The mystery shopper visited two travel agencies in Newport, Isle of Wight, and requested a three-to-four night stay in a renowned wine region of Europe in spring 2016, with a maximum budget of £650.
They then made two Google.co.uk searches using the term ‘European wine holidays’
Mystery Shopper said: The website was the first listed advert on Google. It said it offered specialist wine tours to France, Italy and Spain. The pictures made me want to travel, and a deep red colour scheme made think of a nice glass of wine. A “contact us” button was clear. There were different options for countries, regions and hotels, but I couldn’t refine my search by budget. I liked that wine tastings were planned in walking distances or with transport included so there were no worries about having to drive. I chose a wine tour of Tuscany, which seemed excellent value for money at £601, although flights were not included. The itinerary was detailed – I was even told how many wines I could expect to taste. There was an early-bird discount of £35pp, which would have encouraged me to book sooner. Prices for extra nights, room upgrades and additional activities were clearly displayed. It was all very well presented and I would have been happy to book with this company.
How long in travel?
I founded Grape Escapes with my wife in 2004. Before that I was in finance for Ford.
How big is your company?
We do a few thousand bookings a year, and we have a team of eight in the office.
Do you sell through the trade?
Yes we do. It’s not a huge volume, but we do have a few upmarket agents who come back to us time and again because of our expertise.
Where’s good for an introduction to wine?
France’s Champagne region. It’s easy to get to – take the car and fill the boot, or take the Eurostar to Paris and connect.
Name an emerging wine destination?
Prosecco [to the north of Venice]. It’s getting lots of attention and we’re looking to add it, but we want to know it inside out before we do.
What’s your preferred tipple?
We always have champagne before dinner, then red or white with dinner.
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.