Asia’s financial and technological capitals, Hong Kong and Singapore have long been magnets for foreign investors wanting to get into fast-growing markets nearby. Hong Kong’s proximity to, and close relationship with, mainland China, has made it the gateway to mainland China for business. For companies interested in Southeast Asia, Singapore shines particularly brightly, but over 40% of Fortune 500 companies have chosen Singapore as their regional headquarters.
The two former British colonies have long been thought of as among the best destinations in which to engage in commerce – boasting as they do generous tax rates, a reliable legal system, globally compliant banking and financial regulations and widespread use of English.
According to the World Bank, Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked number 2 and 3 respectively among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, though there have been bumps in the road; both island nations have in the last two years stuck to strict Covid entry and exit rules complicating business travel and commercial activity.
While protests in 2019 have cast a shadow in Hong Kong as the state aligns closer politically to China, the ability to raise money here means business is flourishing. As Tara Joseph from the American Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong told the BBC the following year, “The flow of money that comes in and out of Hong Kong on a daily basis, that goes into mainland China and comes out, is very hard to replicate.”
Singapore economy is on a roll; GDP growth in 2021 was 7.2 percent rebounding significantly from a 5.4 percent contraction in 2020. A larger rebound in services and construction is forecasted to fuel growth in 2022. Meanwhile, the economic reopening and extension of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) are predicted to “recover more robustly” next year in consumer-facing and travel-related sectors including F&B, retail, leisure and hospitality. Singapore has VTL agreements with 18 countries, with Indonesia, India and Malaysia accounting for the majority of arrivals (6.4 percent).
Business travellers love Hong Kong and Singapore for reasons over and above cold hard cash. The hotels never disappoint … visiting high-flyers have a wealth of extravagantly bling, traditional and restrained or boutique-cool choices. Transportation wise, both states are world-leading. Hong Kong’s ferries, railways and tramway are all interconnected, making its network one of the most sophisticated in the world.
According to a 2021 McKinsey report that evaluated 25 major cities, Singapore’s public transit ranked first in safety/environmental impact; first in affordability and first in usage. Taxis are cheap; and anyone who has landed at Changi airport headed into town in one will know it can only take about 20 minutes to get from airside to hotel.
And finally there’s the potential for weekend-break escapes.About 40% of Hong Kong’s territory is protected as national park land, representing one of the highest proportions in the world. A 20-minute drive gets you to gorgeous beaches and innumerable hiking trails through green mountains. Singapore is another remarkably green island, with UNESCO-heritage Botanic Gardens, off-piste hiking trails on satellite islands and even a couple of casino resorts.