Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Cuba continues to top the surveys of up-and-coming destinations for American luxury travelers: It leads the latest luxury travel trends report from Travel Leaders Group alongside far-flung destinations like Antarctica, Iceland, African safaris and the United Arab Emirates.

A similar survey from Virtuoso late last year also listed Cuba as the top emerging destination. And like the Travel Leaders’ survey, Antarctica and Iceland were listed in Virtuoso’s top five, along with Myanmar and Bhutan.

“Because Cuba will undoubtedly change rapidly in the coming years due to the influx of American tourists and business influences, a growing number of Protravel International’s affluent clientele want to experience its captivating time-stands-still charm now,” Patrick Fragale, president of Travel Leaders Protravel International unit, said in a statement.

“The proximity, the people and the culture are all part of the appeal," he added. "When Americans can freely travel to Cuba for any type of vacation -- not just a cultural exchange -- and more luxury accommodations become available, I see Cuba moving from our up-and-coming list to join our overall list of top international destinations for luxury travelers.”

The Travel Leaders Group survey of 964 luxury travel experts was conducted Nov. 17 to Dec. 8.

The survey predicted another strong year for luxury travel, with more than 86% of their luxury agents surveyed reporting bookings higher than, or on par with, 2015: 40.8% of respondents said luxury bookings for 2016 were higher than last year, 45.5% percent estimated them to be even and 13.7% expected lower bookings.

And like most polls of luxury agents and travelers in recent years, travelers continue to seek out “incredible, authentic and memorable experiences, not merely five-star hotels and Michelin-star restaurants,” said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko. 

The top luxury travel destinations outside of North America were European river cruises, Italy, Mediterranean cruises, Australia and England. Topping the list for North America were Caribbean cruises, followed by Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Costa Rica.

“We’re buoyed by the survey results that confirm bookings for various segments of the luxury travel industry, from multi-generational vacations and river cruises to hotels and premium airline bookings, are strong,” said Barry Liben, president and CEO of Travel Leaders’ Tzell Travel Group.

“For example, over 91% of survey participants state bookings for luxury multi-generational trips are higher than or on par with last year at this time, and nearly 89% state the same regarding luxury river cruises.”

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