Location: Paisley, Renfrewshire
Shopping for: A seven-night Red Sea holiday for a couple interested in taking a PADI qualification

The agencies

The Co-operative Travel
4 High Street, Paisley


The consultant gave me a friendly greeting, but the shop window looked bare, with just a few hand-written posters advertising cruises. Inside, the desks were a bit cluttered.

After explaining the request, the agent gave me Airtours and Kuoni brochures. I felt she was expecting me to leave so I had to prompt her for a quote.

She found a deal with Airtours staying at the Concorde El Salam in Sharm el-Sheikh for £1,128 per person. She recommended all-inclusive and told me I could organise diving through the hotel.

The consultant then encouraged me to book that day, highlighting a special deal. She gave me the brochures and her business card to take away and also explained the benefits of being a Co-op member.

King World Travel, 46 High Street, PaisleyKing World Travel
46 High Street, Paisley


Despite being busy, I was immediately acknowledged by a smiling agent. She recommended Sharm el-Sheikh as it is easy to get to and all-inclusive because it’s not much more expensive than bed and breakfast.

The agent then compared several hotels, explaining facilities and distances to the resort and beach. Quotes included £529 per person at the Sonesta Club. The agent said details of diving packages were available at the hotel and tried to close the sale saying deals were limited.

The agency had an upbeat atmosphere. The agents seemed to be enjoying their work. They had good customer relations and referred to clients by name.

Thomson, 17 Moss Street, PaisleyThomson
17 Moss Street, Paisley


I was greeted enthusiastically at this tidy and eye-catching agency.

The agent referred to her knowledge of the region and confirmed information with a colleague who had recently returned from Sharm el-Sheikh. Quotes included seven nights at Tropicana Grand Azure, from £574 per person, all-inclusive.

The agent showed me photos of the destination on the computer and said I could arrange a diving course there. I was given a travel planner to take away. Car hire, parking and airport lounges were also discussed.

The consultant also emphasised that my money would be safe if I booked with Thomson. She was positive, professional and maintained eye contact.

The winner

Thomas Cook, 13A High Street, PaisleyThomas Cook
13A High Street, Paisley


This knowledgeable agent gave me lots of useful information about the Red Sea region, such as taxi and meal prices.

She recommended options that suited my requirements. She explained the facilities and differences between the options. Her personal experience was helpful. She quoted Dreams Beach Resort at Sharm el-Sheikh from £1,130. An upgrade to all-inclusive and car hire, insurance and parking were discussed.

When asked about diving, the agent mentioned restrictions such as no diving before or after the day of a flight, and also recommended snorkelling. She attempted to close the sale twice by highlighting offers.

She gave me a brochure, printed quote details and her business card. The agent’s professionalism was impressive and I felt I had her undivided attention.

Well done to travel agents in Paisley. Overall, Mystery Shopper received superb consultations from professional and friendly agents. All took the opportunity to try to upgrade Mystery Shopper to an all-inclusive option and were confident about giving advice on diving in the area.

Selling tips

Tip 1: Most diving courses are bookable in resort. However, some operators – such as Longwood Holidays – will allow you to pre-book courses, which are commissionable.

Tip 2: Clients who don’t dive can still experience the amazing sea life. The Thomas Cook agent was right to recommend snorkelling, which makes it possible to see vibrant reefs in shallow waters.

Tip 3:Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the best known and most popular Red Sea destinations, but alternatives are Port Ghalib and Marsa Alam. Dahab feels more like a bustling Egyptian town.

Tip 4: Travel agents can also offer other activities in the region such as quad biking and camel riding in the desert, or excursions to Cairo and Luxor.

Tip 5:For a thorough run-down of resorts and hotels in the Red Sea and Eilat visit gazetteers.com. The site also contains photos of resorts and hotel reviews from fellow travel agents.

Mystery Shopper prizes

Elite Island ResortsEach month’s highest scoring travel agent gets the chance to drive a Porsche Boxster S courtesy of Elite Island Resorts. More at www.travelweekly.co.uk/elite

Mystery Shopper scoring system

  • 60% Advice and product knowledge
  • 12% Customer service
  • 8% External/internal appearance
  • 7% Welcome
  • 7% Farewell
  • 6% Staff presentation