1. Tokyo & Seoul
Currently the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP and host to the upcoming 2020 Olympics, Japan has come far from the aftermath of its post-war era and has quickly established from its industrial sector an international recognition for quality and excellence. However, aside from its prevalence in manufacturing and finance, Japan’s entertainment industry is not to be ignored. Its cultural impact in the West, driven by the rising population of animation studios such as Madhouse and Studio Ghibli and Nintendo’s strong re-emergence in its joint venture with Google-born Niantic Labs, has re-opened a new chapter in cultural trade and travel.
South Korea’s spread is growing to a similar level with the popularity of its television shows, dramas and music reaching global audiences, resulting in the Hallyu Wave phenomenon and the cultivation of a rapidly mounting tourist drive over the last 15 years. Together, Japan and South Korea serve as two of East Asia’s most attractive cultural destinations and, with a complex past relationship, make for extremely intriguing countries to visit in tandem.
2. Hangzhou & Shanghai
Hangzhou underwent a huge transformation earlier this year in preparation for the G20 Summit with factories shut down for the duration of the event, new transport links built and home-owners moved to temporary accommodation while the provincial capital of Zheijiang welcomed its esteemed guests to the city. Following the summit, property sales hit a new high and even more tourists have flocked to the hometown of Alibaba to marvel at the illustrious West Lake and the city’s other natural gems.
There has never been a more exciting time to visit Hangzhou. Just under an hour’s journey by high-speed train, couple it with the world’s most populous city and global financial and transport hub, Shanghai, for an immersive comparison between China’s international metropolis and one of its most up-and-coming business destinations.
3. Singapore & Ho Chi Minh City
Continuously voted one of the safest yet most expensive cities in the world, luxury and high-rise buildings thrive in the world’s only island city-state and the financial hub of Asia: Singapore. Though prices can be eye-wateringly high, this ‘Lion City’ tops the list for achievement in numbers. Including being one of the most technology-ready nations and the best place in the world to move to and work in as an expat, it is also home to the world’s first Michelin-starred street stall and a population spanning several different cultures amongst its mini sub-districts.
Though the vibe from its neighboring country could not be more different, Vietnam is similarly a place of bustling activity and technological embrace. From agricultural village to booming tech incubator, Ho Chi Minh has been cited by some to become the world’s next Silicon Valley. With big-shots such as Samsung investing billions in its tech market, this ambitious goal is not far from becoming reality.
4. Dubai & Mumbai
Dubai is hands-down the driving force of diversification within the Middle East, building the nation from a formerly oil-based economy into a now tourist, hospitality and property hotspot. Its economy has steadily grown since the crisis in 2009 and, with the World Expo 2020 to be set in its sands, is forecast to continue this trend over the coming years.
In growth, India is no different. On the cusp of a major growth phase and making leaps in social and creative developments, India is growing at a rate higher than China with no signs of slowing down. Combining both destinations provides an insight into how two drastically different developing countries, each with their own social issues, are shaping their economic futures. The two destinations further equip participants with an immersion into the expat scene of Dubai and the city’s relationship with its migrant workers from India.
5. Prague, Bucharest & Athens
The most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic has seen steady growth in recent years led by a thriving automotive industry and large amounts of foreign investment and trade relations with partner countries, particularly Germany.
No doubt, the focus on Central-Eastern Europe is heightening, with Romania at the forefront becoming the fastest-growing economy of the quarter in this region and Greece making a comeback, finally tackling its enormous debt through a change in budget plans and resurgence in incoming tourists.
The region looks to be making exciting developments at the moment with the gaze no longer solely on their European counterparts in the West.
6. Reykjavik & Stockholm
High standards of living and an emphasis on quality education make the Nordic countries prime breeding grounds for talent and innovation.
With its host of natural resources, Iceland is currently one of the leading nations pushing forward on renewable and sustainable energy advancements globally. A human-centered approach is at the core of Sweden’s business culture, with the concept of a 6-hour workday seeking to switch up the conventional nine-to-five arrangement elsewhere in the world.
Both countries are rising rapidly in the global competitiveness charts and are looking to become key examples of what nations can achieve when their most important assets are utilized fully in a sustainable and ethically-aware manner.
7. Cape Town & Gaborone
South Africa lands itself just after Nigeria as the second-largest economy in the continent with Cape Town pushing forward as one of its main economic hubs and as the most developed and entrepreneurial city in the region. Amid colourful vineyards, eclectic mountaintop flora and a glimmering coastal view it is no wonder that one of the city’s main markets is its tourism industry.
While Botswana holds many similar visual elements, this mineral-rich nation is a world apart in its industry make-up. Once a barren wilderness, Botswana has built its wealth through the mining of gold and diamonds. In its 50th year, it is now investing further in its people and services industry, paving way for new technologies which will allow for the country to enter a more sophisticated development into a modern economy. A trip involving the two destinations equips participants with a key look into the entrepreneurial landscapes forming and current contrasts in business climate.
8. Nairobi & Kigali
A strong manufacturing, tourism and tech presence dominate Kenya’s capital city with Nairobi serving as the base for a host of multinational headquarters in Africa, including big-name brands Google and Coca-Cola. Nairobi is the perfect example of a natural metropolis as skyscrapers can be seen from its national park which houses no shortage of wildlife including wildebeest, zebras and giraffes.
Similarly, wildlife proves a main attraction in nearby Rwanda, one of only three countries where the elusive mountain gorilla can be seen in its natural habitat. Gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park entices thousands of eager visitors each year who are willing to shell out the cash for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
9. Buenos Aires & Santiago
South America has long been the holy grail for many backpackers, combining affordability, adventure, beauty and a vibrant Latin-American culture for the ultimate travel experience. However, due to the instability of its economic and political situation, the region has often been overlooked in the past as a prominent business destination.
2017 is set to change this. Once one of the world’s most influential economies, Argentina is opening again for business and growth has already been forecast for the coming months after some tough years of recession and economic inflation. Likewise, Chile – currently one of South America’s most prominent nations, is making a move to boost economic growth and has already begun strengthening international trade relations in an effort to aid this.
In the wake of these developments, there could not be a more exciting time to immerse oneself in the business climate of two of the world’s most vibrant and stimulating countries.
10. Silicon Valley & Los Angeles
Home to the largest concentration of entrepreneurs, billion-dollar startup unicorns and VCs in the world, San Francisco and the Valley have long led the innovation train and serve as the base for some of the world’s most successful, creative and pioneering companies.
However, while the pace of innovation in the Valley is arguably unmatched, entrepreneurship in the US runs further than San Francisco and upscale Los Angeles is also seeing its own boom in entrepreneurs starting small-scale, boutique fitness, tech, fashion and lifestyle brands. Over 500 tech startups already reside in the Westside’s aptly-named ‘Silicon Beach’ and currently more investments than ever are being put into retaining the city’s talent. With the recent opening of the nation’s largest incubator in LA, entrepreneurial growth in the media capital is set to skyrocket.