Mystery Shopper: Altrincham travel agents tested on Oman

Mystery Shopper: Altrincham travel agents tested on Oman

Mystery ShopperBrief: A couple want to go to Oman for a week in November, combining relaxation and sightseeing. They would like to stay in a luxury hotel in Muscat, but want the agents’ advice on whether to take day trips from there or travel around.

Budget: £4,000.

Verdict: The winner excelled with good destination knowledge and brilliant customer service.

Prestbury Travel

Prestbury Travel, 170 Ashley Road, Cheshire170 Ashley Road

One agent was busy serving a couple, and the only other agent was chatting to the same couple about her holiday. I stood in front of this agent’s desk for four and a half minutes, until she finally acknowledged me.

I explained briefly what I wanted and she went upstairs to get two brochures. She asked for my name and email address and I sat down, though I hadn’t been offered a seat. She handed me her business card and said she would email me.

I asked if I could get a quote there and then but she said it would take time. As I left she carried on chatting to the other couple as if I had never been there. I felt I was treated rudely and did not feel like a valued customer.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook, 85 George Street, Cheshire85 George Street

The agent here handed me the Thomas Cook Signature Worldwide brochure and said I would find all the details I needed in it. I think she hoped I would walk away, as when I asked her to price up a holiday it was if I’d asked for the earth.

She offered me a week at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Al Waha, with Qatar Airways flights from Manchester departing November 2 from £2,778. She said she could print the information for me to take away.

I felt as if she really didn’t want the sale. I asked about excursions and she asked her colleague, who was much friendlier and more helpful, showing me the correct brochure page and talking me through the options. Apart from this advice I might as well have done the research and booked it myself direct.


Thomson, 124 George Street, Cheshire124 George Street

The agent here was bubbly and keen to help, but when I told her where I wanted to go she picked up an Italy brochure, so I had to tell her where Oman was. She asked me details about the holiday, but I felt I was prompting her instead of the other way around.

After checking her system and calling Thomson Tailormade she offered a week in a superior suite at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Al Waha with Qatar Airways flights from Manchester on November 2 for £2,826.

I asked about excursions, and after checking with a colleague, she said it was best to book them in resort. She gave me a printout with the confirmation number, in case I wanted to book it.

Admiral Travel

Admiral Travel, 13 Moss Lane, Cheshire13 Moss Lane

The agent here checked if I had time to chat and asked me to take a seat. He made me feel welcome, relaxed and unhurried, and took detailed notes as he quizzed me about my desired holiday.

He had just sent his neighbours there on honeymoon, so he knew exactly where to recommend without needing research. He gave me the If Only and Gold Medal brochures, and put in a call to the latter, putting them on loudspeaker so we could talk while he was on hold.

He was very excited about the flight prices and offered a week at the Shangri-La Al Waha from £2,358, at The Chedi from £3,600 and at Six Senses Zighy Bay from £4,450, all with Qatar Airways flights.

He gave me plenty of details on the hotels and excursions, and recommended I take the brochures and printed quotes away to discuss with my partner before calling back to book. I would recommend this agency to anyone.

Craig Weatherill, manager of Admiral Travel, CheshireWinning agent: Craig Weatherill, manager

“Having visited the Middle East helps with bringing the area alive, so you’re not reading from a brochure. I sent friends to Six Senses Zighy Bay and the transfer from the airport, which you can do by speedboat or even parasail, sounds out of this world.”

Oman tips


  • One of the Middle East’s most open and welcoming countries, Oman has retained its strong, authentic culture. Alongside stunning beaches, visitors enjoy visiting its mosques, forts, deserts and mountains.
  • Oman Air flies direct to Muscat daily from Heathrow in under eight hours, from £476 return. From regional airports clients can fly indirect with the likes of Qatar Airways, British Airways, Emirates, KLM and Lufthansa.
  • Muscat is known for its stunning luxury properties including The Chedi, the Al Bustan Palace and the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, a three-hotel resort.
  • Many of Oman’s sights can be seen on day trips from Muscat, but tours are popular too, usually stopping in Muscat, Nizwa and Sur. The Musandam Peninsula is a popular add-on.


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