Singapore’s early removal of travel restrictions compared to other locations in Asia sparked a rise in demand for travel to the city, contributing to its rise to become the second most expensive location in the region for business travel.
The average business trip to Singapore now costs USD 515 per day – an increase of USD 34 from the year before. These were some of the findings of the latest Daily Rates research published by ECA International, the world's leading provider of knowledge, information, and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.
“Singapore overtook Tokyo in 2022 to become the second-most expensive city in Asia to visit for business,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International. “Business travel to the city picked up earlier than most other locations in the region with the government’s comprehensive lifting of travel restrictions. The resulting increase in demand contributed to rises in hotel accommodation costs, while costs associated with other daily essentials consumed by business travellers also increased at a faster rate than other locations in the region. Together, these propelled Singapore to second place in Asia and 19th worldwide.”
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 costs, and daily essentials. This information is used by companies to determine daily expense allowances for staff who undertake business travel.
While daily costs of business travel to Singapore increased by 10% in local currency terms, this rate of growth was not as high as seen in some locations in the region. Climbing inflation rates in many locations have contributed to significant increases in business travel costs in local currency terms, with costs rising the most in countries such as Sri Lanka, Laos, and Pakistan, although the inverse was noted in some key cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
“Business travel expenses were over 75 per cent higher in local currency terms in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2022 compared to the year before,” advised Quane. “This primarily stemmed from high inflation and currency depreciation, since some costs associated with business travel – such as hotel accommodation – are typically incurred in US dollars by foreign business travellers here. However, at the other end of scale, the fall in costs for business travellers in China has been largely due to falling hotel costs associated with the drop in demand for business travel last year. Despite this, Shanghai has still risen to become the fourth most expensive business travel destination in Asia.”
Meanwhile, Tokyo has fallen behind Singapore to come in as the third most expensive location in the region. Despite daily costs for business travellers to the city increasing in local currency terms over the past year, they were offset by the yen’s depreciation against the US dollar, leading to the decline of several cities across Japan in this year’s rankings.
“In local currency terms, business travellers’ costs rose by over 5 per cent in Tokyo last year,” explained Quane. “However, the declining yen meant that, with average daily costs of USD 424 per day, business travel to the city is now almost 20% cheaper than first-placed Hong Kong. This has led to Tokyo’s fall out of the top 30 most expensive cities for business travel globally, with other Japanese locations experiencing similar drops in the past year.”
Elsewhere, popular tourist destinations in ASEAN saw relatively little change in travel expenses in 2022, with business travel costs rising only slightly over the last year in local currency terms.
“Cities like Pattaya and Chiang Mai in Thailand, alongside Denpasar in Indonesia, all witnessed small rates of growth in local currency terms in 2022, ranging between 1% and 3%,” added Quane. “Hotel rates have been suppressed by low demand in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. Even a tourist hub like Bangkok, which typically receives many business travellers, only saw a moderate 4% increase in business travel costs, leaving it well outside the top 100 most expensive business travel destinations last year.”
New York remains the most expensive location in the world for business travel, with the average daily cost of a business trip now standing at USD 796.
“New York tops the rankings for yet another year as the cost associated with business travel rebounded strongly over the course of a year,” explained Quane. “A post-pandemic surge in demand for business travel and tourism to the Big Apple, along with inflation-driven price hikes on goods commonly consumed by business travellers, has all contributed to a stark 8% growth in business travel costs.”
Like New York, locations in the USA continued to dominate this year’s global top 10 list, while Switzerland remained home to Europe’s two most expensive cities for business travel – Geneva and Zurich. Traditional business hubs London and Paris also retained their positions in this year’s rankings, with Luanda, Angola, rounding off the list as Africa’s most expensive city.