European River Cruises Rebound with Luxury Travelers

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

  • Cruise – Europe (River)
  • Italy
  • Cruise – Europe (Mediterranean)
  • Australia
  • France
  • England
  • Cruise – Europe (Baltic)
  • Ireland
  • Bora Bora
  • Cruise – Australia/New Zealand

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.”


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:

  • Rome, Florence (Tuscany) and Venice
  • Amalfi Coast – Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello
  • Rome and Vatican City
  • Tuscany – Florence, Chianti, Siena
  • Venice

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


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:

Great Barrier Reef

Those were followed by the Australian Outback, the Gold Coast, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Queensland and the Blue Mountains to round out the Top 10.

New Zealand

Luxury agents also stated that their clients booking New Zealand most often visit:

Milford Sound
South Island

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.


Ireland is also considered a dream destination for many Americans. Travel Leaders Group’s affluent clients most often visit:

Ring of Kerry
Cliffs of Moher

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.

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.

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