Mystery Shopper: Sunderland travel agents tested on a theme park booking

Mystery Shopper: Sunderland travel agents tested on a theme park booking

Location: Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
Shopping for: A European theme park-based holiday for a family of four who have been to Florida

The agencies

Tate’s Travel
7 Park Lane, Tyne and Wear


I was in this agency for at least five minutes before I was acknowledged, despite two of the agents present working on computers and not serving anyone.

After explaining my request, the consultant said Disneyland Paris was good but there was nothing else like that in Europe. She called to a colleague who immediately suggested Salou in Spain. She also explained that PortAventura was nearby.

The consultant handed me a brochure and checked the cost on her computer after I asked for prices. She did not speak while she did this and it felt a bit awkward.

She printed off a quote, saying “There you are, that’s something different then,” as she handed it to me, making me think I had chosen a weird location.

Dawson and Sanderson, 3 Waterloo Place, Tyne and WearDawson and Sanderson
3 Waterloo Place, Tyne and Wear


This was a well-presented, busy agency and so it was three minutes before a staff member was free to serve me.

Initially unsure, the consultant asked lots of questions and suggested Salou, near PortAventura. She was enthusiastic and offered me two brochures to take home.

Although she didn’t ask me for a preferred airport, she gave me two package prices and checked to see whether a dynamic package was cheaper. One quote she provided was £1,954 for two weeks staying at Internacional II, including one free child place.

She didn’t go into any detail about Salou or the theme park, which would have sold the holiday to me more.

Thomson, 23 The Bridges, Tyne and WearThomson
23 The Bridges, Tyne and Wear


I was immediately greeted by a knowledgeable consultant. After explaining my request, she suggested Salou.

She told me about PortAventura and showed me a map, explaining the rides and saying the tickets would include discounts for water parks. She also suggested other day trips.

Quotes included £2,279 for 14 nights’ self-catering in a one-bedroom apartment in Festival Village, including three days’ car hire and theme park tickets.

She tried hard to close the sale, telling me that the free child places were usually sold out by now.

I liked the way she painted a picture of Salou and gave detailed descriptions.

The winner

Hays Travel, 25-27 Vine Place, Tyne and WearHays Travel
25-27 Vine Place, Tyne and Wear


The consultant was easy to talk to seemed very friendly.

She suggested Port Aventura and explained about the good rail links to other resorts – even suggesting a tour around the football stadium in Barcelona for my sons.

The quote was for £2,050 for self-catering at International II and 14-day passes to PortAventura with Sunset Holidays. The consultant gave me a pack with quotes, her business card and colour photocopies of the brochure pages.

She asked my permission to send me a monthly email newsletter and entered me into a prize draw.

A couple of days later she followed up the consultation with a phone call. She told me about Hays and seemed proud to work there, explaining it is fully bonded.

A varied experience for Mystery Shopper in Sunderland. Success in this mystery shop came down to product knowledge.

The agent at Tate’s Travel was unfamiliar with what is available in Europe, while Thomson and Hays Travel both not only knew what was available, but had enough knowledge to give Mystery Shopper a thorough description of what the holiday might entail.

Selling tips

Tip 1: Most of the agents referred to PortAventura as linked to Universal Studios; however the company has sold its interest in the theme park.

Tip 2: Regent Holidays offers a 10-day self-drive itinerary, beginning in Split and visiting Hvar island and Krka National Parks. Routes are picturesque, but tend to be single lane so can sometimes be slow.

Tip 3: Other options would have been Disneyland Resort Paris, Siam Park in Tenerife, Europa-Park and Phantasialand in Germany.

Tip 4: Tickets for Movie Park Germany in Bottrop-Kirchhellen are available from Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets for the first time this year. It has five themed areas including Hollywood Film Sets, stunt demos and roller coaster rides.

Tip 5: For a rundown of resorts and hotels in Salou visit The site contains 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

Mystery Shopper scoring system

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


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