Thursday 19 September 2019

The bottom line: business in Big Apple means a big bill

New York has been named as the world’s most expensive city for a business traveller to visit
New York has been named as the world’s most expensive city for a business traveller to visit

Mark Evans

A few years ago your columnist had a bill of $800 from an upscale hotel in Midtown Manhattan - for an overnight stay in a standard room. Luckily, the booking wasn't for the top-floor penthouse, with rack rates of $32,000 and up a night.

So the latest report by Expert Market, showing that New York is the world's most expensive destination for the business traveller, is preaching to the converted.

It found that a day in the city costs, on average $549 (€473), and $385 of that goes on accommodation. Not far behind is high tech capital (and rip-off central) San Francisco at $534, followed closely by Boston on $511.

Not a big issue if you're working for a major corporation with deep pockets, but of a turn-off if you're a small startup heading Stateside to cut a deal.

Of the major cities, the only ones further down on the top 100 list are Las Vegas and Phoenix, while if you're on business in the Deep South, Florida or the Midwest, then you're in luck, with prices at a fraction of what you'd pay in the key coastal cities. Bottom of the list? Bakersfield in California, where a day away will cost you just $241.

Globally, meanwhile, there's a huge disparity in how much your wallet will be clobbered.

Needless to say, Tokyo is in top position: it's reckoned that business travellers need to budget for $489 for every day in the Japanese capital - and taxis alone cost $133 a day.

Again, no prizes for guessing that Swiss cities Zurich, Basel and Geneva emerged as the most expensive in continental Europe, costing $472, $443 and $432 respectively.

Meanwhile, business trips to London were a wallet-busting $467 a day. And if you're involved in tech, you'll pay to visit the digital hub of Tel Aviv, which is the priciest Middle Eastern city, in seventh place.

So where's best for business on a budget? Johannesburg emerged as the cheapest of the top 100, with a $174-a-day cost, followed by Bangalore, Cairo, Warsaw and Mumbai. In the mid-range were key German cities like Hamburg (53rd place), Dusseldorf (58th) and Berlin (61st).

Ireland's Brexit rivals of Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris were ranked 36th, 27th and 11th respectively, while Dublin itself was in the not-too-bad position of 39th, cheaper than any of its competitors for Brexit exiles.

n With more corporate travellers opting to stay on for a day or two in this new age of business and pleasure - dubbed 'Bleisure' - it's interesting to see where's worth sticking around after those meetings and the places where maybe you should think of getting that earlier flight back.

Dutch travel giant Travelbird has analysed 500 world cities, using a wide spread of data from the UN and beyond and the expert opinions of 15,000 journalists, to pick the perfect 100 places where business is, well, a pleasure.

The economic powerhouse that is Singapore swept the boards in most categories, scoring 8.22 out of the 10 points on offer. It got a perfect 10 for port of entry for foreigners (ie, the passport guys aren't obnoxious), and also scored highly for security. Its only weak point was the country's 'happiness', with the report team mining that data from the UN World Happiness Report.

If safety is a key issue, Manila ranks bottom, with just over one mark out of 10. And other cities fare little better: Johannesburg, Bogota in Colombia, Mexico City, and Brazil's Rio and Sao Paulo also fare poorly based on, among others, OECD statistics. To be fair, some of the data looks a bit off, with Istanbul faring worse than Cairo, and Budapest seen as not much better than the Kenyan capital, Nairobi (seriously?).

If you'd like to be surrounded by happy people, the research would suggest you give the Ukraine's Kiev, Cambodia's Phnom Penh, and India's New Delhi and Mumbai a wide berth - conversely, maybe it's all that oil money, but Oslo gets a 10 for happiness, while Copenhagen is second (perhaps the Ireland play-off might darken their mood).

From then on, it's Scandinavia and Switzerland all the way, so if you can stand the sky-high prices, you'll be in a happy place. Our major trading partner across the water doesn't fare so well, with London in a lowly 29th place, well below Dublin in 13th. And embarrassingly, Dublin is the only city in the survey to get a solid 10 for proficiency in English - London has to settle for third, one below Auckland.

n Connectivity from regional airports has gotten a boost - Cork will have an extended Iberia Express service to Madrid next summer (a 5pc increase in seats with twice-weekly services from June to September), while Ryanair has returned to the London route from Belfast International. But the carrier has decided to operate from Stansted rather than Gatwick as in the past.

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