Singapore, Hong Kong are costliest cities for luxury spending

Rival Hong Kong climbed one spot from last year to second, while London rose one place to third, according to an annual report by Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer Group.

Singapore has continued to attract the ultra-wealthy by maintaining its reputation for political and economic stability, alongside a pro-business environment. Hong Kong is the most expensive city for engaging a lawyer and the second most for buying property.

London rose partly on the strength of the British pound and “some normalisation” post Brexit. Meanwhile, Shanghai dropped to fourth, likely due to challenges in the real estate market and softening consumer confidence, the report said.

Tokyo plummeted to 23rd due to the weakening yen. Many of the biggest changes in the index are due to currency fluctuations as index prices are converted to US dollars for global comparison, the report said. Santiago in Chile is now a more expensive place to live than Tokyo in US dollar terms – a situation that would once have been “unimaginable”, the report said.

Zurich climbed to sixth and was the year’s biggest gainer, largely due to the strength of the Swiss franc.

Julius Baer’s Lifestyle Index ranks the world’s 25 most expensive cities by analysing residential property, cars, business class flights, school, degustation dinners and other luxuries. The bank surveyed high-net-worth individuals with bankable household assets of $1-million or more from February to March 2024.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa went from being the most affordable region in 2023 to the most expensive, with “significant price increases” and every European city moving up the rankings. Strong exchange rates prompted a change in the region’s fortunes.

There are “pockets of affordability” though, according to the report. The region is the cheapest place to buy champagne and whiskey. France is home to the Champagne region and Scotland boasts more distilleries than anyone else, the report said.

Dubai dropped to 12th from 7th in 2023. While Singapore and Hong Kong took the top spots, other Asian cities, notably Tokyo, Bangkok and Jakarta fell in the rankings.

In Singapore, wealthy individuals are favouring “discreet over more overt expressions of wealth,” with sales of watches, cars, apartments and other luxury goods dropping.

Overall, price increases slowed to 4% from 6% last year across the index of goods and services.

The cost of bicycles fell almost everywhere, almost certainly down to the glut of bikes after Covid, while other fallers included business class flights, with travel returning to normal after post-pandemic demand sent prices skyrocketing, the report said. Jewellery, ladies’ shoes and men’s suits showed the biggest gains.

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