Brief: A couple want a two-week trip of a lifetime in Ecuador, including a seven-day Galapagos cruise and a tour of the mainland. They want luxury accommodation and expert guides.
Verdict: The enthusiastic winner not only knew the destination but made Mystery Shopper feel excited about the trip.
View Mystery Shopper: Crawley travel agents tested on Ecuador in a larger map
27 County Mall
The agent was clearly unfamiliar with the destination, despite the fact she said her son had travelled there. She appeared flustered, and after every question I asked, she flicked through a brochure before giving an answer that lacked confidence.
So even though my holiday needs were partially met, I didn’t feel at all assured it was the right choice. She was unable to get through to Kuoni so I had to return to the shop two hours later for the quote – three nights in Quito, a seven-night Galapagos cruise on the Santa Cruz and seven nights in the Hilton Colon Guayaquil for £8,848 departing on October 7.
I felt the whole experience was rather flat and lacked enthusiasm.
Although the agent here was clearly very knowledgeable, her manner lacked warmth, so I felt a little uncomfortable in this shop. She asked sufficient questions to establish my needs, but failed to ask me what my budget was.
She flicked through four brochures but said only Cox & Kings would suit my requirements and contacted the operator, who said they would send a quote later that day. She emailed me a few hours later to let me know that she hadn’t heard back.
Two days later she forwarded the quote and a 16-day tailor-made itinerary on to me. The itinerary offered everything I had asked for, but at £12,300 it was rather over budget.
22 The Martletts
This agent was warm and friendly and appeared to be knowledgeable and professional. She asked me relevant questions to identify my needs, although she didn’t check my budget.
She identified possible options quickly, and made a clear recommendation, before putting a quote together. She offered me a seven-night Galapagos cruise on Explorer II, plus seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hilton Quito through Hayes & Jarvis, with Iberia flights, from £8,940, departing on October 4.
I was given the quote and a brochure to take away, but the agent didn’t try to close the sale and although she took my contact details, she didn’t suggest a follow-up call.
This agent was warm, friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, making positive comments throughout the consultation, which made me feel at ease. She had knowledge of the area and was able to answer all of my questions, making occasional references to a brochure or the internet.
She recommended a seven-day cruise on Darwin with Imaginative Traveller’s Galapagos Adventure tour, and seven nights at the Le Park Quito Hotel, which she offered with flights and transfers for £5,336, departing October 12.
I was given a brochure and a quote to take away, but the agent didn’t offer to follow up my inquiry, or check my budget – if so she might have been able to upgrade my hotel. However, this was an excellent experience and I would recommend this agency.
Winning agent: Carly Millard, international travel consultant
“After studying business, I went travelling to Asia, Australia, North America and South Africa, but I’ve never been to Latin America. I took a Galapagos booking when I first started at Flight Centre last year and it’s been on my wishlist ever since.”
- The Galapagos are Ecuador’s most famous highlight. These volcanic islands are about 600 miles off the coast, and are renowned for their wildlife, including species found nowhere else in the world.
- From February, the regulations governing cruise ships in the Galapagos will change, so it’s worth double-checking any itinerary to ensure you are giving clients the correct details on which islands they will visit and what route they will take.
- Mainland Ecuador is pint-sized compared with most other Latin American countries, but packs a huge diversity in an area smaller than Nevada.
- As well as the capital, Quito, visitors can check out the Amazon, the Avenue of the Volcanoes and the markets of Otavalo.
- For more on Ecuador see this week's feature and subscribe to our hotel and resort directory Gazetteers.com
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