Booming Economies Fuel Next Hot Spots

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- When you think of developing hot spots, far-off places such as Brasilia or perhaps Doha or Saigon likely come to mind. But with the bustling economies in Brazil, China, India and Russia, a new crop of destinations are emerging as travel's "it" spots, likely in places you've never heard of, with a luxury infrastructure all their own.

It may sound like a form of influenza, but Azerbaijan's ancient city of Baku is one of the former Soviet Republic's most prosperous coastal towns. Baku, on the Caspian Sea, has benefited from the oil and natural gas economy that boomed in 2008, bringing a surge in foreign investment and visitors to the town's UNESCO World's Heritage Sites, including its Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs.
The iconic Flame Towers, including the Fairmont Baku hotel by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, are under construction in Azerbaijan's ancient city of Baku on the Caspian Sea.

Today, far-more modern palaces are being built on par with cities such as Dubai and Doha that will forever change the city's skyline. On their way are iconic Flame Towers -- an architectural complex next to the city's seaside parliament buildings of three flame-shape towers that will be home to the Fairmont Baku by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

A beaux-arts style Four Seasons Baku is planned to open along the city's waterfront near the Old City in the early part of next year. Those expecting to find flea markets and local craftsmen in Baku will be startled to also find a shopping scene inspired by flashy logos and European designers including Dior, Gucci, Celine, Frette and Armani -- all with outposts in and around Neftchiler Avenue.

In Brazil cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo usually get most of the headlines when it comes to international travel destinations, but farther north in the state of Bahia is a town called Trancoso that's quickly becoming the chicest beach town in South America. A little more than a two-hour flight from Rio or Sao Paulo, this once-sleepy fishing village -- inhabited by native Indian tribes before being settled by the Portuguese -- has most recently been whispered about as fashion's next hot spot in South America.

With a cameo in the The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn installment this year, the city is a romantic backdrop that feels more authentically Brazilian than jet-set cities such as Punta del Este and Florianopolis. The town features glamorous cottage-style resorts such as Pousada Estrela D' Agua that's affiliated with the French-based Relais & Chateaux collection or cooler Uxua Casa Hotel, a stylish resort compound designed by a former creative director of Italy's Diesel fashion brand.

Overlooking the South China Sea on the tropical side of industrial China's Hainan Province is Sanya, a booming resort destination for luxury travelers on the mainland. While traditionally not big on sunbathing, Chinese and Hong Kong tourists are flocking to this beach destination, which has several more high-profile residential and commercial projects on the way. One called Phoenix Island is only adding to Sanya's luster as "China's version of Dubai."

As for westerners looking for a taste, high-profile hotels include Mandarin Oriental Sanya and Ritz-Carlton Sanya on private white sand parcels of Yalong Bay overlooking a series of dramatic offshore rock formations. The Ritz-Carlton's zen design of resort buildings offering 450 rooms, eight on-site eateries and outposts of fashion labels including LV, Salvatore Ferragamo and Zegna (given a boost by Sanya's new status as a designated tax-free region to stimulate tourism and shopping) are flanked by tiled pools and an ocean backdrop.

In November, Starwood's St. Regis brand will add a bit of competition to the area with The St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort, while MGM Resorts will debut its first noncasino property with MGM Grand Sanya. Additionally, Caesars Entertainment recently announced it would open its own nongaming hotel property in 2014: The Caesars Palace Longmu Bay Hainan, with 1,000 rooms, a 36-hole championship golf course and restaurants by Michelin-rated chefs.

When most people speak of going on safari, usually visions of African lions and giraffes come to mind. But far more exotic and in some cases even more luxurious than Africa's famous lodges are the camps and hotels of India's northwestern state of Rajasthan. The camps and lodges are accessed through its capital of Jaipur, often considered one of India's prettiest and most noble of cities and soon to be home to Fairmont Jaipur. Once home to India's aristocracy, today a more industrial Jaipur is known for its exportation of gold and as an outsourcing hub for many western companies as well as being a springboard to India's wilder interior.

It's outside of town, just over 90 minutes away, that areas such as the Ranthambore National Park to the south and Aravali Hills to the east offer a trove of wilderness safaris and rare opportunities to view some of the only existing habitat of the Bengal Tiger left on earth. Between safaris you have a choice of gilded accommodations such as Aman Resorts' Aman-i-Khas and an array of properties from &Beyond in nearby Madhya Pradesh that offer some of the most luxurious wildlife experiences available -- and a side of India you likely never knew existed.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.