The mystery shopper visited two agencies in the Guildford area of Surrey and requested a nine to 15-day Trans-Siberian holiday, which included visits to Moscow, Ulan Bator and Beijing, with a budget of £4,000-£6,000.
They then made two Google.co.uk searches using the term ‘Trans-Siberian railway holiday’
Regent Holidays, Guildford
Mystery Shopper said: This was the first website listed on the Google search.
The site was attractive, easy to browse and clearly labelled. I clicked to ask for more information, and four hours later I received a detailed email response. The company also tried to phone me, but I missed the call.
The consultant sent two holidays to me via email. Both looked excellent, well-planned and covered the requested route. The email left me feeling it would be easy to ask further questions via email or phone.
The itineraries met all my requirements and both options came in well under budget. The all-inclusive 14-night holiday was priced at £3,400, excluding flights, with the option to upgrade to first class on part of the route for £535pp. The 16-night holiday was £4,330 with an upgrade option for £595pp. The consultant made no real attempt to seal the deal, but supplied everything I needed to consider going ahead. The email gave deposit details with all information concise and easy to follow.
Peter Wybrow, travel specialist, Regent Holidays
Have you been in travel long?
I’ve been at Regent for three years. Before that I was at Flight Centre and before that Tui.
How popular is the Trans-Siberian for Regent?
It’s always been a major part of our business as it’s something that’s very difficult to organise for yourself. We’re very much former Soviet state specialists.
Has Russia always been your specialism?
It wasn’t until I started working here that I became a Russia expert. I’m going to do the Trans-Siberian from Ulan-Ude [south-east Russia] to Moscow in September onboard private train Tsar’s Gold.
Why would you recommend Russia to potential customers?
It’s a fascinating country, historically and culturally. It’s also a huge place, so there’s something for everyone.
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.