Location: Stoke-on-Trent
Wanted: Inspired by the World Cup, a young couple would like to explore Russia. Can an agent squeeze in St Petersburg, Moscow and a third destination?
Budget: £3,000

Thomas Cook
Unit 55, Longton Exchange

Brochure stands were well-stocked but some desks were cluttered. I was welcomed within seconds by a personable agent. Her knowledge of Russia wasn’t great but she offered a quote for Newmarket Holidays’ seven-night Moscow & St Petersburg tour, with return BA flights to Moscow in March for £1,818 for two and including tours, museums and a train ride between the cities.

She also packaged together a seven-night trip in September with Lufthansa flights to St Petersburg from Manchester, via Frankfurt, and a room at the Nevsky Central Hotel. It came in at £808 for two, but included only one city and no excursions. The service was good, and the agent tried to close the sale.

Travel World
20 Market Street

This shop looked nice inside and there were brochures everywhere, but the window displays were a little bare. An agent welcomed me within a minute. They gave me a range of options, but had to be prompted. I was offered the same Newmarket trip as I had been at Thomas Cook, for the same price. This was the only quote I was given, and the experience felt rushed, although I did feel I had the agent’s full attention.

15 Bennett Precinct

This shop was spacious and all staff looked the part. I was seen promptly by an agent who asked for my dates and budget. They had some knowledge of Russia but offered only a 15-night Baltic cruise with Marella Cruises, sailing from Newcastle, for £3,520. As the itinerary included just one night in Russia, in St Petersburg, with other calls en route, it rather missed the point. Service was good but the holiday didn’t meet the request.

Winning agent

Donna Jones, manager
donna-jones-headshot“In 17 years I haven’t had an enquiry like it – it was really hard. You have to treat every customer like a mystery shopper! We exchanged a lot of Russian currency during the World Cup, but didn’t have many booking requests.


Neither Thomas Cook nor Travel World used the hefty budget to add to the typical Moscow/St Petersburg itinerary. Tui’s agent slightly missed the brief but was commended for attempting to cross-sell a cruise.

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