Travel Leaders Group recently released its top luxury travel trends for 2017 and found that European river cruises took the lead 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 survey also revealed 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).

“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.”

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
12 Spain
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,” stated Gail Grimmett, President of Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group. “High-end travelers don’t just dream, they go. For Italy, 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?” 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 destinations 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 for seeking 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.           

Increase  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 TravelCruise SpecialistsNexionProtravel International, and Tzell Travel Group.