Mystery shopper: Chester, three weeks in South America

Mystery shopper: Chester, three weeks in South America

Location: Chester
Wanted: Two friends want to go to South America for three weeks in January, visiting Machu Picchu, the Atacama Desert and Patagonian fjords, and staying in unusual accommodation.
Budget: £8,000

Chester Travel Connection
22 Commonhall Street
65%
The shop was attractive and the employees smartly dressed. An agent gave me her business card but did not offer to take my details. We spoke at length about the tour operators I could book with, such as Sunvil, Travel 2 and Titan. The agent said Sunvil featured eco lodges but gave no examples. I was told I could fly from Manchester airport via Madrid or Portugal. The agent was enthusiastic and gave a lot of advice about visiting places such as Machu Picchu, Santiago, Chilean vineyards, the Atacama Desert, Patagonian fjords and Chilean lakes. I was given two brochures and asked to get back in touch with the agent. I was given a lot of options but no specific information, itinerary or price.

Deva Travel
55 Bridge Street
50%
I was acknowledged within a minute. The agent had limited knowledge of South America and asked me questions about what I preferred or had researched rather than actually selling a specific tour to me. I was recommended Veloso Tours or a customised tour with Cox & Kings but the agent gave me brochures rather than generating a specific itinerary. I was told I could extend my holiday with stays either side of a tour. The agent did not take my details.

Thomson
16-18 Foregate Street
15%
This agent did not appear to grasp what I was asking for, giving me a brochure for the wrong continent and recommending I try elsewhere. I was handed a Hayes & Jarvis brochure for the US and Canada, with the agent saying they could plan a tour through Canada. When I interrupted to say I wanted South America, I was told the brochure covered “the southern states” too. No details were exchanged and the agent showed very little enthusiasm.


Winning agent

Jennie Walters, senior travel consultant

“My job is so enjoyable because it is different every single day and I have been working in travel for 20 years.”


Verdict

None of the agents provided a detailed itinerary for this week’s brief. The winner stood out with her destination knowledge, enthusiasm and customer service.


Elite resorts caribbean

Top-scoring agent each month will win use of a car for 10 days.

The winning agent must be at least 25, for insurance reasons. Winners under 25 will win a week’s all-inclusive holiday at an Elite Islands Resorts property. The prize is non-transferable and the car must be driven only by the winning agent. The winner must not have any serious driving convictions. Elite Island Resorts will endeavour to supply the car to the agency but reserves the right to request the winning agent to collect and return the car from Essex or a central location

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