaxation at NUUP SPA
• Access to the Greg Norman-designed golf course

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