We are set to hit over 8 billion people by 2025, but we have seen a migration away from many of the world’s largest cities lately, somewhat spurred on by a recent eagerness for more personal space.
While many cities throughout China and Europe, as well as big name cities like Detroit, Hong Kong, and Tokyo have seen population declines in recent years, other regions are seeing large spikes in population growth.
While there are many cities experiencing slow growth, others are booming throughout regions like Central Africa and parts of Southern Asia, giving travelers the opportunity to explore cities they may have never heard of.
In fact, 17 of the world’s 20 fastest growing cities are in Africa and it will be interesting to see if this translates into increased tourism for this region.
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We could see popular tourism destinations like Macau see a decline in tourism while rather unknown cities like Gwagwalada and Kabinda be put on tourists’ radar.
We have already seen Macau and its glitzy locations on the Cotai strip take a tourism hit thanks to recent strengthening of gambling regulations by China, and having been brought to its knees during the pandemic.
Macau has seen a big decline from its two major markets of mainland China and Hong Kong, and the city’s reputation as a gambling mecca may be at stake.
But enough about Macau and cities that are in decline, let’s take a look at some of the cities that are seeing upwards of 5-6% annual growth and could potentially see an influx of tourism in the not so distant future.
See what these cities that few travelers know much about have to offer.
Where to Stay: Abuja
Gwagwalada sits under an hour’s drive west of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the only purpose-built capital city in Africa. While Gwagwalada may be the world’s fastest growing city, there isn’t much for tourists there as of yet.
Most of Gwagwalada’s nearby attractions can be found in and around Abuja, as are most of the region’s hotels. Abuja took the title of capital city away from Lagos after the Biafra War. It’s not the most pedestrian friendly city so you’ll need a vehicle to check out the attractions.
Abuja Millennium Park offers a lovely green space, half manicured lawns and fountains and half a more natural landscape that attracts wildlife such as birds. You can often get a great view of the Aso Rock natural granite monolith that rises 400 meters above the city.
Another nearby natural monolithic rock is Zuma Rock which is Nigeria’s answer to Australia’s Uluru and has appeared on its currency.
Zuma’s unique feature is its natural depiction of a giant human face that can be seen in the side of the rock. It’s possible to trek to the top of Zuma if you don’t mind a bit of a challenge.
Other attractions worth mentioning include the Abuja National Mosque which welcomes visitors of all faiths outside of prayer times and the Nike Art Gallery where you can view contemporary art across all kinds of media as well as the artists responsible for the creations.
Kabinda, Democratic Republic of Congo
Not to be confused with Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC is Central Africa’s largest and most populous country.
The country suffered from colonial exploitation, the atrocities of Belgium’s King Leopold II being brought to light with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kabinda is projected to be the second fastest growing African city in the coming years, but lies far from the major tourist centers of the country.
The DRC’s capital Kinshasa lies in the far west, while the little tourism that does take place in the county mostly occurs in the far east in Goma. Kabinda lies in-between the two.
The DRC is a destination for intrepid travelers who don’t mind a bit of danger and extreme adventure. While there may not be much infrastructure or things on offer in and around Kabinda, you can check out Goma for treks to observe wild mountain and lowland gorillas.
Another highlight for adventure seekers near Goma is Virunga National Park with its active volcano Mount Nyiragongo and famous lava lake. The park is also home to rare bonobo chimpanzees and odd-looking okapis.
DRC still remains an unstable country, having endured decades of war. Travel advice often warns travelers to stay away, but for the adventurous explorer types like Henry Morton Stanley it offers a truly epic African adventure that is far cheaper than Rwanda or Uganda.
Despite being home to one of the world’s fastest growing cities, Angola is only recently beginning to warm to the idea of promoting tourism. A post-colonial civil war kept travelers away in the beginning and then it was the country’s strict visa policies that limited tourism.
Only in the last few years has Angola started issuing simplified 30-day tourist visas for travelers coming from roughly 60 countries. No sooner did this change of heart start did we see the pandemic hit. This means Angola has largely been left unexplored by international tourists.
While Uige itself may not offer up a lot for tourists, Angola with its incredible biodiversity brings together many of Africa’s iconic animals. There’s extensive coastline with gorgeous natural beaches, the Namib Desert, wetlands, and countless national parks.
Each of its national parks is unique in terms of the wildlife they offer, with Cangandala NP, Iona NP, Cameia NP, and Iona NP being some of the most notable.
Angola also offers up Kalandula Falls, one of Africa’s largest after Victoria Falls, as well as unique natural landmarks like the Tundavala Fissure.
While most of Tanzania’s tourism centers on the north around Arusha, where plentiful tours are available to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or journey into the Serengeti, the country’s south offers just as any incredible experiences.
Tanzania’s Ruvuma Region is situated in southwestern Tanzania along its borders with Malawi and Mozambique. The region’s capital Songea is on pace to be one of Africa’s fastest growing cities in the coming years, and tourism too may take hold thanks to improved road connectivity and recent upgrades to the local airport.
Songea hopes to capitalize on tourism and become a gateway to exploring the many great parks and reserves located in Tanzania’s South and West.
Tours can be organized to visit Mahale Mountains National Park, known for its chimpanzee population, as well as Africa’s largest game reserve which is the Selous Game Reserve.
Songea also offers close proximity to Lake Nyassa (aka Lake Malawi), where wildlife like hippos, crocodiles, and sea eagles can readily be spotted. Meanwhile, Mikumi National Park offers up Cape buffalos, zebras, and elephants.
Songea itself offers up some intriguing history and historical sites. It led the first African resistance against early German colonization and a museum now offers a glimpse into what occurred. You can visit graves of prominent players in the resistance, the African warriors hanging tree, and an early German boma.
Breaking away from Africa for the last city on my list of growing cities, we head to Rupganj in Bangladesh. Situated within the Narayanganj District just over an hour east of Dhaka, Rupganj is near many important historical monuments.
One of the most notable nearby structures is far from historic though. The 21st-century Taj Mahal Bangladesh is a replica of India’s Taj Mahal, built by a wealthy filmmaker using the same marble that was used in the original Taj it emulates.
The purpose of constructing a reproduction Taj Mahal in Bangaladesh was to allow the country’s less fortunate residents who don’t have the means of visiting neighboring India to see the real thing the chance to at least see something similar in person.
Also nearby is the much older 19th-century two-storey palace known as Murapara Jamidar Bari. In Dhaka you then have the Ahsan Manzil Pink Palace which acted as the residence of the largest Muslim zamindar in British Bengal and Assam during the 19th century, now turned into a museum.
Also in Dhaka is the half completed 17thcentury fort known as Lalbag. Closer to Rupganj, you can escape the congestion of the city by paying a visit to the beautiful Zinda Park.
Alternatively, take a boat on the waters of Shapla Bil to discover the beautiful pink water lily blossoms which are Bangladesh’s national flower.
These are just a few of the world’s obscure cities which are growing at a record pace and have the potential to see an influx of tourism in the future once infrastructure is put in place.
The more places the world can offer to tourists, the better we can prevent overtoursim that is occurring in many of the world’s cities.