The mystery shopper visited two travel agencies in Troon, South Ayrshire, and requested a Nile cruise of around a week for a couple in their 60s, travelling in March 2018 with a budget of £3,000.
They then made two Google.co.uk searches using the term ‘Nile cruise holidays’.
2nd: Stewart Travel
3rd: Titan Travel
4th: Thomas Cook
Mystery Shopper said: The website worked very well and had an enticing design. I telephoned an agent using the number provided and was immediately struck by how much they seemed to know about cruising. After enquiring about my budget they suggested a week-long cruise onboard Sonesta Star Goddess with all excursions included as well the service of a qualified Egyptologist guide from £2,958. The consultant explained that they had direct flights from Heathrow at 2.30pm, so it was possible to travel from a regional hub the same day to join the flight. They emailed me a copy of their brochure and encouraged me to book as soon as possible as the cruises sold quickly. The consultant was extremely positive when describing the holiday, making me feel that this cruise would be special.
10 Ayr Street
The shop had an attractive window display and upon entering I was greeted by two enthusiastic agents. After ascertaining my needs, looking through brochures and checking online, one of the consultants suggested the eight-day Egypt’s Timeless Riches cruise with Titan Travel from £2,698. They then phoned the operator to check availability for March 2018 and found that Titan included the cost of the flight from Glasgow to London to join the EgyptAir service. The consultant went into all the aspects of the cruise, showing me the route and talking about the cultural sights. This really brought the holiday to life. In the end I felt inclined to book as they clearly wanted me to have the best cruise they could find.
It was easy to search for a Nile cruise holiday on the website and there were plenty of help options should I need assistance. Browsing the site I settled on the Egypt’s Timeless Riches trip from £2,698. I telephoned a consultant for help. They informed me that I could take a complimentary flight to Heathrow to catch the EgyptAir service but there would be an overnight hotel stay at my own expense. The agent said that the tour would run an alternative itinerary which operated between February and May; however, they were unable to tell me how it differed from the one featured on the website. They did send more details eventually, but I got the impression the agent wasn’t fully dedicated to the enquiry.
7A Church Street
The store was clean and tidy and I was greeted by a smartly-dressed consultant. After asking about my holiday requirements the agent looked through several brochures including P&O, Cunard and Viking. I spotted Thomas Cook’s Egypt and the Red Sea Riviera brochure which had an night-day Nile Valley cruise with Gatwick flights, excursions and Egyptologist included from £2,118. However, the agent explained that they couldn’t do an online search as their computers were set up for package holidays only. The consultant took my phone number and called me back later in the day to say that the cruise wasn’t available in March. Although I appreciated that the agent took the trouble to phone me, they did not offer any alternative cruises.
TTG has teamed up with React Surveys to simulate a realistic booking process each week – that means a mystery shopper looking for the best deal from agents and operators on the high street, online, on TV or in newspapers. The Mystery Shopper research is carried out on behalf of TTG by React Surveys,and no further details or information can be disclosed. Researchers take into consideration first impression, sales process, product and budget match and extras offered before giving an unbiased opinion of which channel/company they would have booked with on that occasion. We do not claim that the winner is the best in an area or specialist sector, as we may report on competing travel firms in the future. Please note that the aim of Mystery Shopper is not to criticise individual agents or companies, but to promote good sales technique for the benefit of all in the travel trade.