Stat: Cuba Joins Up and Coming Luxury Destinations

Results from a luxury travel survey by Travel Leaders Group anticipates very strong luxury travel bookings for 2015 and increased interest in Europe as the U.S. dollar strengthens.

While Europe is the most popular destination for luxury travelers from the United States, the top “up and coming” luxury experiences and destinations for 2015 include African Safaris, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Croatia, Vietnam and Cuba, according Travel Leaders Group.

Four of the top five international luxury travel destinations outside of North America are European destinations, led by European river cruises and followed by Italy, Mediterranean cruises and France. 

The luxury travel trends are based on responses from 844 owners, managers and frontline travel agents who identified themselves as luxury travel advisers.

“While there is an extensive list of ‘up and coming’ destinations which our luxury travel clients are booking that are more exotic, our high-end travel clients are very loyal to the upscale experiences and charms – both old world and modern – that Europe offers,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben

“That is likely a significant factor in nearly 90 percent of Travel Leaders Group luxury travel agents reporting that their luxury bookings are higher than or equal to last year at this time," Liben said.

“When people talk about life changing travel experiences, Africa and African safaris are most certainly at the top of the list,” noted Tzell president J.D. O’Hara. “The real destination to watch is Cuba, which already was appearing quite high on the list, even though the survey was launched prior to the President’s announcement of a process to normalize relations. It shows how much pent up demand their truly is for legal travel to Cuba, particularly among luxury travelers who want an authentic experience before the country undergoes rapid change and modernization as a tourist destination.” 

Top International Destinations 

Top Luxury Travel Destinations (Outside) North America

1 CRUISE – Europe (River)
2 Italy
3 CRUISE – Europe (Mediterranean)
4 France
5 Australia
6 England
7 CRUISE – Europe (Baltic)
8 Germany
9 (tie)Ireland
9 (tie)South Africa
11 CRUISE – South Pacific and Tahiti
12 Greece
13 New Zealand
14 Spain
15 Bora Bora
Top Luxury Travel Destinations (Within) North America

1 Mexico
2 CRUISE – Caribbean
3 Jamaica
4 Dominican Republic
5 Costa Rica
“The incredibly strong U.S. dollar – versus the euro – is already having an impact on travel to Europe. Luxury travelers are savvy and, while they may spend more than the average American, they still want the greatest value for the money they’re spending,” said Patrick Fragale, president of Protravel International. "Because of the incredibly favorable exchange rate, plus the advantages that many luxury travelers have in terms of time and money, they are once again being enticed by Europe.” 

Most Important Component of a Luxury Trip

When Travel Leaders Group agents were asked, “When spending money for travel, what is most important to your luxury travel clients?” the top responses were: 

1 Accommodations – Luxury 36.4%
2 Air – First or Business Class 18.1%
3 Experience – Unique activities 17.3%
4 Experience – Exclusivity 11.1%
5 Accommodations – Ultra luxury 10.0%