GUEST BLOG: Top business destinations of the future

Some of today's bustling centres of commerce were warn-torn, riddled with political unrest or plagued by poor communications, just 20 years ago. But where are the business hotspots of the future? Events boss Nigel Cooper peers into his crystal ball...

by Nigel Cooper
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2013

In a recent reflective moment I was thinking about places like Vietnam. Now it is a tourism hotspot, but when I was a little younger it was often the lead story on national news bulletins for a very different reason - the Vietnam War - and certainly not a place to be considered for a holiday. Some 35 years later, however, Vietnam is a hugely popular destination. How indeed the world has changed.

Back in the seventies, China, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe were communist states behind the Iron Curtain, off limits to to the 1975 incentive group. These days, Beijing, Shanghai, Moscow, St Petersburg, Prague, Budapest and perhaps Tallinn are all icons of today's travel and business markets. If you throw in what was a small one-hotel trading port called Dubai, I think you maybe have eight of the top 25 destinations over the last five years.

Of course, there is another point to this, other than reflective navel-gazing. If you were a property investor in 1975 and you knew then what was going to happen in those destinations you might just have made one or two fruitful investments.

A great many of the major corporations now employ futurists - at vast salaries - to predict market trends and try to future-proof their research, development and investment strategies. Nice idea, and whilst your at it, what are the magic numbers for the next Euromillions rollover, Mr Mystic?

But, on a serious note, there are fortunes to be made and lost getting it right and wrong. Based on my calculations, and the notion that history may well repeat itself, here are 10 places that businesses don't want to go to now but might in the future.

Leading the charge are a couple of places with FCO warnings stamped all over them - Burma, or Myanmar as the generals call it, and Beirut, a beautiful city still struggling with sectarian unrest. Close to the
top of my list is Zimbabwe and hopefully a certain individual will be gone and a beautiful country restored. Tibet is a fascinating place that may also one day be easier to get to than it is today. There are some obvious places that you wouldn't choose to go to today but might in the future: Baghdad, Tehran, Tripoli and Damascus among them. Before you laugh, just remember Vietnam had been at war for 30 years in 1975 and nobody wanted to go there. As crazy as it sounds, somewhere like Baghdad, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, could be the 'new destination of 2045'.

There is a temptation to look for destinations with obvious political issues like North Korea or some of the less stable areas of central and South America such as the rainforest of Columbia and Venezuela. How many people do you know who have been to Nicaragua ?

These destinations offer elements of exclusivity. They are undiscovered. We are always looking for new markets to crack and these off-beat destinations fulfill that demand. Why would anyone have gone to Dubai 50 years ago? It was just a desert. Fifty years is vast space of time in the life-time of a country. The worst places to visit today might be tomorrow's global hotspots.

For anyone counting, yes I know I just mentioned more than 10 places, but I'm new at being a futurist. Now, where did I put that lottery ticket!

Nigel Cooper is executive director of P&MM Events & Communications and is the founding chair of events trade association, Eventia

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