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Tourism

Hong Kong not among best places to visit in 2018 but China is, new Lonely Planet guide says

World’s most visited city doesn’t make Lonely Planet’s lists of the world’s top destinations for next year, eclipsed in Asia by South Korea, Kaohsiung in Taiwan, China’s Hunan province, and Japan’s Kii Peninsula

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 4:43pm

Hong Kong has been outshone by Kaohsiung in Taiwan, China's Hunan province, Japan’s Kii Peninsula and South Korea in Lonely Planet’s latest guidebook, which recommends them as places to go in Asia.

Last week, the travel guide publisher released its lists of the best cities, regions and countries to see in 2018. The choices were made by Lonely Planet writers, who took into account significant events as well as recent developments that make locations more attractive to travellers.

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“It could be that something special is going on in the year ahead, or there’s been recent development and a lot of buzz about the place; that it offers travellers new things to see or do; or that the Lonely Planet team of experts thinks it’s been overlooked and underrated and suggests travellers visit before the crowds do,” the publisher says.

Spanish-speaking places figure prominently, with San Juan, in Puerto Rico, Guanajuato, in Mexico, Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, and La Paz, in Bolivia, name-checked alongside Chile, the top country, and Seville in Spain, the top city chosen. Chile, which is getting ready to celebrate 200 years of independence next year, is poised to steal the travel spotlight, say editors, who note the extremely varied topography to be found in the “sinewy sliver of a nation”.

South Korea, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, is second on the list of top-10 countries to visit, with the guide’s writers describing it as “a compact playground of Asian modernity” offering “mountainous delights followed by steamy urban nightlife”.

Japan’s leafy Kii Peninsula, southeast of Osaka, is framed as a top pick for crowd-averse adventurers owing to its shrines, temples, natural scenery and hot springs. Meanwhile, despites its heavy industry, the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung makes the top-10 cities list – the only Asian city to do so – with editors highlighting its beaches, pristine forests, wide streets and bicycle-friendliness.

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China also ranks among the top 10 countries to visit, with editors praising its high-speed railways and upgraded Forbidden City. “The world’s most populous country is big, beautiful and full of mystery and adventure,” the guide says.

Shenzhen gets a mention for the Design Society, a cultural hub that opens to the public in December, and Hunan province is named one of the best value destinations for its cheap eats, sandstone canyons, and the world’s longest glass-bottom bridge, which opened in 2016.

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Hong Kong, the world’s most visited city since 2012, doesn’t make it into the guide – suggesting its blend of Asian and Western cultures could be growing stale for international travellers who see China as more exciting. Perhaps, after festivities this year to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty, 2018 appears a relatively quiet year for the city.

Or could it be that Hong Kong has run out of novel ways to attract tourists searching for unique experiences outside shopping, theme parks and overcrowded, overpriced and often underwhelming sights? For budget-conscious visitors, in particular, finding cheap food and decent accommodation in Hong Kong, can be a challenge compared with other Asian cities.

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While Lonely Planet last year recognised Hong Kong as one of the world’s cities most dedicated to protecting its green spaces, highlighting conservation efforts, as well as its Unesco-listed geopark, international visitors are often surprised by its greenery, beaches and wild places.

Only fairly recently has the Hong Kong Tourism Board begun promoting cycling and hiking in Hong Kong, having long pushed it as a city hopper’s paradise where a foodie wonderland nestles below steel and glass skyscrapers.

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The city remains a popular choice among Asian visitors, particularly those from China, the source of 77 per cent of Hong Kong’s visitors, according to Euromonitor – though not all are coming for holidays.

One potential source of new visitors could be fitness tourism, with Lonely Planet forecasting that travel to run in “destination races” will be especially popular in 2018. Hong Kong, with its many trail races, is in a good position to take advantage of this trend.

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Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for 2018

Top 10 countries: Chile, South Korea, Portugal, Djibouti, New Zealand, Malta, Georgia, Mauritius, China, South Africa.

Top 10 cities: Seville, Spain; Detroit, USA; Canberra, Australia; Hamburg, Germany; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Antwerp, Belgium; Matera, Italy; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Oslo, Norway.

Top 10 regions: Belfast&the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland; Alaska, USA; Julian Alps, Slovenia; Languedoc Roussillon, France; Kii Peninsula, Japan; Aeolian Islands, Italy; southern USA; Lahaul&Spiti, India; Bahia, Brazil; and Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic.

Best value destinations: Tallinn, Estonia; Bordeaux, France; Lanzarote, Canary Islands; Arizona, USA; La Paz, Bolivia; Poland; Essaouira, Morocco; United Kingdom; Baja California, Mexico; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Hunan, China.