Brief: A couple want a week on a Thai island this November. They aren’t sure whether to choose Phuket or Koh Samui, but they like relaxation, great food and low-key nightlife. They’d like a few excursions.
Verdict: The top-scoring agent showed fantastic product knowledge and great enthusiasm.
View Mystery Shopper: Sutton travel agents tested on Thailand in a larger map
195-199 High Street, Sutton
When I entered the shop I wasn’t acknowledged as all the staff seemed to be busy. I went upstairs and an agent who was on the phone asked if I needed help.
She was very reluctant to arrange a quote and tried to convince me to take brochures. I had to push, but then she showed enthusiasm for Thailand and knew the destination, recommending Phuket as she said Koh Samui would have more rain in November.
She offered two nights at the Bel-Aire Princess in Bangkok and seven at the Amari Coral Beach for £2,538 with Thomas Cook Signature, flying with Eva Air. She gave me brochures and a quote to take away.
The Travel Professionals
58 Banstead Road, Carshalton Beeches
The agent here said Phuket and Koh Samui were equally lovely, and suggested a tailor-made multi-centre with Kuoni. I felt like she wanted to know an exact destination more than the type of holiday I wanted, which might be because she lacked knowledge of Thailand.
However, she was friendly and helpful, and referred to the brochure to give me as much information as possible. She offered me two nights in the Majestic Grande in Bangkok, four nights in the Cape Panwa in Phuket and four nights in Koh Samui at the Bandara Resort & Spa, with Eva Air flights for £2,748.
I asked about excursions and she suggested I book them through the Kuoni website.
Unit K3, St Nicholas Shopping Centre, Sutton
The store was really attractive outside and in, with maps painted on the walls. The agent here was very thorough and it really felt as if she was trying to get a grasp of my personality so she could tailor-make the right holiday.
She had great enthusiasm for Thailand, and shared her own anecdotes and experiences. She recommended the Grand China Princess in Bangkok for two nights, followed by seven nights in the Manathai in Phuket, which she offered for £2,436 including Eva Air flights.
She was enthusiastic about excursions, offering a tour to Koh Phi Phi, a junk boat trip and an elephant trek. The only slight downside was a certain pushiness to take a deposit.
186 High Street, Sutton
The agent’s enthusiasm for Thailand was infectious, and she provided examples of what I might like to do by referring to trips her family had made to the country.
She was very patient and spent a great deal of time on the phone with Hayes & Jarvis discussing different options and underlining our budget, while also including every element we wanted.
She offered us two nights in the Landmark Hotel in Bangkok and eight nights in the Radisson Plaza on Panwa Beach in Phuket, with Thai Airways flights from £2,893, including insurance.
We discussed excursions, and she mentioned she could book airport parking and an airport hotel. She gave me a printed quote with her direct line on and asked if she could phone me in a couple of days to follow up.
I received really individual treatment and the agent made the trip come alive.
Winning agent: Lisa Richards, travel consultant
“I’ve worked in travel for 13 years but I haven’t been to Thailand yet – I’m dying to go. My stepmum is from Thailand so that’s helped increase my knowledge. It looks like an amazing country.”
- British Airways, Eva Air, Qantas and Thai Airways fly direct from Heathrow to Bangkok. Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways also fly to the islands.
- Phuket is the largest of the Thai islands and the place to go for the big resorts with lots of facilities. It’s popular with families and the younger market. It’s connected to the mainland by a bridge.
- Koh Samui offers a wide selection of boutique-style resorts in secluded bays, which attracts couples and honeymooners.
- Lesser-known islands include Koh Lanta, Phi Phi and Koh Yao. Less built up than larger islands, they have boutique properties with an intimate, hideaway feel.
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