The Fastest-Growing Tourist Spots Around the World Gallery
The Fastest-Growing Tourist Spots Around the World
When pondering where to travel in 2018, a good piece of advice might be to go where the people are. This past year was a very interesting and controversial one in travel, with a lot happening around the world and here at home. That didn’t stop the masses from globetrotting, however, and certain cities really saw the benefits of a tourist boom last year. When a city experiences significant growth in international tourism, there's bound to be a good reason for it, one worth paying attention to.
Towards the end of 2017, Mastercard released its annual Global Cities Destination Index. As part of this extensive report, the company included a list of the cities that saw the fastest growth, percentage-wise, in terms of overnight international visitors. While the year wasn’t quite over when the report was released, we trust that the numbers are quite accurate — after all, they’ve been doing this for seven years now.
You’ll find quite a few cities in Asia here and even one in the U.S. (in Florida), and others in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. To consider which cities you might want to consider visiting this coming year, check out the fastest growing tourist spots around the world.
The number of tourists visiting Miami this past year was projected to grow by about 10.2 percent, resulting in the city becoming one of the top destinations of 2017. With world-class cuisine from around the world, this capital of Latin American culture is a fantastic destination, with some of the most renowned beaches in the world, wonderful resorts, and a thriving arts scene full of music festivals and art galleries.
Portugal’s capital tied with Miami for growth in tourism in 2017, and we suspect it may have something to do with the new and trendy food halls that opened up this year. More and more travelers seem to be discovering all the rich culture and history Lisbon has to offer, showcased at its many monuments and museums full of art and artifacts that chronicle the country’s ancient history and rise and fall as a colonial superpower. Due to that colonial past, Lisboan cuisine is also likely another reason this city is becoming such a hot spot, with dishes influenced by Moorish, South Asian, South American, and African as well as East Asian flavors.
Bucharest saw a projected 10.4 percent growth in overnight international visitors over the past year, probably because it’s both great for your wallet and your stomach. Nicknamed “Little Paris” on account of its romantic architecture and many French-inspired cafés and restaurants, Bucharest has reaped the benefits of the Romanian government’s efforts to revive its capital through infrastructure projects and building restorations. Here you can visit the largest parliament building in the world and many different museums chronicling Romanian history and showcasing both the country’s historical and contemporary art.
Also known by its earlier colonial name, Bombay, Mumbai is the largest city in India and the fastest-growing tourist destination in the country as well. Mumbai should end 2017 with 10.5 percent more international visitors than it had in 2016. Catch a movie or even watch one being shot in the hometown of Bollywood — or enjoy one of the many theatrical performances around the city. You’ll find all kinds of restaurants here, serving many different cuisines from around the subcontinent as well as around the world, and also religious sites important to all of India’s religious minorities as well as the majority Hindus.
Bangkok’s projected international tourist growth of 11 percent definitely contributed to its becoming the second most visited destination of 2017. In addition to two of 2017’s best world airlines, Bangkok is also home to some of the best of Thailand’s awe-inspiring cuisine, palaces, massage spas, and cultural performances. Other popular tourist experiences include tours of the city by bicycle or tuk tuk (the Thai version of a rickshaw) and Muay Thai (martial arts) lessons.
#15 Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is another budget-friendly foodie city and will have seen an 11.1 percent rise in international visitors this year. You’ll find typical Southeast Asian foods such as spring rolls and curries, as well as more localized specialties such as bánh mì sandwiches, made up of meat and pickled vegetables on a crusty French bread, to fill your stomach. There are also plenty of museums and monuments, some chronicling the Vietnam War, to fill your brain here. Cultural shows throughout the city are a must, particularly at Saigon Opera House, and the city also has many walking tours and shops so that you can appreciate Vietnamese history and arts and crafts.
#14 Chennai, India
One of the best cities for vegetarian travelers, the South Indian city of Chennai made the list with an 11.8 percent growth in international tourists for 2017. It makes sense, considering its one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, as well as one of the cleanest. The beachfront here is also the second longest in the world, although it should be noted that Chennai beaches are for walking and enjoying the salty air — swimming is not advised due to strong currents. The many temples, churches, and mosques of Chennai are architecturally stunning and reflective of the city’s religious diversity, and you’d be remiss to leave without visiting one of the local eco-parks or zoological gardens.
South Korea is one of 2018’s top vacation spots, both because of the Winter Olympics being held in Pyeongchang and the rise of its capital as a leading destination. This past year’s projected tourism growth came in at 12.8 percent, and we’re betting it’ll only grow more in the years ahead. Should you plan to make a visit, check out the city’s delicious Korean cuisine, its famously quirky coffee shops, and the stunning palaces and temples throughout.
#12 Xiamen, China
Situated along the southern coast of China, Xiamen is a flourishing modern city which should end 2017 with about 13.7 percent more overnight international visitors than it had in 2016. A big reason it’s on the map for tourism is Gulangyu Island, a small, car-free island that’s still part of the city and attracts visitors for its picturesque gardens, colonial buildings, and monuments. Xiamen is full of parks and temples, as well as night markets and cultural shows, so there’s always something to do.
Despite the fact that Iran was one of the most dangerous destinations Anthony Bourdain has filmed in, it seems that the publicity given to the country by the celebrity chef, as well as others, has served its capital well. Tehran is projected to have had about 14.2 percent more international tourists than the previous year by the time 2017 is over. The city’s residents are some of the most hospitable you’ll ever meet, eager to serve you delicious dishes such as kubideh and zereshk polow, and the museums and monuments here testify to the great and colorful history of the city and its country, going back to its many different empires and civilizations over the centuries.
Peru is one of our top destinations for 2018, and its capital shows promise as a leading world destination thanks to the rise in international visitors it saw this year. Lima should end 2017 with an approximately 15.2 percent increase in tourists as compared to the previous year. The city is often called the culinary capital of South America, and you can experience the best of Peruvian cuisine here in the country’s capital, a place where modernity and colonial-era architecture exist side-by-side.
The governmental and financial capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is projected to end the year with a 15.9 percentage growth as compared to the previous year. It’s one of the safest cities in the world, but generally a business destination rather than a tourist one. Extremely hot and without many attractions, it’s not the most popular Saudi Arabian destination — although we’re curious to see how 2018 goes after the nation announced this month that it would no longer ban films or the movie theaters that show them.
Hanoi’s number of international overnight visitors grew at a rate of 16.4 percent over the past year, and although the city wasn’t as affected by decades of war as Ho Chi Minh City was, it still has plenty of interesting museums to chronicle the period. The Vietnamese capital is also full of gorgeous parks and temples, and we recommended a guided tour to ensure you get to experience all of its best street food.
Tokyo was one of 2017’s hottest destinations, projected to end the year with a growth of 17.7 percent in number of international tourists. You can’t leave this Japanese city without trying the best sushi in the world or exploring its shops full of funky fashions, anime paraphernalia, the latest electronics, and snacks in literally every flavor you can imagine. In addition to the city’s many quirky attractions, Tokyo also offers the best of traditional Japanese culture, full of Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and opportunities to participate in or observe tea ceremonies, martial arts, or calligraphy lessons.
The most populous city in Southeast Asia, Jakarta also made the list of the fastest-growing tourist destinations, with an 18.2 percent increase in visitors from 2016. Known for its friendly population, fantastic shopping, and fun-filled nightlife, this capital of Indonesia is a must for anyone visiting the region. Beautiful mosques and tons of museums make for some great sightseeing and learning, and Indonesian cuisine and cultural shows display the melting pot culture that exists here.
#4 Abu Dhabi
Not only is Abu Dhabi one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, with 18.9 percent more visitors in 2017 than in 2016, but it also made our list of places you have to visit in 2018. The first branch of the Louvre outside of Paris opened its doors here this past November in the Emirate city, which is also one of the safest in the world. With over 700 exhibits, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is gorgeous inside and out, but it’s not the only architectural marvel the city holds. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world, is meticulously kept, its bright white exterior and 82 domes positively sparkling. Take a ride on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World on Yas Island, just off the coast, where you can also visit the water park and gigantic shopping mall.
#3 Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, took in approximately 20.3 percent more overnight international visitors in 2017 than in the previous year. Thanks to its tropical climate, you can visit Colombo any time of the year, although be advised that it’s often seriously hot there. Museums and art galleries will give you a good sense of the unique culture and history of this South Asian island nation, and both Buddhist and Hindu festivals take over the city throughout the year. Sri Lankan cuisine is a mix of South Indian, Indonesian, Arab, and even Dutch and Portuguese flavors, and you’ll find many dishes full of rice, coconut, and all kinds of South Asian spices.
#2 Chengdu, China
Another one of our top destinations for 2018, Chengdu made that list partially because of how the country has benefited from the growth in tourism over the past year — a projected 22.7 percent. As the capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu is a city perfect for people who love spicy food and breathtaking scenery. Most of the world’s wild giant pandas also reside in Chengdu, and a visit to the nature parks and reserves may give you a peep at them as well as at the area’s beautiful mountains and outdoor landscapes.
This Japanese metropolis turned out to be the fastest-growing tourist destination this year, with approximately 24 percent more international visitors staying overnight in the city than in 2016. One reason is probably its safety — the city is ranked as one of the safest in the world — but there’s also plenty to do in Osaka as well. The best city in Japan for food, drinks, and nightlife, Osaka has tons of museums and theaters (and is just ten minutes away from Universal Studios Japan, if that's your idea of fun). Make sure you visit Osaka Castle and its beautiful park while you’re here, or the nearby Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, where you can even customize your own Cup Noodles to take home. For more top destinations that are wallet-friendly, check our list of the cheapest places to travel month by month.