Cost of business travel: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore most expensive in Asia

Accommodation cited as heaviest burden in city due to robust demand

Hong Kong is now the most expensive location in Asia for business travel, according to  ECA International, a provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

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“Hong Kong has returned as the most expensive place in Asia to visit on business after overtaking Tokyo in the rankings,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director, Asia, for ECA International. “However, this change is mostly due to the overall price of business travel in Japan decreasing in dollar terms after the yen fell in value over the course of 2017.” The cost of business travel in Hong Kong has actually remained unchanged from 2016.

A typical business trip to Tokyo will now cost US$501 per day on average, down from US$537 in 2016. That is lower than the cost in Hong Kong, which comes to US$508 a day (see chart below).

Cheapest city for business travel in Asia

Updated annually, ECA’s Daily Rates reports provide average costs for hotel accommodation, which makes up the bulk of any daily allowance, as well as meals, drinks, laundry, taxi transport and daily essentials. This information is used by companies to determine daily expense allowances for staff who undertake business travel.

Singapore has continued to rise in the rankings and is now joint third after a slight increase in the price of business travel. A typical business trip to Singapore would now cost US$479 per day on average, compared with US$472 in 2016.

Chinese cities have seen an increase in cost for a standard business trip, with Shanghai now ranked as the 9th most expensive location for business travel in the region.

Chinese cities have become costlier for business travellers in the past 12 months,” said Quane. “Increased prices of goods and services commonly consumed by business travellers have led to the rise of many Chinese cities in our rankings. However, despite the increase, Shanghai is still much cheaper than Hong Kong or Tokyo for business travel.”

Meanwhile, the cheapest region for international business travel continues to be Malaysia, with Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru remaining at the bottom of the rankings.

The continued weakness of the Malaysian ringgit against major currencies has ensured that the cost of business travel in Malaysia is cheaper than elsewhere in Asia,” said Quane, who notes that the cost of a business trip to Kuala Lumpur is less than half of what it is in Hong Kong.

Global comparison

Although Hong Kong is Asia’s most expensive location for business travel, it ranks outside of the top 20 locations globally. Hong Kong is ranked 29th overall, significantly cheaper than in first-placed New York, where the average business trip would cost a total of US$793 per day.

That’s due to the high cost of hotels and travel, as well as mandatory 15-20% tipping policies during meals out, said Quane. High demand for hotels means premium rates – the average cost of a stay at a four-star hotel in New York currently stands at a US$509 per night.

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Second in the global rankings, and the most expensive European location for business travel, is Geneva in Switzerland, where the average business trip would cost US$720 per day.

“Swiss cities have always been expensive locations for business travel, and 2017 was no different as the Swiss franc has continued to perform very strongly,” said Quane. “On top of this, Switzerland has long been considered a major financial and banking hub and will remain so for the foreseeable future, meaning that business travel to Swiss locations will keep on being a necessity.”

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