Hong Kong is no longer the most expensive destination for business travellers in the Asia-Pacific region, with Tokyo overtaking the city last year, according to the latest survey conducted by human resources consultancy ECA International.
But this did not mean Hong Kong had become a cheaper place for such trips. Daily expenses – including hotels, food, transport and incidentals – rose 2 per cent to US$508 (HK$3,900) compared with figures in 2015.
Lee Quane, the consultancy’s regional director, attributed the city’s drop from the No 1 spot to the Chinese economic slowdown, as well as the appreciation of the Japanese yen against the US dollar in the past year. “Declines in tourism and business travel to Hong Kong, factors associated with the current regional economic malaise, are the main drivers behind this fall,” he said.
Quane explained that many international business representatives would stay in the city for one or two days before setting off for the mainland. But this demand had declined in the past year due to slow business on the mainland.
He also expected the strong Hong Kong dollar to rein in the city’s competitiveness, especially at a time when most Asian currencies had been depreciating against the US dollar. This would deter international companies from hosting its regional meetings in the city, Quane added.
Among the three major categories on the survey, the cost of the city’s hotels compared with its regional rivals stood out.
A room at a four-star hotel – a commonly used standard for international business travellers – charges US$284 per day in the city, 13 per cent higher than in Singapore and 8 per cent higher than in Seoul, according to the survey.
“One thing that keeps Singapore competitive for business is its cheap accommodation,” Quane said, as expenses for meals, drinks and transportation were similar among major Asian cities.
Despite an overall drop in Hong Kong hotel rates last year, the limited choices in business hotels had kept the cost high for business trips in the Asian financial centre.
He explained that although the city had a large number of five-star hotels and cheaper hotels for tourists, both were not suitable for typical business travellers. Companies sometimes end up paying more to upgrade the service standard and allow their employees to stay at five-star hotels in the city, he said.
At the same time, the city’s tourism sector continues to recover at the start of the year, with visitor numbers rising 4.8 per cent last month on a yearly basis.
The Tourism Board said the improvement was mainly due to the strong numbers of mainland overnight visitors during the month of the Lunar New Year, which saw the figure jump 14.1 per cent.
But the board said the January figures might not be able to reflect the overall tourism trend because of the strong seasonal factors.