Hong Kong Is Asia’s Most Expensive City

Hong Kong regained the top spot last year as Asia’s most expensive city for business travellers, who faced daily expenses of HK$3,971 (US$506) on accommodation, transport, meals and incidentals. The city overtook Tokyo in the regional rankings, with Singapore and Seoul tied for third, while Shanghai – at number nine – was the only mainland Chinese city to crack the top 10. But Asia as a whole remained relatively cheap for business travel as Hong Kong was only the 29th most expensive location globally. New York was costliest at HK$6,200 (US$790) a day.

For over two decades, UK-based human resources consultancy ECA International has been conducting its daily rates survey annually to measure business travel costs. Last year, it covered 375 locations in 192 countries. Researchers gauged expenses from an array of items, including rates for four-star hotels, meals at upscale restaurants, taxi fares, as well as the prices of alcoholic drinks and other incidental expenditures. The compiled data is meant to help companies gauge how much to reimburse employees’ when they travel overseas for work. Lee Quane, ECA’s regional director for Asia, said not all the items were treated as essential expenditures. “When we provide clients with the data … the company can pick and choose what they feel they wish to reimburse,” he said. Some companies will include the cost of [alcoholic] beverages as part of their reimbursement; other companies will not.”

As a whole, business travellers in Hong Kong last year saw costs go up 13 percent, compared with 2016. The heaviest burden was accommodation – the costliest in Asia – mainly due to robust demand. “Hong Kong hosts a large number of conferences and exhibitions,” Quane said. “Also, there are a large number of international companies that have operations here.” Hotels, meanwhile, needed to offset steep rents by charging premium rates, he added.

Tokyo was just behind Hong Kong, with daily expenses tallying US$501. Singapore and Seoul were slightly cheaper at US$479. Mainland Chinese cities saw an average increase of 5 percent over the past year. Shanghai rose four positions to occupy the number nine spot in 2017, while Beijing was placed 15th. Globally, New York took the crown by a wide margin at US$793, far outpacing runner-up Geneva’s US$720 and third place Zurich’s US$668.

However, Quane stressed that rising costs and popularity of virtual meetings did not deter firms from sending employees on business trips. “We still see an increase in the number of people travelling for physical business trips because people still need to go and see clients for relationship building,” he said. “They still need to go and attend conferences.”

Credit: Raymond Yeung for The South China Morning Post, 17 April 2018.