Travel Leaders: Europe on Top With Luxury Travelers

Rhine River
Photo by Harald007/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Travel Leaders Group has released its top luxury travel trends for 2017 in which European river cruises rank as the top international luxury destination outside North America that is being booked among its most affluent travelers.

Italy, Mediterranean cruises, Australia and France are also among the top five luxury destinations, while Cuba is now among the top 15 overall. The Luxury Travel Trends report also shows that more than eight out of 10 luxury-focused travel agents say their bookings are higher than or equal to last year for high-end hotels, luxury cruises and escorted tours, suites on cruise ships, and Premium Air (First and Business Class). Conducted November 17-December 9, 2016, the report is based on responses from 1,240 Travel Leaders Group luxury travel agents. 

“As we take a closer look at what the majority of our affluent travelers are planning for this year, it’s hardly a surprise that European vacation options – be they land, river or deep water cruises – are as popular as ever. In fact, it is quite gratifying to see these destinations regain momentum after a challenging year,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko in a written release. “Further buoyed by a stronger dollar, our clients are seeking out destinations like Italy, France and European river cruises.”


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Here are the top luxury travel destinations and latest luxury travel findings from Travel Leaders Group’s recent survey:

Top Luxury Travel Destinations Outside North America

      1. Cruise – Europe (River)
      2. Italy
      3. Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean)
      4. Australia
      5. France
      6. England
      7. Cruise – Europe (Baltic)
      8. Ireland
      9. Bora Bora
      10. Cruise – Australia/New Zealand
      11.United Arab Emirates
      13. (tie) Iceland
      13. (tie) South Africa
      15. (tie) Cuba
      15. (tie) Turks & Caicos

Top Luxury Travel Destinations Within North America

  1. Cruise – Caribbean
  2. Mexico
  3. Dominican Republic
  4. Jamaica
  5. Costa Rica

Booking Insights for Top Dream Destinations

“We know that Australia, Italy, Ireland, and New Zealand are among Americans’ top dream destinations, according to our proprietary surveys of the traveling public over the years,” said Gail Grimmett, president of Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group. “For Italy, agents from both Protravel and Tzell report their luxury travelers continue to return to Rome, Florence and Venice, but they are also seeking out itineraries that include the Amalfi Coast, the Lake District, and Portofino or Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera.”

Italy: When asked, “Which of the following Italian itineraries are you booking the most for your affluent clientele in 2017?” it is clear that the major Italian cities continue to be a draw, Travel Leaders said. The top responses were:

  1. Rome, Florence (Tuscany) and Venice
  2. Amalfi Coast - Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello
  3. Rome and Vatican City
  4. Tuscany - Florence, Chianti, Siena
  5. Venice

The Italian Riviera, Italy’s Lake District, Milan, the Dolomites and Sicily round out the Top 10 among most-booked Italian itineraries.

When asked “What appeals most to your luxury clients who book trips to Italy?” the top responses include: (1) Cultural & History, (2) Sightseeing, (3) Culinary & Dining, (4) Wine Region and (5) Cities/Towns.

Australia: When asked to identify the most popular Australian cities and regions being booked by their affluent travelers, Travel Leaders Group’s luxury travel agents identified: (1) Sydney, (2) the Great Barrier Reef, (3) Melbourne, (4) Cairns and (5) Brisbane. Those were followed by the Australian Outback, the Gold Coast, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Queensland and the Blue Mountains to round out the Top 10.

The top reasons why Travel Leaders Group’s luxury clientele seek out Australian vacations include: (1) Sightseeing, (2) Cities/Towns, (3) Cultural & History, (4) Beaches and (5) Wildlife.

New Zealand: Luxury agents also said that their clients booking New Zealand most often visit: (1) Auckland, (2) Queenstown, (3) Milford Sound, (4) South Island, and (5) Rotorua. The rest of the Top 10 is rounded out by: the North Island, Bay of Islands, Marlborough wine region, Hawke’s Bay wine region and Napier.

When asked “What appeals most to your luxury clients who book trips to New Zealand?” the top responses include: (1) Sightseeing/Scenery, (2) Cultural & History, (3) Cities/Towns, (4) Culinary & Dining, and (5) Hiking/Climbing. (Movie-inspired locations just missed the top five.)

Ireland: Ireland is also considered a dream destination for many Americans. Travel Leaders Group’s affluent clients most often visit: (1) Dublin, (2) Killarney, (3) Ring of Kerry, (4) Cliffs of Moher and (5) Cork.

Not surprisingly, luxury clients’ interests include: (1) Castles, (2) Cultural & History, (3) Sightseeing/Scenery, (4) Cities/Towns and (5) the Irish people. (Family History/Genealogy was a close 6th.)

Luxury Travel Bookings in 2017

When Travel Leaders Group luxury travel agents were asked to compare their overall 2017 luxury travel bookings so far to their luxury travel bookings at this time last year, over 81 percent of those surveyed say bookings are higher than or on par with 2016.

  Increase versus 2016 Same as 2016  
Cruise Suite Bookings 29.3% 55.5% (84.8%)
Premium Air (First/Business) Bookings 28.0% 56.3% (84.3%)
Luxury Hotel Bookings 27.3% 56.8% (84.1%)
Luxury Cruise Bookings 32.7% 50.1% (82.8%)
Luxury Tour Bookings 27.6% 54.8% (82.4%)
Luxury River Cruise Bookings 35.6% 45.6% (81.2%)

These luxury travel trends are part of a comprehensive travel trends survey of 1,689 U.S.-based travel agents from Travel Leaders Group’s flagship Travel Leaders brand and All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network, and Tzell Travel Group. 

Source: Travel Leaders Group

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