Location: Croydon, South London
Wanted: A couple are looking for a week at a nice hotel in Mexico after Christmas in a lively area with bars, restaurants and excursions.
Budget: £3,000

Flight Centre
102 North End

93%
This branch was clean and bright, with informative displays. Two agents greeted me immediately and I sat with one, who asked me several open questions and was not afraid to research information she didn’t know. She offered me a range of hotel and excursion options and provided two excellent quotes: Temptation Cancun Resort for £2,917 and Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas for £2,947. Both were full-board and for the same BA flight from Gatwick on January 28. Cave, dolphin and ruin visits were mentioned but no prices given. The agent was focused and interested, and suggested an urgency to close the sale without pressurising me to book.

Virgin Holidays
Concession in Debenhams store

78%
This agency was cluttered with TV screens, cut-outs and large wall art. The agent assumed I wanted a resort-only holiday so I had to explain I wanted excursions and nightlife. They were knowledgeable and had been to the area twice. I was given quotes for two Virgin packages, both flying from Gatwick on January 8: the Hotel Occidental at Xcaret Destination for £2,661, and Hotel Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun for £3,377.

Thomas Cook
96/98 North End

68%
This shop was clean but rather dark. The displays were informative but all the agents were busy and no one looked at me for 20 minutes. The agent who served me was very knowledgeable about the area and offered two Thomas Cook packages – The Royal at Playa del Carmen for £3,052 or HM Playa del Carmen for £2,068 – flying from Gatwick to Cancun on January 21. It was a long wait and the options were limited.


Winning agent

Shingi Sando, international travel consultant

“I’m not so familiar with Mexico but the key is to get the customer talking about why they want to go to a destination – then you can find them the right activities and hotel by doing that extra bit of research.”


Verdict

Flight Centre’s agent offered the extras the shopper was looking for and was bang on budget. The waiting time in the busy Thomas Cook branch let its agent down.


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