The 6 Worst Luxury Hotel Openings of 2015

Luxury Travel Intelligence (LTI), a members-only luxury travel organization aimed at high rollers and those with deep pockets has released their annual list of the Worst Luxury Hotel Openings of 2015. While most of us would probably give our right arm for a chance to stay in these high end establishments, the company described many of the properties to make this years list as underwhelming and disenchanting. Maybe they’re being a little harsh or perhaps you just come to expect certain things when paying these kind of nightly rates… either way, here are the six worst luxury hotel openings of 2015:

6. Lanesborough, London

The 5 star, 93-room Lanesborough Hotel was re-opened this year in central London after being closed for renovations since December 2013. The renovations cost a reported £80 million, but bucking the trend for simplistic, pared-down style hasn’t won them any praise.

Photo by: Luxury Hotel Experts
Photo by: Luxury Hotel Experts

5. EDITION, Miami Beach

The Mariott/Ian Schrager owned EDITION Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida was closed for renovations for nearly four years and officially re-opened at the beginning of 2015. After that kind of time, you expect it to have been worth the wait, but according to reports, it lands on this year’s luxury worst list as a result of terrible service.

Photo by: Edition Hotels
Photo by: Edition Hotels

4. Zaya Nurai, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Zaya Nurai Island resort touts itself as “the most sought-after luxury beach resort” according to the resort website, but finds itself in the number four spot on this years worst luxury hotel opening list. Reports say the hotel just isn’t on par with the amazing beauty of it’s island location.

Photo by: Expedia
Photo by: Expedia

3. St. Regis, Mumbai

Coming in third is the St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai, India. Normally a very highly regarded hotel brand, this St. Regis property seems to have landed itself on this years worst luxury hotel list as a result of “a rushed and badly executed takeover of an existing (and troubled) property – The Palladium” reports LTI.

Photo by: CNN Traveler
Photo by: CNN Traveler

2. Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok, Mauritius

The Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort on the East African island of Mauritius re-opened in November of this year after an extensive 6 month renovation. Despite these efforts to upgrade, LTI named the property as #2 on this years list due to customer reports of “poor service and inadequate staff training plus a distinct impression that management is not present.”

Photo by: CPP Luxury
Photo by: CPP Luxury

1. Nobu, Manilla

Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro won’t be please to see his Manila, Philippines property ranked as this years number one worst luxury hotel opening of 2015. The American Actor co-owns the Nobu Hotel with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Hollywood producer Meir Teper. While the 312-room City of Dreams property only opened in May of this year, reports say the 5-star hotel underwhelms at every turn and LTI reports “some questionable developments and over expansion.”

Philippines New Casino

Lonely Planet’s 10 Cool New Openings for 2016

The ever popular publisher of travel guidebooks has come out with their annual ‘Best of Travel’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the hottest new attractions set to open in 2016 to get your imagination running wild. This year’s list has something for everyone from Disney fans to football fanatics, outdoor explorers and adventurous foodies, no one will be disappointed and everyone will be scrambling to find their passport after one read through this list.

10. Shanghai Disney Resort, China

In Spring of 2916, Disney is set to open its newest resort and the first of its kind in mainland China. The park will include 6 themed areas placed around the largest constructed Enchanted Castle of any Disney park. In the center of the park, ‘The Garden of the Twelve Friends’ will depict the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac represented by Disney characters. There will also be a Disneytown entertainment district (perhaps similar to America’s Downtown Disney) located outside of the new Magic Kingdom which will feature restaurants, shopping, entertainment and two Disney hotel accommodations.

Photo by: Shanghai Disney Resort
Photo by: Shanghai Disney Resort

9. Mamma Mia! The Party, Stockholm, Sweden

Diehard ABBA fans will want to take note of this next opening in Stockholm next year; the city’s Gröna Lund amusement park will see the opening of a brand new Mamma Mia!–themed restaurant in January of 2016. The brains behind this new disco-dining experience is none other than ABBA’s own Björn Ulvaeus, the former Swedish music star also co-composed the famed Mamma Mia! musical so naturally he has some involvement here as well. Lonely Planet reports that diners will enter a Greek-style Taverna where diners will tuck into Greek specialties while the story unfolds around them.

Photo by: ABBA Fanatic
Photo by: ABBA Fanatic

8. Monnaie de Paris, France

For those who haven’t been to the city, the Monnaie de Paris is the Paris mint, and in mid-2016 it will see the completion of its ‘MetaLmorphoses’ project -a huge transformation of the mint’s 1.2-hectare site on the Seine. So far the transformation has already seen art exhibitions in the mint’s neoclassical building in 2014 and the opening of famous Michelin accredited chef Guy Savoy’s flagship restaurant in 2015. The fun will continue in 2016 with the unveiling of the mint’s previously unseen collections. In addition, there will be metalwork and foundry tours, Guy Savoy’s MetaLcafé brasserie and much more to see and do.

Photo by: Soundscapes Blog
Photo by: Soundscapes Blog

7. FIFA World Football Museum, Zurich, Switzerland

Ask any football fan if they would make a trip if there were a world football museum and chances are they would probably say yes. Well in spring of 2016, just such an attraction will be opening its doors in Zurich, Switzerland. The FIFA World Football Museum will be a 3,500 square meter facility located in the heart of the city and dedicated to the most widely played sport in the world. The museum will take visitors through the history of the game with a timeline and include a hall of fame, a cinema and a giant football pinball machine.

Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com
Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

6. Bourdain Market, New York City, USA

Famous culinary adventurer Anthony Bourdain first announced his plans to open a food market in New York back in January 2014 and foodies have been listening for any little detail about the project ever since. While many details are still unknown (and likely will be until its opening) we do know that the theme will be crazy, loud and slightly obnoxious and it’s all set to open in early 2016. The 100,000 square foot space at Pier 57 will feature producers and carefully selected food vendors from around the world as well as a hawker-style food hall, rooftop beer garden, farmers market and oyster bar.

Erin Cadigan / Shutterstock.com
Erin Cadigan / Shutterstock.com

5. Surf Snowdonia, Wales

Snowdonia National Park in Wales is known for it’s vast natural beauty and spectacular scenery. While this piece of natural paradise is perfect for hikers and those with an appreciation for the great outdoors, there are an increasing number of adventure sports enthusiasts heading to Snowdonia for the man-made adrenaline attractions like Europe’s longest zip line and an underground trampolining center. In 2016 the park will see another new attraction to entice visitors, in the form of a 300 meter long artificial surf lagoon. The £12 million project is said to use rainwater to produce a consistent barreling 2 meter wave every minute, and is the first of its kind in the world.

Photo by: Surf Snowdonia
Photo by: Surf Snowdonia

4. National Gallery Singapore

Lonely Planet says that while Singapore is host to several world-class museums, if you only have time for one in 2016 make it the National Gallery. Located in the city’s former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, the gallery not only offers Southeast Asian art from the 19th century to today, but the venue itself offers history and its own story. Visit the restored colonial courtrooms and council chambers but make sure you also check out the beautiful rooftop garden which offers spectacular views of Marina Bay.

Photo by: National Gallery Singapore
Photo by: National Gallery Singapore

3. BASK, Gili Meno, Indonesia

BASK is a brand-new luxury villa-resort development on the island of Gili Meno near Bali. The development which is set to open in 2016 has a very recognizable celebrity endorsement on its side; David Hasselhoff, aka The Hoff, is the face of BASK and is said to be looking at having his own vacation villa in the complex. The development is located on a private white sand beach and will feature a world class restaurant, beach club, luxury spa and even its own underwater sculpture park for diving enthusiasts.

Photo by: BASK
Photo by: BASK

2. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Abu Dhabi arts scene is about to get a new star in 2016; the Louvre Abu Dhabi was first planned to be completed in 2012, but flash forward another 4 years and we will finally see this €100 million dollar project completed. The building itself is a sight to behold as the domed structure seems to almost be floating on the water as it sits on Saadiyat Island. The museum will have a permanent collection of art throughout the ages including Chinese Buddhist carvings and Italian oil paintings while works from famed artists like Van Gogh, Monet and da Vinci will be on loan from France.

Photo by: Louvre Abu Dhabi
Photo by: Louvre Abu Dhabi

1. National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, USA

The number one opening in 2016 is an exciting first for America; the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC for short) will become the first national museum in America to focus exclusively on the lives, history and culture of African Americans. The 10-storey space Smithsonian Institution museum will open in Washington DC in 2016 and will boast artifacts from around the country that represent the history of African Americans. Everything from Harriet Tubman’s 1876 hymn book, to a Jim Crow-era segregated railcar, to banners and photographs from notable human rights demonstrations will be on display.

Photo by: Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR
Photo by: Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR

The 14 Longest Non-stop Flights in The World

Flying from one end of the world to the other takes a long time, but luckily for passengers it is taking much less time with the introduction of non-stop flights. What used to be a two-day journey from New York to Hong Kong can now be done in just about 16 hours. Engineers have worked hard over the years to come up with innovative ways to make airplanes go faster and longer distances, without having to stop. Although these 16 hour journeys may take a long time, there are plenty of on-board amenities to keep passengers happy. Discover 14 of the longest non-stop flights in the world, and why flying long distance is easier than ever.

14. Chicago to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific

Residents of the windy city can take a 15.5 hour journey all the way to the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, a journey that covers 7,793 miles. Cathay Pacific is known around the world as one of the favorite airlines to fly and it’s no wonder they now have daily flights, as well as an extra direct flight three times a week between these two cities. While their planes don’t have the fully enclosed suites in first class, they still offer one of the best products out there for passengers who want to fly in style. Expect to spend the 15 hours sleeping in the ultra comfortable beds, in the provided pajamas while watching an unlimited amount of movies and television shows. One thing to note about this flight, if you do need something make sure to press the call button as the flight staff like to leave you alone as much as possible to get the rest that most people want.

Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com
Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com

13. New York to Taipei: EVA Air

This 7,808 mile route started back in 2011 and has only grown in popularity, despite the fact that it takes a whopping 15.5 hours to reach Taiwan’s booming capital from the Big Apple. Passengers aboard this flight will have three options of classes from regular Economy to Elite Premium Economy to the much loved Royal Laurel Class. Taking a flight and sitting in the Royal Laurel Class is unlike any other 15.5 hour flight as it offers one of the most comfortable sleeping areas. Each seat can convert to a two-meter long fully flat bed complete with lush linens and pillows. Added touches such as the shoe cabinet, retractable armrest and closet space just add to the experience. In-flight dining complete with champagne and fresh lobster are what passengers will find here. Economy passengers will still be subject to delicious dining, comfortable reclining seats and touch screen entertainment.

Taipei 101, Taiwan

12. Toronto to Hong Kong: Air Canada

It is the longest flight originating out of Canada and sits at 7,810 miles and takes a total of 15.5 hours to complete as passengers make their way from Toronto to Hong Kong. The aircraft for this long flight is Air Canada’s Boeing 777 that is complete with the loved Executive Pod Business Class cabins. With 48 of these classic pods, passengers can lie-flat, watch their own personal touch screen TV’s and charge any electronic devices in their personal power outlets. There is only the choice of economy and business class on these aircrafts but economy passengers can expect a wider seat pitch than others, a power outlet in-between the seats and access to the in-flight entertainment. Enjoy a hot meal with complimentary wine and spirits as you take the long journey from Toronto to Hong Kong.

Top Cities 2013 - Hong Kong

11. Los Angeles to Melbourne: United

What was once a route run by Virgin Australia, who moved its fleet to its L.A-Brisbane route, is now a route run by United, and this 7,921 mile journey takes about 16 hours. United flies its Boeing 787 Dreamliner which seats 252 passengers divided into three classes; Business, Economy and Economy Plus. Passengers in business class can expect seats that transform into lie-flat beds, an ottoman in front of the seat featuring storage and in-seat power with USB and reading light. Passengers aboard this 16 hour flight will have access to 150 hours of entertainment including movies, RV programs, music and games. Service with a smile, friendly passengers and enough options to keep you occupied for those 16 long hours, makes flying with United both easy and pleasant.

American Spirit / Shutterstock.com
American Spirit / Shutterstock.com

10. Dallas to Doha on Qatar Airways

This 7,931 mile journey takes passengers from Dallas, Texas to Doha, a new destination in the gulf region for Qatar passengers. This route debuted in July 2014 after the success of the Houston-Doha route that has been operating since 2008. Passengers will pass the 16.5 hours by using the awesome on-board entertainment system, getting some shut eye with the provided sleep mask or upgrading to the generous Business Class seats. This trip doesn’t come cheap though and passengers should expect to pay around $2,000 for a round trip economy ticket. It also happens to be one of the last of the 7,000 mile journeys on this list

Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com
Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com

9. New York to Guangzhou: China Southern

China’s biggest airline launched this flight in 2014, hoping to attract transit customers coming from other countries who will connect in Guangzhou. The journey from New York to Guangzhou is just over 8,000 miles and takes about 16 hours to complete. Along with the launch of this service came the delivery of their new 777-300ER aircraft that can carry 309 passengers in the four-class configuration. Featuring First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy, passengers now have an array of options on how they want to travel. Although you won’t find the same luxuries as Emirates, for example, there are still plenty of in-flight options, power outlets and food and drink choices to keep passengers happy. This route also happens to be very budget friendly and those looking to score a great deal, should look at China Southern.

Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China

8. Houston to Doha: Qatar Airways

It takes a total of 16.5 hours and covers over 8,047 miles taking passengers from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport to the megacity of Doha, on the cusp of the Persian Gulf. Luckily this Boeing 777 comes loaded with options such as the flat-bed first class suites, generous economy seats and flat seats in business class. Every passenger here is treated to an amenity kit complete with eyeshades, socks and other essentials. The acclaimed Oryx Entertainment system is available to all passengers on this flight. Most likely this plane ride will be full of business travelers as they fly from the oil-rich Houston area to the Middle East. For six years this flight has been in operation and demand continues to grow for this airline which operates 131 planes to over 137 destinations worldwide.

JPRichard / Shutterstock.com
JPRichard / Shutterstock.com

7. New York to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific

On this flight from New York to Hong Kong, passengers will actually fly close to the North Pole, before descending back down south over Russia Siberia. At 8,072 miles, this journey takes about 16 hours. Cathay Pacific happens to be one of the best airlines to fly in Economy Class, good news for those not wanting to shell out big bucks for Business or First Class. Economy seats feature extra width and legroom compared to other airlines as well as a plethora of in-flight entertainment options. Small touches such as a printed menu with food options the same as in First Class, a USB and power outlet, along with a well-designed seat back, makes flying this 16 hour journey easy!

New York

6. Dallas to Hong Kong: American Airlines

It is one of the most recent routes on this list as it only launched in May 2015 and now features the incredible Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The journey from Dallas to Hong Kong is approximately 8,123 miles and takes about 16.5 hours. The custom designed Dreamliner aircraft is unique to American and offers Business Suites with fully adjustable lie-flat seats and direct aisle access for all. Every passenger here will enjoy the onboard Wi-Fi, power outlets and personal in-flight entertainment with up to 250 movies, 180 TV programs and 350 audio selections. It became the first flight from Dallas to China as a whole and we expect it won’t be the last.

Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com
Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com

5. Houston to Dubai: Emirates

This 8,168 mile journey from Houston to Dubai takes about 16. 5 hours, but for those oil tycoons who can afford to fly in style, it certainly won’t feel that long. First class brings “do not disturb” signs, personal mini-bars and on-demand dining. Business Class features privacy screens and leather seats that transform into beds, complete with a built-in massage feature. Even in economy, passengers are treated to the onboard entertainment system that features up to 1,500 channels of content. It is easy to book a seat on this flight as Emirates offers two connections between the cities daily, often at bargain rates at just over $1,000 round trip. This is one long journey that you may want to splurge on First Class, trust us, you won’t regret it.

Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

4. Los Angeles to Dubai: Emirates

This 16.5 hour flight that covers over 8,339 miles flies from one end of the globe to the next, although you wouldn’t know it on arrival as these two cities both boast deep blue seas, luxurious hotels, fashion malls and miles upon miles of beaches. The aircraft used here is a double-decker A380 which features 14 First Class suites, 76 flat beds in Business Class and almost 400 seats in Economy. Premium fliers also get access to the exclusive upstairs cocktail lounge. Emirates is typically known for its over-the-top amenities on their flights and expect thousands of entertainment choices, a generous baggage allowance and both Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity on-board. If you happen to be taking this flight in first class, amenities range from bottles of Dom Perignon, in-flight shower spa sessions and 27-inch flat screen TV’s.  You may never want to leave this aircraft!

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

3. Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi: Etihad

The third longest non-stop flight in the world also takes just over 16.5 hours and covers over 8,390 miles; connecting the desert boom town of Abu Dhabi with L.A. This flight is one of the most comfortable on this list though as Etihad offers generous legroom in all of its classes. Passengers will choose from three different classes including the award-winning Diamond First Class suites, Business Class flatbed seats and Economy class. Expect 6-foot reclining beds and 23-inch flat-screen TV’s in the First Class suites as well as your own personal closet. For families that are flying this route, they may want to take advantage of the “Flying Nanny” program, where parents are given a break from their little ones. Wherever you sit on this plane, expect first-class service, excellent in-flight entertainment and a lot of hours in the air.

Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com
Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com

2. Atlanta to Johannesburg: Delta

Anyway you cut it, it is a long way from the United States to South Africa and at 16.5 hours, this flight covers over 8,439 miles. The 777 Boeing planes that are used to make this long flight provide awesome comfort though, if you are willing to spend a bit of extra cash. The business elite class is the favorite amongst many as it features lie-flat seats that allow your feet to face the aisle and offer the ultimate privacy, and as an added bonus every seat has aisle access. Even in economy, the new seats on these aircrafts provide enough room to stretch out and sleep. Economy comfort is also a great choice, not near as expensive as business class but still offers extra leg room and alcoholic beverages. The flight crosses over the entire breadth of the Atlantic Ocean before touching down in a country that teems with culture and wildlife.

Johannesburg South Africa

1. Dallas to Sydney: Qantas

At a whopping 17 hours this is currently the longest non-stop flight in the world and travels an insane 8,578 miles between the two cities. This route also boasts the biggest passenger plane in the skies; the double-decker A380. Qantas can fly this route in either direction and passengers have their choice of four different classes on-board. Choose from one of 14 seats in first class, 64 seats in business, 35 seats in premium economy or one of 371 seats in coach. Either way, expect more leg room, ergonomically correct seats, better in-flight facilities and even a self-serve snack bar. The on-demand entertainment systems ensures passengers have access to over 100 movies, 500 TV programs, 800 music options and 18 radio channels; ensuring this 17 hour flight will whiz by.

Circular Quay Sydney Australia

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities of 2015

With travel for a variety of reasons—business, pleasure and everything in between—on a seemingly ever-upward trend, it’s little wonder that people (and especially experienced travelers) would begin to seek out new places to explore. While there are some places that will always top bucket lists as must-see locales, 2015 has witnessed some destination cities become increasingly popular with travelers of all stripes. Here are 10 of the fastest-growing destination cities around the globe according to a recent MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index report, each vying for the chance to be your next vacation destination.

10. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The capital of Vietnam is experiencing a resurgence in tourism. In recent years, Ho Chi Minh City has become increasingly popular, witnessing an almost 13% growth in the number of tourists since 2009 after long languishing behind other Asian destinations, in part due to the legacy of war and communist dictatorship. Formerly known as Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant, flourishing city that serves as the cultural capital of this oft-overlooked Southeast Asian nation. Without a doubt, some of the increase has been brought about by travelers with Vietnamese roots returning to Vietnamese soil, but it seems as though other travelers are also “discovering” Vietnam’s capital as a destination of international renown. Highlights include the Reunification Palace, the Municipal Theatre and Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as many museums, a zoo and a botanical garden.

Ho Chi Minh City

9. Lima, Peru

Although Lima is the capital—and largest—city of Peru, it has long been overshadowed by Cusco and the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Lima, nonetheless, has a developed tourist industry, as it is a major point of entry to the country. Between 2009 and 2015, tourism grew by almost 14%—and for good reason. The city boasts well-preserved colonial buildings in a variety of styles, from Spanish Baroque to Art Nouveau, and a number of parks. The city is known for its greenspace, and is home to the largest fountain complex in the world, the Magical Circuit of Water. Lima is also home to several performing arts troupes, and hosts many festivals and concerts during the summer months. The city’s beaches are also popular attractions, as is the food—Lima has been called the “Gastronomical Capital of the Americas” for its unique blend of global cuisine.

Lima Peru

8. Tokyo, Japan

Japan’s capital city has always had some allure as a tourist destination, but tourism has recently taken off, growing slightly over 14.5% between 2009 and 2015. Tourism is likely to continue to increase over the next few years as the city ramps up for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Tokyo has many other attractions; it is famous for its electronics district, its shopping districts and its nightlife, to name but a few of the reasons people feel compelled to visit this metropolis. Tokyo is also a central place in Japanese culture and history, and features many monuments and museums. Tokyo is home to the world’s largest fish market, as well as the Japanese emperor and his family. With Mount Fuji forming a spectacular backdrop to urban sprawl, Tokyo is also renowned for its stunning cityscapes, making it one of those destinations that “has it all.”

Tokyo

7. Taipei, Tiaiwan

The capital of the nation of Taiwan has long been overlooked in favor of other tourist meccas in Southeast Asia—Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong have traditionally been destinations for those traveling for business or pleasure. Taipei has emerged from the background, however, to become the 15th most visited city in 2013, and tourism continues to grow; the industry recorded a leap of almost 15% between 2009 and 2015. As the center of Taiwan, Taipei is involved in most major high-tech industries in the country, and is an important hub of economic, political and cultural activity. Taipei boasts many architectural and cultural landmarks, including museums, temples and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Its nearby hot springs are world-renowned. Taipei also hosts many major festivals, such as the Lantern Festival during New Year’s celebrations, a Dragon Boat Festival and the Moon Festival in mid-autumn.

Taipei 101, Taiwan

6. Xi’An, China

Sometimes known as Xi’an, and formerly written as “Sian,” this city is one of China’s oldest and functions as the capital of Shaanxi province, in the northwest. In 2012, it was named as 1 of 13 emerging megapolises in China. While tourism is still dwarfed by other sectors of the city’s economy, the industry grew 16.2% over the 2009–2015 period, and that trend is likely to remain strong as the city continues to grow. While most people visit Xi’An between May and August, the autmn months are actually considered the best time of year to visit. As one of the oldest cities in China, Xi’An is home to many historical sites, including many temples and pagodas, as well as a Ming dynasty city wall. Perhaps Xi’An’s most famous attraction is the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the world-renowned terra cotta army.

Xi'An China

5. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh has unassumingly become a top destination for travelers, with the number of annual visitors to the city jumping 18% between 2009 and 2015. Riyadh, which means “the Gardens” in Arabic, is Saudi Arabia’s capital and largest city, home to some 5.7 million people. Long an important center for the country, Riyadh and its surrounding districts contain many examples of vernacular architecture, as well as several historic village sites. The best-known monument is the Masmak Fortress, a clay-and-brick construction dating to 1865, located in the commercial center of the old city. The city is also a center of modern architecture, including the first skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, the Al Faisaliyah Center. The city also has several museums and sports venues. Soccer is the most popular sport in the city, as evidenced by the city’s 4 major clubs.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

4. Osaka, Japan

Perhaps less well-known than Tokyo, the Japanese city of Osaka has become a popular destination for travelers. Osaka is Japan’s second-largest city, with nearly 19 million inhabitants, and, in addition to being a major economic hub, is also known as Japan’s “kitchen” owing to its role in rice growing and trade, as well as its regional cuisine. The city has long been important, even being declared the capital during the Japanese feudal period. The city underwent rapid industrialization in the 19th century. A consequence is that Osaka has many historic buildings and monuments, such as Osaka castle, with some dating back several centuries. The area also has a rich cultural history, particularly focused on performing arts; kabuki theater in particular is popular. It’s little wonder that travel to Osaka grew by nearly 20% between 2009 and 2015.

Osaka, Japan

3. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The UAE’s capital registered 20.4% growth in the number of visitors from 2009 until the present. While business travel has undoubtedly played a part in growing numbers of travelers to the city—especially as the economy continues to diversify—tourism has also been a driving force behind this growth. The UAE has one of the highest per capita GDP’s in the world, and Abu Dhabi has earned a reputation for being something of a “rich person’s” playground. This is reflected in everything from luxury shopping centers to 5-star hotels and some of the world’s most innovative—and expensive—architecture. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is but one example of the city’s architectural heritage. While the city has often been overshadowed by nearby Dubai, which has also emerged as a global city with economic clout, Abu Dhabi is likely to continue to attract more and more visitors.

Abu Dhabi UAE

2. Chengdu, China

Travel to Chengdu grew at more than 20.5% over the 2009–2015 period, something that’s reflected by Chengdu’s airport being 1 of the 40 most busy airports in the world and the city’s train station being 1 of the 6 largest in China. Situated on the fertile Chengdu plain, the city has long been an important one, and has many historical buildings, including shrines and temples. The city is a bastion of traditional Chinese culture, from mahjong to teahouses. Chengdu is also home to some ancient ruins and at least 3 well-preserved historic towns. Perhaps Chengdu’s biggest draw, however, is that it is home to almost 80% of the world’s remaining giant panda population. Also nearby is Mount Qingcheng, an important Taoist center. Nature, culture, history—Chengdu has it all, so it’s easy to see why more and more people are making a stop in this city.

Chengdu, China

1. Colombo, Sri Lanka

The former capital of Sri Lanka has been getting some serious attention from travelers in the last few years, with the number of visitors growing just over 21% from 2009 to 2015. Colombo is the largest city on the island nation, and has a distinctive mix of multiple ethnicities, which reflects the city’s long history and its importance. Gangaramaya Temple, one of the most important temples in the city, sums up Colombo’s multicultural feel perfectly with its mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese and Indian architecture. The city also has urban parks, such as Viharamahadevi Park, and a strip of greenspace called Galle Face Green. The city has a large harbor on the Indian Ocean and the 160-acre Beira Lake is located at the heart of the city. In other parts of the city, the legacy of Dutch and British domination remains in the form of colonial-era buildings.

Colombo, Sri Lanka