Italy is the top luxury destination for Australian travellers

Sicily, Italy. Photo: Ludovic Marin/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Australians travellers are loving Europe, especially Italy.

While it’s not that surprising considering a European backpacking trip is a pilgrimage for many Australian school leavers, this trend is based around the high-end, luxury travel segment, which you’d expect exotic, remote locations such as Iceland and Antarctica topping this list.

But according data from global luxury travel network, Virtuoso, Australian luxury travellers are now prioritising exploration and authentic experiences for international holidays, and see Italy as the perfect destination to do so.

And it’s not the only European location appealing to Aussies with plenty of cash. Spain and Croatia follow closely behind Italy in the coming season.

Here are the rankings:

1. Italy

2. Spain

3. US

4. Croatia

5. Japan

Some travel advisors at Virtuoso’s Travel Week told Business Insider that holidays based around exploring family heritage is responsible for the uptick in European-centred travel by Australians, while others at Brownell Birmingham in Alabama, USA, have a different theory.

While their analysis is based on American travel trends, Italy has also forged ahead as an ultimate luxury destination for the US traveller, and Brownell Birmingham and they’ve come up with a novel way to help people plan trips – a quick and easy DNA tests so the results help create a roadmap for travel.

Salvatore Madonna, CEO, of Hotel Byron in Forte dei Marmi, Italy says Australians in particular love visiting Cinque Terre, a series of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera.

While Australian visitors are a small but growing clientele for his boutique luxury hotel, they can be found everywhere among the region known for its colourful buildings and breathtaking coastal views.

“It’s so popular it’s crazy,” he said.

His 30-room hotel, costing a minimum of 479 euros ($AU718) per night, is close to Cinque Terre and Pisa, in the north-west part of Tuscany on the coast.

“We have many clients [of all nationalities] coming to see the Cinque Terre, especially in the summer time there is a boat that goes to Cinque Terre… seeing it from the perspective of the boat is really unique,” he says.

“You see all the cliffs and the villages it’s really nice.”

When it comes to Italy’s steady popularity as a travel destination, Madonna says it comes down to “our culture, our lifestyle, our food — in a certain way they are all connected — it’s our heritage.”

The Amalfi Coast in Italy. Photo: EyesWideOpen Getty Images.

Not only is Italy the most in-demand destination for Australian travellers in the coming travel season, cruising shows no sign of slowing in popularity with the sector again ranking as the most in-demand type of travel.

“The cruise sector has comprehensively diversified to ensure they have product for every segment of the market with smaller ship luxury, expedition, river and sailing vessels, and Australians are in love with cruising boasting the strongest per capita cruise markets in the world,” Virtuoso Asia Pacific managing director, Michael Londregan said.

This week 120 Australian-based luxury travel advisors joined more than 5,500 travel professionals from across the world for the 29th annual Virtuoso Travel Week event in Las Vegas.

* The author travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Virtuoso.