These are Asia’s five most expensive cities for business travel

14 Mar 2018 by Craig Bright
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Whether its work expenses or your own personal budget, travelling for business can be an expensive endeavour. Hotel rooms, meals, and transport costs can all start to add up, and that’s before other expenses such as visas, currency exchange or amenities come into the mix.

Knowing which cities are particularly expensive for business travel – and how expensive – can therefore help with accurate budgeting before a trip even begins.

Market research company ECA International recently released its annual Daily Rates report recently with a breakdown of the priciest cities in the region when it comes to work trips.

We look at Asia’s top five most expensive destinations for business travel and the average daily expense travellers are likely to require to cover their trip.


Average daily expense: US$456

The capital and largest city of Bangladesh, Dhaka was classified as the most expensive city in South Asia for expatriates to live according to Mercer’s 2017 Cost of Living Survey. It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, to find that the city is equally expensive for business travel.

On average, business travellers spent US$277 per day staying at a four-star hotel – by far the bulk of expenses. The additional US$155 on meals and drinks and US$24 on transport and incidentals, are notably lower than the other four cities on this list, and according to ECA Dhaka would rank just 25th for daily rates if hotel price was excluded.

Art Science Museum


Average daily expense: US$472

For the past four years, Singapore has ranked as the world’s most expensive city to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Considering this index is designed for human resources departments in order to ascertain the cost of sending employees on business trips or to work overseas, it’s little surprise that the world’s most expensive city is also among the more expensive for business travel.

That said, it is only the fourth highest in Asia according to ECA, notably due to the lower cost of hotels. Business travellers spent on average US$251 on four-star hotels per day – the lowest of all five destinations – but US$186 per day on food and drink and US$35 on transport and incidentals.

Signiel Seoul


Average daily expense: US$490

Anyone who’s visited the South Korean capital will know that eating and drinking in the city can cost quite a bit. In fact, in 2015, the city was classified as the most expensive city in the world for buying everyday food items, according to the Economist’s Worldwide Cost of Living report.

And ECA’s most recent report appears to corroborate this. While business travellers spent US$252 per day on four-star hotels, they spent more on food and drinks – US$191 – than travellers in any of the other top five cities. Transport and incidentals, meanwhile, came to a total of US$37.

Hong Kong skyline

Hong Kong

Average daily expense: US$508

 Formerly the most expensive city for business travel according to ECA’s previous Daily Rates report, Hong Kong has been knocked from the top spot this year. According to ECA, much of this has been to do with the decreasing cost of four-star hotels, which dropped by almost six per cent over the previous year due to a decline in tourism and business travel to the city.

Despite this drop, four-star hotels are still a major expense for business travellers, which cost US$284 per day on average – more than the previous three destinations. Meanwhile, meals and drinks came in at about US$186 per day, while transport and incidentals cost US$38.

Shibuya Crossing


Average Daily Expense: US$536

Breaking into the top spot this year is the Japanese capital, which at an average expense of US$508 per day makes the typical business trip to Tokyo five per cent more expensive than runner-up Hong Kong. High hotel costs, as well as the appreciation of the Japanese yen relative to the US dollar, are key contributors to the city’s rise to the top of the list this year.

Tokyo is the only city in Asia where a four-star accommodation is more expensive than Hong Kong, costing US$290 per day, however is just slightly higher than both Hong Kong and Singapore when it comes to meals and drinks, costing US$187 per day. However, transport and incidentals, coming in at a daily average of US$59, were significantly more expensive than any other city in the region – and more than double the daily cost for business travellers in Dhaka.

Source: Employment Conditions Abroad 2017

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