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Singapore is the 5th most expensive location in Asia Pacific for business travel

  • Average hotel accommodation in Singapore is 20% cheaper than in Hong Kong 
  • Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok amongst the cheapest locations for business travel, fuelled by relatively cheap accommodation and weakening currencies
  • Excluding hotel accommodation costs, Seoul takes the top spot as the most expensive location in the region while Karachi, Islamabad, Kathmandu and Ulaanbaatar take the bottom spots

New data has revealed that Singapore is the 5th most expensive location in the Asia Pacific region for business travel. This was one of the findings from 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.

“Costs commonly incurred during the course of business trips include accommodation, transport, meals and day-to-day necessities,” advised Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia for ECA International. “With this in mind, we have seen that the total costs incurred by a business traveller in the region are 5th highest in Singapore.”

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.

Singapore’s regional rival, Hong Kong, has secured top position in this year’s rankings. While the cost of a typical meal out and incidental expenditure is more expensive in Singapore, higher costs associated with hotel accommodation in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) contribute to its position as the most expensive location in the Asia pacific to undertake a business trip.

“Room rates in Singapore are amongst the highest out of the locations we surveyed in the region,” said Quane. “Looking at 4-star hotel accommodation, rates here are the 7th highest in the region, approximately 20% lower than comparable accommodation in the most expensive location, Hong Kong.”

The cheapest location in Asia for business travel is Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Bandar Seri Begawan are the only other capital cities ranked within the top 10 cheapest locations for business travel in Asia. “As major business travel and tourist destinations, it is surprising to see Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok within the top 10 cheapest locations in the region,” said Quane. “A combination of generally low living costs, relatively cheap accommodation options for business travellers and weak currency against the USD have contributed to these locations being where they are in our rankings.”

Meals, transport, laundry and other incidental costs

When hotel costs are excluded, the most expensive locations in Asia that are visited by employees are slightly different. Singapore rises to 4th place in the region, overtaking Dhaka, where a shortage of suitable accommodation contributes to the high rates charged for hotel rooms. Dhaka moves down to the 24th most expensive location in the region when hotel rates are excluded. Hong Kong also falls to 8th position.

“In terms of the total costs associated with business travel that are borne by the company, Hong Kong is more expensive than anywhere else in Asia,” said Quane. “However, as hotel costs are regularly paid directly by the company, employees are often not aware of these costs and will focus on costs associated with meals, transport, laundry and other incidental costs which they will often consume. More often than not, they will be reimbursed for these costs or will receive an allowance from the company to meet such expenditure. Relatively cheap public transport costs and costs associated with incidental expenditure contribute to a lower ranking once hotel costs are stripped out.” 

Seoul is the most expensive location in Asia for business travellers once hotel costs are excluded, followed by Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore and Shanghai. “Seoul and Tokyo’s high rankings are a reflection of the general high cost of goods and services in these two cities, combined with the fact that language issues may limit business travellers in terms of their choices for meals out,” added Quane.

Beijing is ranked 6th in the region, Macau 14th and Taipei 34th based on non-hotel business travel costs.

The cheapest locations in the region for business travellers, once hotel costs are excluded, are Karachi, Islamabad, Kathmandu and Ulaanbaatar, with costs in Karachi approximately one third of those incurred by business travellers in Seoul.

“Companies have many ways to ensure that the costs incurred by an employee during the course of a business trip are covered, whether that be via reimbursement or the provision of a daily allowance to meet such expenditure,” advised Quane. “However, what the variation in costs within the region suggests is that it is important for companies to ensure that the allowances they pay are relative to each location that they send an employee to. These should also be reviewed on a regular basis in order to account for the annual changes.”


About ECA's Daily Rates

ECA's Daily Rates for business travellers help organisations to anticipate the cost of business trips and short-term assignments. Globally, the Daily Rates reports for 2015-16 are available for 311 locations in 177 countries.

Each report itemises costs for the following expenses for flexibility when calculating allowances for short trips abroad:

Hotel room (3, 4 and 5 star)
Alcoholic and soft drinks
Incidental costs
Journeys by taxi

PLEASE NOTE - 4* hotel accommodation was used as the point of comparison for hotel accommodation costs in these rankings as it best represents the typical level of accommodation used by business travellers. 

To find out more about ECA's Daily Rates packages, further reading material can be found on the ECA website here

About ECA International

ECA International is the market leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.
We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions - every time.
ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

Follow ECA on twitter: @ECAint

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