Whether they are in search of history, culture, cuisine or natural beauty, affluent travelers are captivated by Italy, a newly-released Travel Leaders Group survey of luxury travel agents found. Among the top destinations for luxury travel in the coming 12 months, Italy leads the way, followed by European river cruises, Mediterranean cruises, the United States, and Ireland, respectively. In addition, 92.6 percent of the agent experts surveyed state that their luxury travel bookings are higher than or on par with this time last year, a marked increase from the 84 percent of agents last year.
“Given the strong U.S. economy, it is no surprise that our agents are seeing a higher level of luxury travel bookings compared to last year. Some people are scaling up their vacations to include high-end accommodations and exclusive experiences and others are simply taking more trips because of their confidence in the economy,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko in a written release. “Italy, a perennial favorite destination for all travelers, truly hits home for high-net worth travelers seeking unique, enriching experiences from food and wine, art galleries or designer shopping. Additionally, cruising in Europe continues to gain in popularity and availability.”
Luxury Travel Top Destinations
The top three “destinations” – either by country or cruise itinerary – that the surveyed luxury agents said their most discriminating clients are booking or inquiring about over the next year are Italy, European river cruising and cruises on the Mediterranean Sea. Ireland made it into the top 5 this year, and the upwardly-trending Iceland came in at number 10. Jamaica, South Africa and New Zealand were also among the Top 15 destinations affluent clientele are seeking for vacations, according to Travel Leaders Group’s luxury travel agents.
2 Cruise – Europe (River)
3 Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean)
4 United States
8 Cruise – Caribbean
12 South Africa
15 (tie) New Zealand
15 (tie) Spain
Recommendations From Luxury Travel Experts
Luxury travel experts from across Travel Leaders Group, including agents from Travel Leaders, Tzell Travel Group and CruCon Cruise Outlet, gave their insights about what they are advising their clients looking for luxury experiences in these destinations.
Just more than 34 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents said that Italy is the top vacation spot for their luxury travelers. River cruises in Europe are the second-most favorite destination for luxury travelers, with 22 percent of the agents saying their clients are booking or inquiring about this option.
“River cruises are the best option for seeing Italy or other parts of Europe, especially for active and adventure clients who also want to feel pampered. From the moment they step on board, the crew already knows their name. There are also bikes and kayaks available for those who want an immersive experience,” said Missy Skoog, a luxury travel specialist with Travel Leaders in Blaine, MN. “Clients are also seeking fine dining experiences and river cruises have some of the top most skilled chefs. Additionally, the suites are large, there is butler service and one can take excursions to several small villages and cities without needing to unpack over and over.”
Third-place Mediterranean cruises are also popular with luxury clients, with 18 percent of the agents saying their clients are booking or inquiring about this option.
“Every traveler has imagined themselves in one of Europe’s romantic or historic cities, but there are so many different places to visit, that’s why many luxury travelers pick a Mediterranean cruise — one can experience a wide variety of ports during in a single vacation,” said Sandy Cleary, founder of CruCon Cruise Outlet in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. “A cruise gives the traveler a true sampling of all the regions so the affluent traveler can return to their favorite destination for an intense land vacation in the future. We also find that many affluent travelers like to ‘collect cities’ so they can say that they’ve been there when they are socializing with their peer group.”
Ireland moved up a notch to take the 5th spot on the list this year. “Ireland is magical and offers scenic and sweeping views across the country from the iconic Cliffs of Moher to the Dingle Peninsula and even the historic and breathtaking castles dotted throughout from the North to South,” said Kara Bebell and Harlan deBell, “The Travel Siblings” at Tzell Travel Group, a division of Travel Leaders Elite. “We recommend a romantic castle stay paired with a Dublin city escape. Adare Manor re-opened this fall after nearly two years of renovation and it is a great place for clients to partake in a little archery, falconry, clay pigeon shooting, and even fishing on the River Maigue. Out of the country and onward to Dublin, we can arrange private tours with some of Ireland’s most prestigious historical guides and even private experiences with Dukes and Earls.”
Overall Luxury Travel Bookings
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, 92.6% of those surveyed said bookings are higher than or on par with 2016.
Bookings are Higher 63.6%
Bookings are Even 29%
Bookings are Lower 7.4%
These findings on luxury travel are part of the larger 2017 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group. They included responses from 1,107 travel agent experts from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with those affiliated with Travel Leaders Group’s Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, Travel Leaders Corporate and Tzell Travel Group units.