Mystery Shopper: Harrogate travel agents tested on China

Mystery Shopper: Harrogate travel agents tested on China

Brief: A retired couple want to take an escorted tour through China seeing all the highlights, for at least three weeks. Longer is fine, so long as they get value for money.

Budget: £6,000.

Verdict: Of two very good agents, the top dog tried to close the sale.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, 16 James Street, Harrogate 16 James Street
Score:
34%

On entering the shop I was asked by a staff member if I wanted anything in particular. When I told her I wanted to take an escorted tour of China she stayed seated and pointed to the rack where the Thomas Cook Worldwide brochures were located.

I browsed, and waited, and eventually asked if I could sit down to read it. The agent said yes, but kept chatting to her colleagues. After ten minutes or so I asked if there was something else more akin to a tour, rather than a package with separate highlights to add on. At this point another assistant directed me to help myself to the Escorted Tour brochure. This was the limit of the interaction I received.

Number One Travel

Number One Travel, 2 Tower Street, Harrogate 2 Tower Street
Score:
64%

Once I informed the agent what I wanted I was given three brochures and told to get back in touch. When I asked if I could have a look in the shop in case I had any questions I was given a seat, but the agent kept on working and was initially reluctant to engage in conversation, though pleasant and friendly enough.

I had to lead the conversation and wasn’t asked details of my trip, so the first option we looked at was outside my budget. Another couple of options were suggested but the agent didn’t know much about China and said they needed to do more research.

I was given brochures for Wendy Wu, Qantas Holidays and Travel 2 to take away with me.

Traveltalk

Traveltalk, 63 Leeds Road, Harrogate63 Leeds Road
Score:
89%

This agent was very passionate about China and Wendy Wu in particular, based on good customer feedback. She gave me the operator’s brochure, with Travel 2 and Kuoni to make comparison, and priced up Wendy Wu’s Magnificent and Delights tours, from £2,890 and £2,590 all-inclusive respectively.

She recommended the former for a trip of a lifetime as it was less rushed. She went into great detail, discussing vaccinations, currency exchange, safety, accommodation, food, culture and people, and also other guests on the tour.

She was friendly, professional and approachable, and gave me her business card, but I was surprised that she didn’t try to close the sale or take my details.

Langford Travel Services

Langford Travel Services, 20 Bower Road, Harrogate20 Bower Road
Score:
96%

Though the agent hadn’t visited China he seemed knowledgeable, having sent people on similar tours and received good feedback. We looked at brochures from Bales and Travel 2, but soon determined that Wendy Wu was the operator with tours that best suited my needs.

We discussed four options in detail, all within my budget, particularly focusing on the Magnificent tour and the Yangtze River Panorama, which at 28 days was still within my budget at £2,990 each, all-inclusive.

When I asked if I could avoid Heathrow he immediately looked at other options and made calls to determine the extra cost, which was too high. Then he offered to take care of travel to Heathrow for me, and offered hotel discounts at Heathrow as an incentive to book.

He offered me a totally personal service and was happy to ensure my trip of a lifetime was memorable. The agent couldn’t have done much more and I would highly recommend him to all my family and friends.

Michael Langford, owner, Langford Travel ServicesWinner: Michael Langford, owner

“I’d just been to a Wendy Wu promotional evening, and booked a China tour for a group of 19, so everything came together. I’ve had my own business for 21 years and I love the variety it offers.”

Tips

  1. If your clients know what they want to do but are not sure about where they want to go, Wendy Wu’s website features a helpful interactive map.
  2. Clients want a hotel that’s not in a brochure? Specialist operators can provide help, and Hayes & Jarvis feature an Asian bed bank offering lots of  China products. 
  3. Don’t forget to check out what tour extensions operators are offering. Many now offer Hong Kong, or tropical Sanya and Hainan for beach breaks, while Wendy Wu offers city break add-ons in Japan. 
  4. Don’t forget to suggest add-ons. Attraction World, for example, features ten different pre-bookable excursions in the country. attractionworld.com/agents
  5. For more information on China see this week’s escorted tours feature or subscribe to gazetteers.com

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