Mystery shopper: Newcastle, a two-week self-drive holiday in Italy

Mystery shopper: Newcastle, a two-week self-drive holiday in Italy

Location: Newcastle
Wanted: An affluent couple want a two-week self-drive holiday in Italy this summer with upmarket but not extravagant hotels and need help with an itinerary.
Budget: Not set, but value is a factor

Dawson & Sanderson
124-130 Northumberland Street
98%
I was sat talking to an agent in less than a minute despite the store being busy. The shop was clean and presentable with an exciting window display. I was asked lots of open questions and the agent had good knowledge of Italy. After discussing the options I was given a quote they packaged up themselves for 14 nights, including Jet2 flights from Newcastle to Pisa on July 25 and car hire. I was shown pictures and write-ups of many hotels and settled on four nights at Hotel La Spezia, four at Hotel Marchionni, in Viareggio, three at Max Hotel Livorno and three at Hotel Athena Siena. Altogether it came to £2,788. They looked at ways to save money on flights so more could be spent on hotels without breaking the bank.

Kuoni
Eldon Square – John Lewis concession
84%
The concession was neatly laid out and I was talking to an enthusiastic agent within a minute. I was given two quotes, both with Kuoni with Jet2 flights from Newcastle to Pisa on August 1 and car hire. The first was £3,960 for 18 nights; three at Rapallo’s Grand Hotel Bristol, four at Una Hotel Vittoria, Florence, and 10 at Una Palazzo Mannaioni, between Florence and Livorno. The second was with four at Una Hotel Vittoria and 10 at Una Palazzo Mannaioni for £3,142.

Hays Travel
5 Ridley Place
72%
The shop was clean, but it took seven minutes to be served. The agent was flustered as they had little knowledge of Italy. They called Citalia, which suggested a 14-night trip with Jet2 flights from Newcastle to Pisa on July 21 and car hire. We’d drive to Genoa for two nights at Genoa Marina, then have five nights at the Grand Hotel Bristol, Rapallo, and then seven nights at the Palace Hotel, Viareggio. It came to £5,358. I was given detailed handwritten notes, but no formal quote.


Winning agent

Joanne Cragie, senior travel consultant

“My friend had just come back from Tuscany so I knew all about Italy, it’s better with shorter drives. I always ask lots of open questions, although it sometimes gets me in trouble.”


Verdict 

Dawson & Sanderson involved Mystery Shopper in the decision-making process. Kuoni offered good ideas over email while Hays’ agent struggled with a complex brief.


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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