European River Cruises Rebound With Luxury Travelers According To Travel Leaders Group’s New Survey

January 26, 2017

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

Survey also reveals booking trends for high-end hotels, cruise suites, and luxury escorted tours, as well as the most appealing aspects of luxury travel in Australia, Italy, and more.


Plymouth, MN (January 26, 2017) – Today, Travel Leaders Group 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 also reveal 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, these trends are based on responses from 1,240 Travel Leaders Group luxury travel experts.


“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,” stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko. “Further buoyed by a stronger dollar, our clients are seeking out destinations like Italy, France and European river cruises with the added expertise our luxury agents provide in designing unique travel experiences. That is certainly one reason why our bookings for various segments of the luxury travel industry are higher than or on par with last year for more than 80% of our survey participants.”


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


1Cruise – Europe (River)
3Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean)
7Cruise – Europe (Baltic)
9Bora Bora
10Cruise – Australia/New Zealand
11United Arab Emirates
13 (tie)Iceland
13 (tie)South Africa
15 (tie)Cuba
15 (tie)Turks & Caicos


Top Luxury Travel Destinations within North America


1Cruise – Caribbean
3Dominican Republic
5Costa 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,” stated Gail Grimmett, President of Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group, both renowned for their best-in-class luxury travel agent advisors. “High-end travelers don’t just dream, they go – with the assistance of our experienced travel agents. 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 mesmerize. The top responses were:


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

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 stated 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% of those surveyed say bookings are higher than or on par with 2016.


versus 2016
as 2016
Cruise Suite Bookings29.3%55.5%(84.8%)
Premium Air (First/Business) Bookings28.0%56.3%(84.3%)
Luxury Hotel Bookings27.3%56.8%(84.1%)
Luxury Cruise Bookings32.7%50.1%(82.8%)
Luxury Tour Bookings27.6%54.8%(82.4%)
Luxury River Cruise Bookings35.6%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 TravelCruise SpecialistsNexionProtravel InternationalTravel Leaders CorporateTravel Leaders Network, and Tzell Travel Group. Results from Travel Leaders Group’s 2017 Travel Trends Survey are here.


Travel Leaders Group is one of North America’s largest travel companies – encompassing nearly one-third of all travel agents – and generates gross travel sales of approximately $21 billion. Travel Leaders Group is a leader in both the retail travel agency space and corporate travel, and it consistently ranks as one of the top travel companies nationwide.


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About Travel Leaders Group
Travel Leaders Group (www.travelleadersgroup.comis transforming travel with a commitment to our vacation and business travel clients via our progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Having already assisted millions of travelers – through our beginnings as Carlson Leisure Group, a division of Carlson Companies, TraveLeaders and Tzell Travel Group and through the additions of Nexion, and Protravel International – Travel Leaders Group manages leisure, business and franchise travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands. With annual sales approaching $21 billion through over 7,000 locations, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest traditional travel agency companies.

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