The mystery shopper visited two travel agencies in Chester Le Street and Stanley, Tyne and Wear and requested a ranch holiday for a mother and her teenage daughter in March 2016, with a budget limit of £4,200.
They then made two Google.co.uk searches using the term ‘ranch holiday America’
Ranch Rider, ranchrider.com
Mystery Shopper said: The site explained Ranch Rider sold riding holidays for all abilities, which gave me confidence. There were links to special offers and blog posts for help with research. It wasn’t possible to book via the site. I phoned the company and a consultant advised me that March was a restrictive time for a ranch holiday, as only Arizona was warm enough. They encouraged me to consider taking the holiday between May and September for more choice of ranches and more activities. They recommended White Stallion ranch for its facilities including a pool and hot tub. Their rough costing for accommodation, flights and car hire came in around £5,000. They said it was impossible to go lower as the flights were more expensive over Easter. Although the holiday was over budget, the consultant was very patient, warm and friendly, and gave lots of advice.
Tony Daly, managing director and founder, Ranch Rider
When and why did you start Ranch Rider?
I set up Ranch Rider in 1996. I trained as an accountant and ran a business, but I sold that as I’d been on a few ranch holidays and wanted to do something I was interested in and enjoyed.
What is the company’s core product?
Around 90% of our business is North America. We have quite a high repeat rate so over the past few years we’ve expanded into southern Africa and Argentina so that repeat clients have more options.
Any misconceptions about the ranch holiday industry?
Many people automatically think of Texas, but it isn’t the best state for a horse riding holiday. Because of [stricter] state laws, places such as Wyoming and Montana are better for serious riders.
And most typical client type?
We get a good spread of families, couples and singles.
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.