Kuoni predicts 2019 will be the ‘year of the long-haul trip’ with sales to further afield destinations up 4%.

The operator said sales to short-haul destinations, which make up a smaller proportion of its portfolio, are ‘slightly down’.

Nervousness around Brexit remains one of the biggest conversations when customers book a holiday, it said.

Kuoni’s Worldwide Travel Report 2019 features the top 25 performing destinations for this year.  The top 10 are dominated by long-haul destinations.

Historically, Kuoni is better known for its long-haul holidays. The Maldives tops the list for the 16th year running followed by Sri Lanka and Thailand.

As with last year, Italy is the only European destination in the operator’s top ten, coming seventh. It was sixth last year.

Bookings are being driven by demand for honeymoons, weddings and luxury stays, particularly in Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, Lake Garda and Sardinia, according to Kuoni.

Greece is the next best-selling short-haul destination for Kuoni, listed at 23rd this year, compared with 17th last year and 25th in 2017.

Parent company DER Touristik chief executive Derek Jones predicted European holiday sales would be more evenly spread throughout the year as a result of Britain leaving the EU.

He said: “With a news agenda dominated by the ongoing EU debate, many people are looking further afield than they may usually do. Holidays are not something people will forgo easily.   We’ve seen strong demand for long-haul countries, which seem to be cushioned from the worries people have around Europe.

“Whilst January remains the peak booking month for travel, there’s a strong indication that in 2019 we will see holiday sales, particularly for short-haul destinations, more evenly spread throughout the year as people wait to understand more about what exiting the EU really mean.”

While the Maldives has a range of new resorts in the pipeline offering more ‘affordable luxury’, growth in Kuoni’s sales of Sri Lanka holidays is coming from multi-centre itineraries including a variety of activities, from going to the beach to visiting tea plantations. Sri Lanka bookings are 8% ahead of last year.

Several destinations have risen in popularity compared with last year, based on bookings made with Kuoni.

India is up by two places to eighth position, with sales 4% ahead as a result of demand for group tours and tailormade itineraries, particularly repeat guests wanting to explore areas such as the River Ganges and Varansi and lesser known national parks such as Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

Other rising stars include Kenya, in 11th position, up from 19th in the list last year, and Japan, up three places to 24 as it prepares to host the Rugby World Cup in September and the Olympic and Paralymic Games in 2020.

Kuoni has seen demand for Egypt increase – it has gone up seven places to 26th place this year – with Nile cruises particularly popular, suggesting security fears are subsiding.

The operator lists Ajman in the United Arab Emirates as a destination to watch thanks to its beaches, luxury hotels and more attractive pricing, particularly in comparison with neighbouring Dubai.

Kuoni also said more holidaymakers want to try a new experience or learn a new skill on holiday and named this as growing as a motivation for travel.

The operator’s report said 34% of people wanted to travel to broaden their horizons, while almost half, 46%, said their reason for booking a holiday had changed over the years due to a wider choice of activities on offer. In Sri Lanka alone, bookings for cultural excursions with hands on experiences are 12% up year on year.

Meanwhile, DER Touristik UK has said it “remains open” to further acquisitions four months on from buying specialist tour operator Journey Latin America.

Jones added that further Kuoni concessions were likely to open in John Lewis & Partners department stores despite the company’s shop network now being broadly “the size we want it to be”.

Kuoni now has 49 stores, and has just opened its latest shop in the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Top 10 destinations for 2019 according to Kuoni’s Worldwide Travel Report: 

  1. The Maldives
  2. Sri Lanka
  3. Thailand
  4. Mauritius
  5. USA
  6. Indonesia (Bali)
  7. Italy
  8. India
  9. Vietnam
  10. South Africa

Access the report on the Kuoni website