Brief: A couple are looking for two weeks in Australia in November, mostly in Sydney but with a few days in Melbourne. They want mid-range hotels that won’t blow the budget plus excursions to the Blue Mountains and anywhere else the agent can recommend.
Verdict: The winner offered the best customer service plus an excellent range of hotels and excursions.
Winner: Travel Counsellors
I was a bit put off at first because the website wasn’t very appealing and the phone number I tried didn’t connect. But the agent I eventually spoke to was extremely helpful and offered four really good options, with a choice of hotels.
These included the Vibe Hotels in Sydney and Melbourne with flights via Kuala Lumpur for £4,715 in total, and a Qantas Holidays quote with direct flights to Sydney, two nights each in Canberra and Melbourne and excursions to the Blue Mountains and the Great Ocean Road for £4,915.
The agent had obviously done a lot of research to prepare a quote that fitted my needs perfectly and gave me a choice of hotels in each place. I was also impressed that she included sightseeing excursions – something none of the other agents did – and managed to fit in a visit to another city. A good service all round.
Winning agent: Claire Perry, travel counsellor
“I have worked in travel since I was 21. I started in a high street agency but I’ve been with Travel Counsellors for a year now. When I had my daughter, I didn’t want to do nine-to-five again. I find long haul the most interesting but I do a lot of family holidays and group travel as well.”
Co-operative Personal Travel Advisors
I was confident I’d get a good holiday based on this company’s website, but I would have liked more detail about specific destinations. My call was answered quickly and I was impressed to get a call back and an emailed quote the same day, offering Singapore Airlines flights, 11 nights at the Cambridge Hotel in Sydney and three in Melbourne, for £3,354.
Excursions weren’t included, although I would have had room in my budget to book trips while there. I would have liked a bit more enthusiasm from an agent who obviously had a lot of personal experience of the country.
There was some information on this website but it was frustrating as a lot of links just led to enquiry forms rather than offering any real detail. I found it hard to get through on the phone but after a few tries, I spoke to a friendly agent.
However, I was disappointed the consultant didn’t call me back, leaving me to chase the quote. I eventually received a quote for £4,022 for flights via Kuala Lumpur, nine nights at the Travelodge Sydney and five in Melbourne. This met my basic needs but didn’t include breakfast, which I’d asked for, or any excursions to personalise the holiday.
Want to know how you could have scored 100%? We look at some options to make Mystery Shopper's ideal itinerary
With Sydney Harbour Bridge, the iconic Opera House, and the beautiful Blue Mountains just a stone’s throw away, it’s no surprise Sydney is the biggest draw for first-time visitors to Australia.
Mystery Shopper wanted ideas for excursions, offering agents the perfect chance to earn extra commission. Clients might request well-known trips like the Sydney Bridge Climb (£160 adults/£109 kids) or an Opera House tour (£29/£20, both with Attraction World, attractionworld.com).
But if you know the excursions they haven’t heard of, you can offer added value. Suggest a Hunter Valley Wineries tour (£140/£70, Attraction World) for a break from the city, or recommend Do Something Different’s twilight helicopter flight over Sydney (£203 per person) and Bondi Beach Surf Experience (£63/£56, dosomethingdifferent.com).
If clients are flying to the other side of the world, chances are they’ll want to pack in as much as they can with a twin-centre holiday – and open-jaw flights are the best way to do it.
Melbourne is the cultural capital with art galleries, live music and comedy clubs, plus there are stunning views from the top of the Eureka Skydeck.
Alternatively, Canberra – offered by the winning agent – is the place to be in 2013 as the capital celebrates its centenary with an exciting programme of events.
If it’s winter Down Under, sun-seekers can fly to the Gold Coast. Brisbane is small enough to walk or cycle around. Offer to book tickets to Dreamworld or SeaWorld Australia for families.
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