Brief: A couple are looking for a 10 to 12-day fly-drive holiday in Canada this spring. They have heard Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are worth visiting, and definitely want to go to Halifax, but are seeking advice about how much they can fit in and recommendations for character hotels.
Verdict: The detailed knowledge of the winning agent set her apart from the rest.
This well-presented shop was very organised and I was greeted by a cheerful member of staff as soon as I went in. The agent who served me was polite but did not come across as very enthusiastic or knowledgeable. I was offered direct flights to Halifax with Air Canada, despite initially having been told I would have to go through Québec City.
But I was not offered any help with car hire, hotels or working out a route. The consultant gave me a Thomson brochure and a quote of £641 per person for the flights but then suggested I go to another agent or go online to book the rest of the trip.
The Co-operative Travel
Langley Shopping Centre
This friendly agent was quick to establish where I wanted to go and how long for, although she didn’t ask my budget. She gave me two quotes for flights on June 3, starting at £613, a quote for a Ford Mondeo-sized car hire and priced up hotels in some of the places I wanted to stay. But I felt I had to suggest everything rather than the agent offering to package it all up for me.
She couldn’t find anything in a Virgin brochure but eventually found a 13-night tour with Kuoni. However, she failed to notice the first departure was several days after the flights. If she had spotted this and found new flights, and given me her details, I would have felt more inclined to book.
101 Terminus Road
The staff at this immaculate shop were very friendly and professional, offering me a warm welcome. The agent I spoke to was quick to find out what I wanted and offer a suitable package – Thomas Cook Signature’s Coastlines of Atlantic Canada tour, flying out with Air Canada on June 4, at £4,308 for both of us, including car hire and insurance.
She offered to adjust the accommodation if there were any hotels we didn’t like, and I was impressed that she followed up with an email to reconfirm the package. The consultant was very pleasant and willing to spend time working out the right holiday, so I would definitely feel confident about booking with her.
Premier Travel Agency
29 Grove Road
This knowledgeable agent asked all the right questions to establish exactly what I wanted, and was the only person to enquire about my budget. She said she had recently booked something similar for another customer, and explained details that no one else did, such as that it would be best to go in June once the whaling season had started.
She recommended an Atlantic Charms tour with 1st Class Holidays. This would cost £5,052 in total including car hire and insurance, flying with Air Transat on June 21. The agent took out one of the nights to make the trip fit my time frame.
It felt like a very personal service and she followed up with an email to check it was exactly what I wanted. The package cost was higher than a rival quote, but I felt I would have more faith in this agent’s recommendation. This was an outstanding service.
Winning agent: Sharon Campbell, senior travel consultant
“I try to find out as much as I can about destinations so I can recommend at least one hotel or activity – but I also think a smile goes a long way too. You can know a lot about a place, but if you aren’t friendly then a client won’t want to come back.”
Tips: Top 5 tips for selling Canada
Holidaymakers can retrace part of Will and Kate’s royal visit by travelling from Ottawa to Montréal, Québec City and on to Prince Edward Island – though their last two stops, in Yellowknife and Calgary, might be a bit much to fit in.
The world-famous Calgary Stampede is celebrating its centenary this year, from July 6-15. Other attractions are the Montréal International Jazz Festival, starting on June 28, and the Nova Scotia tall ships event, commemorating the 1812 war, from July 19.
Boost your knowledge by completing the CTC’s Canada Specialist training programme at canadaspecialist.co.uk.
Travellers unable to drive can still cover big distances with tailor-made coach or rail tours – the Rocky Mountaineer and Montréal to Halifax sleeper train are among the most popular.
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