Location: Consett, County Durham
Shopping for: A Canada fly-drive providing outdoor experiences for teenagers
4 Middle Street
This was a well-presented agency and the consultant gave me a friendly and genuine greeting. I explained the request and she selected several brochures, suggesting I take them away and study them and then ring the number on the back.
I pressed the agent for more information on prices and departure dates, but she seemed unwilling to enter into conversation and directed me to the call centre.
Although she gave me appropriate brochures – Gold Medal USA and Canada and Cosmos Tourama America, Canada and Worldwide – she offered nothing in the way of recommendation or advice.
Dawson and Sanderson
60 Middle Street
This agency had a colourful and attractive window. When I entered I was given a warm greeting and time to browse brochures before being approached.
The consultant took my contact details and asked relevant, open questions before offering suggestions from the brochures. She contacted a call centre to confirm details and gain more information.
I was offered two week Legendary Canadian Rail Journey for four people, costing £9,180 with Titan HiTours. Only then was budget discussed.
Although the consultation was impressive and I felt valued as a potential customer, the agency let itself down by writing the quote on a scrap of paper.
14A Middle Street
The consultant went to great pains to work out the details of my trip, asking lots of questions and consulting a colleague.
She recommended a Thomas Cook Signature package for four people costing £9,415 including flights, transfers, accommodation and tours, and offered upgrades on airline seats, car hire and accommodation.
I left the branch with all the facts I needed to make a decision and was given full print-outs of details and contact details.
However, the shop lost marks as the interior was somewhat tatty, with bits of litter on the floor, discoloured and worn home-made signs and dog-eared posters.
31 Middle Street
I was greeted by a trainee at this smart agency. On explaining my enquiry, she referred me to a colleague who took down lots of details.
She then contacted a colleague at a call centre and came up with a holiday that met my requirements. I was offered a Western Canada tour from Thomson’s Canada and North America brochure, costing £11,004 for four, including all travel, transfers and accommodation, taking in Montreal, Niagara Falls, the Rockies and West Coast. She also offered upgrades.
The agent printed out the information and gave me her contact details and urged me to study the details of the trip before returning to finalise details.
This was an enjoyable visit with genuinely warm staff who took a personal interest in dealing with me.
Tip 1: A motorhome might have been a good option for this family, giving them certainty on cost with just food and fuel for top ups.
Tip 2: If Mystery Shopper was particularly intrepid, some operators offer just flights and car hire.
Tip 3: Canada is huge, so even places such as Toronto and Montreal which look next to each other on the map are hundreds of miles apart. Consultants were right to get expert advice on itineraries.
Tip 4: Most operators stick to certain routes that take in a number of major sights within a manageable timeframe. These usually cover one of the three areas of Western Canada, Ontario and Quebec and The Atlantic Maritimes.
Tip 5: To get more product knowledge about Canada visit Gazetteers.com. The site also contains photos of resorts and hotel reviews from fellow travel agents.
Mystery Shopper prizes
Each 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
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