Location: Cambridge
Wanted: Two friends in their 30s would like to book an escorted tour of the musical heritage and highlights of the southern USA – visiting sites in cities such as Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans. They would like to know about flight options and different operators and what is and isn’t included in an escorted tour, from meals to excursions. They’re open to suggestions from agents about other locations too.
Budget: £4,400.

Trailfinders
54 Sidney Street
88%

Impression: It was an eye-catching corner shop with a busy, inviting window display, and uniformed employees looking very professional.

Service: As soon as I entered, the agent smiled and invited me to join her. We studied average temperatures in New Orleans and decided October was the best month. We looked at three brochures from operators such as Collette and G Adventures, and the agent was confident and knowledgeable. The agent tried to close the sale, but the quote was above my budget so I said I would discuss it with my friend. She mentioned travel insurance and I received a prompt follow-up message. I would recommend the branch to friends and family.

Quote: I was given two quotes with G Adventures, flying from Heathrow to New Orleans with British Airways for the Highlights of the Deep South tour. It visited New Orleans, Birmingham, Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville and Memphis. The first quote was £5,146 for 12 days, and the second was the same tour with the addition of two nights in Miami for £5,668. The agent said the tours offered the best value because of the places visited.

Overall: The quotes were over budget but the shopper was swayed by the enthusiasm of the agent and what the tours included.

Premier Travel
29 Sidney Street
79%

Impression: The store had plenty of nicely displayed posters and brochures, with staff in uniform.

Service: I was immediately acknowledged and spoke to the agent straight away. She was friendly, enthusiastic and professional, pointing out a great value tour. The agent spent some time speaking to the tour operator to check availability and requested the holiday to be held for a few days. She asked if I wanted to proceed but I said I would check with my friend. She offered the brochure for me to take away. When I hesitated, she tore the relevant page out for me. She gave me a business card – but did not take my contact details or offer to follow up. No extras were offered but she said she could recommend travel insurance when I prompted it.

Quote: The quote was a 12-night trip with Mercury Holidays, in November, departing from Heathrow with British Airways, for the Elvis’ Graceland and America’s Deep South tour, for £4,500 in total. The agent was confident that this tour was interesting, as it included a jazz festival. The group size was maximum of 10 people.

Overall: The shopper only received one quote but it was matched the shopper’s criteria closely. However, there was no follow-up afterwards.

Flight Centre
50 Sidney Street
60%

Impression: The shop was inviting, with nicely displayed posters, a well-stocked brochure rack and well-groomed agent.

Service: The agent was with a customer but acknowledged me. The other customer left after two minutes so I spoke to the agent promptly. I was asked questions about my needs, with the agent saying they would look into the request and get back to me. I was given a brochure and business card, and I received an email after I left the store. The agent was friendly and enthusiastic but I would have appreciated having more information in the shop.

Quote: I was given a quote for a 12-day holiday with Intrepid Travel in October, flying from Heathrow with American Airlines for the Southern Comfort USA tour. It cost £5,350, not including flights, and visited Savannah, Charleston, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. I was sent links to other escorted touring holidays, including an 11-night holiday with G Adventures in October, flying from Heathrow with British Airways, for £2,968, but no price for the flights. Other links showed Trek America and Exodus itineraries.

Overall: The agent did not spend much time with the customer, and emailed web links to the shopper without personalised quotations.


Winning agent

Ruth Noble, travel consultant, Trailfinders

“The US is a very popular destination for us, and we have a wide variety of enquiries. The music cities of the south are always fun itineraries to discuss with clients, and they’re top of my bucket list! It was easy to narrow down the options and suggest escorted tours that fitted the bill.”


Verdict

Despite being over budget, the shopper was very impressed with the service and holidays offered by Trailfinders, because of the tour inclusions and the professional, helpful approach of the agent. Premier’s agent was keen in the shop and suggested one good option but failed to pursue the inquiry, while the Flight Centre agent didn’t offer much in the shop, nor tailor any quotes in the follow-up.


elite-islands-logo

The top-scoring agent each weeks bags a £25 Amazon or Love2Shop voucher, courtesy of Elite Island Resorts.

Elite Island Resorts offers eight all-inclusive beach properties in the Caribbean.

Antigua: Galley Bay Resort & Spa; Hammock Cove Resort & Spa; St James’s Club & Villas; The Verandah Resort & Spa; and Pineapple Beach Club.

Barbados: The Club, Barbados Resort & Spa

Saint Lucia: St James’s Club Morgan Bay

St Vincent & The Grenadines: Palm Island Resort & Spa.

As well as all-inclusive Caribbean holidays in beachfront locations, Elite Island Resorts offers family and adult-only resorts, and free wedding and honeymoon packages.
eliteislandholidays.com