Location: Cheltenham
Wanted: A couple want to visit Mexico on an escorted tour. They would like to see some cultural highlights like Mexico City and Oaxaca, and any other places that the agent can recommend. They are flexible with dates but would like to know the best time to go for 11-14 days.
Budget: £5,600 but would pay more for a really great tour.


Mystery shopper verdict

All three agencies deserve praise for their friendliness and service, although all the quotes were either well below or above the budget. Travelbag won thanks to the agent’s choice of itineraries and attention to detail. Miles Morgan Travel and World Apart Travel also impressed with their service but their quotes didn’t suit the shopper’s needs quite as well as Travelbag’s.


Winning travel agent: Agnes Hammer

“I’ve not been to Mexico but I’ve had training from Travelbag about it. We tend to be asked about escorted tours for other destinations in Latin America – this was my first for Mexico. We can tailormake tours and they are good value if you want to get to know a destination.”


Oaxaca
Pictured: Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico

Travelbag, 10-12 Pittville Street, 87%

Impression: The branch was impressive – bright and modern, with smart employees and high-tech displays on TV screens.

Service: I was greeted and dealt with immediately. The agent looked on her system, checked a brochure and went through the details of the holidays with me. She listened closely, ensuring the holidays matched my needs, telling me about tour sizes, accommodation and the itineraries.

Quotes: Both were tailor-made group touring holidays with G Adventures, packaged by the agent with Aeromexico flights from Heathrow in October and transfers with Travelbag. The first was a 14-day Classic Mexico Adventure Tour, costing £4,690. Starting in Mexico City, it included the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Puebla, Oaxaca, ruins at Monte Alban, Mayan ruins of Palenque, Mérida and the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. The second, priced £4,090, was a 15-day Mexico: Cities, Cuisine & Ruins holiday, starting in Mexico City and visiting Puebla, Oaxaca, Mérida, Rio Lagartos,n the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Overall: The agent provided an excellent service. She focused on me throughout and was really enthusiastic. The prices were below budget so there was scope for upgrades or other extras.


Miles Morgan Travel, 18 Rotunda Terrace, 85%

Impression: The shop was small yet inviting with elegant windows and eye-catching displays. The employees looked smart.

Service: I was greeted and helped straightaway. The agent looked at brochures and online, and rang for flight details. I was asked if I wanted to secure the booking as a flights sale would soon end. Insurance and car  parking were mentioned but no quotes were given.

Quotes: The first was for Kuoni’s 12-night Mexico Explorer, flying from Heathrow with British Airways in October. The small-group escorted tour would visit Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque, Campeche, Mérida and Cancun. The agent said it would cost £6,496, but that there was a similar Kuoni trip for £4,977 if we wanted to pay less. The second quote was for a 10-day tailor-made tour with Cox & Kings, flying  from Heathrow with British Airways, for £7,520. This tour would visit Cancun, Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque, Campeche, Merida and Chichen Itza. The agent said it was more expensive  because it was more luxurious.

Overall: The agent seemed interested in finding the right holiday and listened closely. However, both quotes were overbudget, especially the second one, although a cheaper option was mentioned.


Worlds Apart Travel, 15 Clarence Parade, 81%

Impression: The shop was tidy, the employees were smart, and there was plenty in the window displays.

Service: I was greeted and served immediately by a friendly agent, who found some brochures and then looked online. They said they did not know much about Mexico but talked about someone they knew who had been. They said tours are a great way to explore and, although the area was safe, sometimes it was better to be with others than alone. I had to ask for the details as I wanted to discuss them with my wife. The agent mentioned insurance but nothing was quoted.

Quotes: Both were 14-night holidays departing from Heathrow with British Airways in September, visiting Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca and other sites. The first was an Exodus tour, Mayans, Aztecs and Conquistadors, for £6,498. The agent emailed later to say they could offer a discount of £180 thanks to their new Concierge Club. The second quote was for Intrepid’s Mexico Unplugged tour, offering hotels for 13 nights and one night in a bus. The land tour was £2,000 and flights were estimated to cost £2,000, so a total of about £4,000.

Overall: The agent was welcoming and passionate about the holidays. But the first option was well overbudget, while the second was well under.


Atelier-logo

The top-scoring agent each week bags a £25 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Atelier Playa Mujeres.

This outstanding brand new five-star adults-only allinclusive resort is situated on the beautiful coast of Playa Mujeres in Cancun. Its innovative atmosphere blends harmoniously with the breathtaking natural landscape. Created as an authentic masterpiece by Mexican creatives, Atelier Playa Mujeres will take guests into a new luxury experience, where art, technology, nature and experiences are combined to set up a new world of relaxation.

• Brand-new, five-star, adultsonly, all-inclusive resort
• Located in the Playa Mujeres private gated community
• 1,360sq m Infinity Pool
• Art and Design Gallery
• 429 beautiful suites
• Eight restaurants offering the finest flavours
• Total relaxation at NUUP SPA
• Access to the Greg Norman-designed golf course