Location: Crawley, West Sussex
Wanted: Two couples in their 30s want a short break together in the Middle East with culture and activities. They’ve been to Dubai before and are seeking somewhere else.
Budget: £8,000

Virgin Holidays
Next concession, County Oak Retail Park
85%
I was greeted with a lovely smile by a neatly dressed agent. Another agent became available who offered me a drink, then worked very hard to find the best option and recommended a trip to Oman. I was quoted £6,123 for a seven-night Virgin Holidays package, departing March 3 from Heathrow with Oman Air, staying at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Muscat. The agent told me about the hotel’s services and I left feeling positive about my experience, with a bag for my quote and brochure. Although this was the only quotation offered, I thought the agent’s knowledge was exceptional.

Tui
22 The Martlets
70%
The agent was friendly and enthusiastic, but I was unimpressed by the lack of information about Tui’s products. The agent had to ring for prices and availability for hotels, flights and tours, as the computer did not have the details. The quotation called me ‘Mr Only’. I was quoted £7,071 for a seven-night Hayes & Jarvis holiday, flying with BA from Heathrow, staying at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman.

Thomas Cook
18 Queensway
40%
The shop looked dated and the staff ignored me when I arrived. When I said I was interested in the Middle East, I was initially offered the Maldives, Indonesia or South Africa. The agent did not ask for my budget and at first searched for one family room instead of two rooms. The quote was for a seven-night Thomas Cook package, departing March 4 from Gatwick with Emirates, staying at Rixos Bab Al Bahr in Ras Al Khaimah for £5,392.

 


Winning agent

Carla Grange, travel consultant

“Places such as Oman are not a major focus for us as we book a lot more holidays in Dubai, but Oman is not as commercial as Dubai, so it is a good alternative.”


Verdict

The experience in the Virgin Holidays agency was by far the best, although a second option would have boosted the score. Tui, after a long wait, offered the same hotel for a much higher price, while Thomas Cook’s agent lacked some basic knowledge but the quotation wasn’t bad.


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.