Mystery Shopper: Bradford travel agents tested on Venice

Mystery Shopper: Bradford travel agents tested on Venice

Mystery ShopperBrief: A couple want to treat themselves to a short break to Venice for their anniversary in September. They’d like regional flights, a historic hotel, a water taxi transfer and recommendations for things to do.

Budget: £1,000.

Verdict: The winning agent really brought the holiday alive for Mystery Shopper and made suggestions beyond the package basics.


Thomson, 42 Kirkgate, Bradford42 Kirkgate

The agent in this spotlessly clean shop was very friendly, and asked plenty of questions to ascertain what I wanted. She gave me her business card and a written quote for flights from Leeds Bradford on September 12 plus three and four nights’ B&B accommodation from £808 and £967 respectively.

However, she didn’t tell me which hotels the prices were for, which airline we’d fly with, the name of the operator the package was bookable through, or give me any destination information. When I asked about transfers she told me I would need to arrange my own.

I felt I wasn’t given enough information about what was offered to even consider booking.

The Co-operative Travel

The Co-operative Travel, 52 Kirkgate, Bradford52 Kirkgate

While polite, friendly and keen to help, the agent did not seem to have any knowledge of the destination and began searching for accommodation on the outskirts of the city, which would have been inconvenient.

After a lot of searching she made a good recommendation, the Ai Mori d’Oriente Hotel. Four nights with flights, insurance and trackable luggage tags cost £1,371. She gave me a printed quote plus information on a gondola experience.

The agent had the best of intentions but the endless searching and lack of knowledge made me feel a little helpless and lacking in faith. Any attempt to close the sale or follow-up my inquiry with a phone call would have been fruitless, even had I been a real customer.

First Choice

First Choice, Unit 14, Forster Square Retail Park, Valley Road, BradfordUnit 14, Forster Square Retail Park, Valley Road

This agent made me feel like a valued customer and that she wanted to find me the right accommodation for my holiday.

She used the internet and the site to find out information about the destination and hotels available, and made a telephone call to inquire about water taxis – I liked the fact she admitted she didn’t know and did some digging.

I was offered flights and a four-night stay at Hotel Locanda Canal from £967, and given print-outs of different hotels and prices to choose from. She made a good attempt to close the sale but no mention was made of excursions, and I wasn’t offered a follow-up call.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, 54 Kirkgate, Bradford54 Kirkgate

The agent was very enthusiastic about Venice and, having been herself, provided many travel tips for when I arrived.

She used Cresta, which she recommended as a very good operator to travel to Italy with, and made light conversation as my enquiry was processing on the system.

She offered four nights at the four-star Hotel Bruno with flights from £1,196, and gave me a printed quote and photocopies of the brochure pages with hotel and destination information.

She made suggestions on things to see and places to eat, and said I would get a better deal booking water taxis once in Venice. She asked if I intended to book on the spot, and offered me a follow-up call when I said no.

The service I received was excellent and I would recommend it.

Ruth Holgate, travel consultant, Thomas Cook BradfordWinning agent: Ruth Holgate, travel consultant

“You know you have found the right holiday for a client when you can visualise them on it. We have a fantastic atmosphere in store and customers love how we all get involved in each others’ bookings and share our experiences.

"I am thrilled to have won as it shows all the hard work we put in has been recognised.”

Italy tips


  • With flights from the UK to Venice just over two hours, and with options from a range of regional airports, the city is an ideal short break location.
  • Hotels are often on the expensive side in Venice, but choosing one in a slightly off-the-beaten track district such as Cannaregio can help bring the price down without compromising on quality.
  • Offer to book clients a water taxi transfer between the airport and the city, a gondola ride or a tour of the Grand Canal to ensure they get the quintessential Venetian experience.
  • Venice is famous for its carnival, which runs in the two weeks prior to Shrove Tuesday. Attendees of parties and balls wear the famous ornate masks. It’s a great spectacle, but Venice is particularly busy and expensive at this time.
  • For more on Italy see our interview with prize-winning agency Affinion or subscribe to our travel directory


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