June 2018

Top 10: Hot new investment and travel destinations

By Damon Frith

The days when a few select capital cities dominated the itineraries of business and leisure travellers are over. Prompted by rising property prices and the opportunities provided by improved communications, investors, entrepreneurs and artists are fuelling a new wave of creativity in cities that were for years forgotten by all but the boldest travellers.

Here are ten of the hottest new investment and travel destinations worldwide.

1. Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn combines the best of its medieval heart on the edge of the Baltic Sea with one of the most dynamic e-commerce environments in Europe. The Estonians have made internet access a human right and boast that it takes just 18 minutes to start a company online, policies that have attracted an enviable cluster of internet start-ups, including Skype, which has based its World Development Centre in the city.

2. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The old steel town used to be a byword for America’s rust belt, but in recent years has undergone a remarkable renaissance, building a thriving hub for health care, robotics and biomedicine. Negotiate a business deal in one of the city’s cutting edge restaurants while taking in the stunning views over the Allegheny River before heading over to the repurposed Strip District for a night of partying.

3. Manchester, UK. Manchester was the cradle of the industrial revolution and has been successively, and successfully, reinventing itself ever since. As young entrepreneurs, artists and restaurateurs have been priced out of London, they have found a home amid the industrial grandeur of what is now one of the most creative cities in Europe, a fact recognised by everyone from the BBC to the giants of the modern economy.

4. Medellin, Colombia. Once a byword for drugs gangs, Medellin is now the coolest city in South America. A sharp reduction in crime has been accompanied by a renewal programme that has attracted new hope and new investors. An old textile town, Medellin has created space for the optimism created by the end of the war with communist rebels to flower.

5. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The combination of the irrepressible entrepreneurial drive of the Vietnamese and the graceful old colonial buildings of the city once known as Saigon has created one of the most dynamic cities in Asia. Ho Chi Minh is the powerhouse of the Vietnamese economy, and antidote to the languid tropical cities elsewhere in South East Asia: people walk faster, the humour is sharper and the food a little spicier than elsewhere in Vietnam.

6. Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Rotterdam has lived in the shadow of its neighbour Amsterdam for years, but this edgy city – still the biggest cargo port in Europe – is the modernist counterpoint to the history of places like Bruges and Ghent. The revived waterfront is home to excellent museums, open air art galleries and restaurants, and its old industrial factories are being repurposed as creative zones for modern entrepreneurs.

7. Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg has long had a reputation for violence, but it has always been Africa’s most important business centre, and it is slowly turning itself into a leisure destination in its own right. Districts like Maboneng and Braamfontein have a new vibrancy that reflects the best of the country’s multicultural heritage, combining art, business and living spaces that have attracted some of Africa’s most daring talents.

8. Pune, India. For those looking for a taste of the modern India but overwhelmed by the sheer scale of cities like Mumbai, head inland to the city of Pune. Nestled in the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains, Pune combines a great climate, some of central India’s best food, and a can-do attitude that has attracted some of the world’s most dynamic IT companies.

9. Georgetown, Malaysia. Georgetown, located on the island of Penang in eastern Malaysia, is one of the original Straits Settlements. The brightly painted historical heart of the city has been revived with new 5-star boutique hotels, street art and restaurants that draw inspiration from the South East Asian, Indian and Chinese traders who made it their home. Penang is also a significant business destination: the local authorities have used its cosmopolitan heritage to create a thriving industrial base for international manufacturers.

10. Bologna, Italy. Bologna is Italy’s quiet achiever. Home to Europe’s oldest university, its ancient arcaded streets still attract thousands of international students, saving it from becoming a museum piece like some of Italy’s more popular tourist destinations. One highlight not to be missed is the food: this is where the slow food movement started, but even ferociously provincial Italians admit that Bologna has the best eating in the country.

Damon is the content editor for Citi’s wealth business.

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