Brief: A well-off couple have heard that British Airways now flies to the Dominican Republic and want to spend a week in an upmarket hotel there in November, flying with BA. They want a secluded atmosphere and good facilities.
Verdict: The winning agent was enthusiastic and gave Mystery Shopper a wide choice of options.
View Mystery Shopper: Wilmslow travel agents tested on the Dominican Republic in a larger map
9 Water Lane, Wilmslow
The agent asked a limited number of questions, and made a phone call to enquire about flights.
I was given the Thomas Cook Tropical Shores brochure and asked to pick a hotel while she was on the phone, which made me feel under pressure to make a quick decision. She didn’t volunteer any recommendations herself, and I didn’t feel there was much interest or enthusiasm there.
Seven nights at the Excellence Punta Cana in a Junior Suite with a garden view was £5,146, including British Airways flights from Gatwick and a connecting flight to Manchester.
She gave me a brochure and a printed quote, and her details, and took mine.
Travel by Design
28 London Road, Alderley Edge
The agent here initially said they would not normally recommend the Dominican Republic as customers had suffered from sickness in the past.
However, she then said she would use Caribtours rather than a charter. We looked at the Caribtours brochure and she suggested two hotels that met my requirements, and she phoned the operator to obtain quotes.
I was offered one week all-inclusive at Secrets Sanctuary for £4,220 and at Tortuga Bay on a B&B basis for £5,360 including flights from Manchester to Gatwick and on to Punta Cana.
She gave me a written quote. After her initial reluctance she was friendly and helpful, and made every effort to assist me.
33 Grove Street, Wilmslow
The agent here was very patient, spending lots of time answering my questions, and it took me a while to pick a hotel.
She told me that British Airways wouldn’t fly from Manchester to Punta Cana direct, and quoted me £2,556 flying with Thomson and staying all-inclusive at the Riu Palace Macao, and £2,552 at the Riu Palace Bavaro.
However, she also gave me a hotel-only price for the Bavaro of £1,386 all-inclusive, plus BA fares from £1,610 economy and £5,176 business. She priced a hotel upgrade to a suite and premium seats on the Thomson flight.
She gave me brochures and printed quotes and told me to call her if I needed any more assistance.
The Co-operative Travel
3 Summerfields Village Centre, Dean Row, Wilmslow
The agent asked plenty of questions and drew on his own experiences in the Dom Rep to describe resorts. He was keen to ensure all of my requirements were met, and we looked in the Thomson Faraway Shores and the Caribtours brochure.
I was offered a week at the Gran Bahia Principe Ambar for £3,102, and at the Catalonia Royal Bavaro for £2,650, flying with Thomson and including insurance, transfers and premium seating.
I was also given quotes through Caribtours staying at the Secrets Sanctuary and flying with British Airways, connecting in Gatwick for £4,150, and from £4,346 staying at Zoëtry Agua.
The agent offered to follow up my enquiry, was helpful and professional and couldn’t have done more to make sure the holiday suited my requirements.
Winning agent: Andrew Palmer, assistant manager
“I’ve been in travel since I was 17, and I’m now 41. I love the variety, especially enquiries I can really get my teeth into, and end up coming out knowing more than I did before. I’m still learning. I went to the Dominican Republic years ago with my wife.”
Dominican Republic tips
- The Dominican Republic’s move into the luxury market has been cemented with a British Airways flight, which operates twice a week from Gatwick.
- Punta Cana is the hotspot for luxury hotels, including the Zöetry Agua Punta Cana, Tortuga Bay, Dreams Palm Beach, Secrets Sanctuary and Paradisus Palma Real.
- Well-heeled travellers will enjoy a catamaran trip from Cap Cana to Juanillo Beach, one of the most stunning on the island. There are championship-level golf courses designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo.
- The well-preserved colonial capital, Santo Domingo, has fashionable shopping and great nightlife, plus many casinos.
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