Location: Edinburgh
Wanted: A retired couple want a short break to visit Christmas markets in Germany but would consider other areas of Eastern Europe. They don’t mind going by coach or by air, just want the most convenient option. They would like information about sights and tips about the range of accommodation available and transport options. They’re flexible about dates and timings.
Budget: £1,200


There was a wide range of hotels offered to the shopper, but none of the agents looked past Berlin. The Jimmy Martin Travel agent won over the shopper because they were so confident and knowledgeable, speaking from personal experience. The Barrhead agent seemed inexperienced and the quotes were well under budget, while the Thomas Cook agent was casually dressed and did not appear enthusiastic.

Winning agent

Deborah McGlashan, senior travel consultant

“We get a lot of requests for Christmas markets, usually along with river cruises in Vienna, Budapest and Germany. I have done the one in Berlin – personal experience is the best. I have been in travel for 27 years, and at this agency for 10 years.”

Jimmy Martin Travel
94 Raeburn Place

Impression: The shop front was clean, although it looked dark from the outside and I was not sure it was open. Employees were smart and the brochure display was neat.
Service: The shop was busy but I spoke to a friendly agent immediately. They said they had been on a festive Berlin river cruise and talked confidently about public transport and Christmas markets, as well as areas of historical interest. They didn’t try to close the sale but suggested I get in touch when ready to book. I was offered airport transfers and given quotes, and the agent also offered to book restaurants and excursions.

Quotes: Both quotes were for a three-night break with Osprey Holidays, in December, departing from Edinburgh. The first was flying out with Ryanair and back with easyJet to allow more time in Berlin with a stay in a premium room at Hotel Melia on a bed-and-breakfast basis. It cost £1,528 including transfers. The second was flying with easyJet and staying at Hotel Steinberger on a bed-and-breakfast basis for £1,265 but with seat bookings and transfers the total would reach £1,400. This was for a suite but the agent said we could look at cheaper room options to bring it down to the budget.

Overall: The shopper was very keen on the holidays offered because of the confident, knowledgeable service, although both quotes were over budget.

Barrhead Travel
49 Hanover Street

Impression: The shop looked fairly clean and smelt fresh but the chair I sat on was badly stained and the wall next to the desk nearest the entrance was very marked. Staff were neat and the displays were attractive and colourful.

Service: The shop was quiet and I spoke to an agent straightaway. The agent said they had heard the Christmas markets were romantic and would love to go. They requested help with the computer from a colleague, who also spoke to me about my request. I got the impression the first agent was a trainee or inexperienced. The second agent offered to find a brochure while the first showed me hotels on the computer. I chose two hotels from the brochure and was given quotes for them, but there was no follow-up.

Quotes: The quotes were both three-night breaks to Berlin with Super Break*, flying from Edinburgh in December with Ryanair. The first was staying at Hampton Inn by Hilton on a bed-and-breakfast basis, for £612. The second was at the Hilton Berlin for £774.

Overall: The agent was very pleasant but I didn’t feel confident that they knew much about the destination or Christmas markets. The quotes were well under budget.

*This report was carried out before Super Break ceased trading on August 1.

Thomas Cook
52 Hanover Street

Impression: The shop was modern and displays were neat and bright. The person who greeted me wore jeans and a t-shirt so I wasn’t sure if they were staff until I saw their name badge.

Service: I spoke to an agent immediately but they didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about the trip. They looked at flights and hotels and showed me some pictures. I chose one that looked lovely and the agent rang Leger Holidays to check the break was available from Edinburgh airport. Once they had confirmed this, they told me the details including sightseeing around Berlin. I also asked for a quote for a higher-rated hotel. The agent did not talk about the markets nor offer any tips or advice.

Quotes: Both were for three-night holidays in Berlin flying from Edinburgh with Ryanair. The first was with Leger Holidays, staying at the three-star Vienna House Easy Berlin, on a bed-and-breakfast basis, for a total of £1,058. The second was staying at the five-star Westin Grand on a bed-and-breakfast basis, for a total of £1,233.

Overall: The quotes were satisfactory, and about on budget, but the shopper was somewhat surprised to see a staff member dressed casually, and the service did not inspire.


The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Oasis Hotels & Resorts.

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