Infrastructure & Cities

Five-star cities: Asia’s best cities for work and recreation

March 04, 2019


March 04, 2019

Naka Kondo

Manager, Policy and insights

Naka is an editorial manager at Economist Impact, based in Tokyo. As the project lead of the Back to Blue initiative, her focus coverage range from sustainability, ocean health, and longevity, among other issues. Before joining The Economist Group, after a brief period sitting in the advisory committee for the Japan Cabinet Office, Naka dedicated seven years in the Japanese Equities business where she communicated closely with Japanese companies and institutional investors around the world. As a journalist, Naka's work appears in The Bungei Shunju, one of the largest publications in Japan, with more than 80 pieces published on topics ranging from economics, politics and culture. Naka's work has been featured in 3 Japanese national newspapers in 2021. Naka has studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science (BSc Maths&Philosophy transferring to BSc Sociology) and the University of Tokyo (BA Social Psychology). She is also a journalism graduate of the Undergraduate Research Program at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo.


As the booming cities of Asia-Pacific play host to an increasingly large share of the world’s corporate travellers, the concept of bleisure is growing in importance. This term—a portmanteau of business and leisure—describes the fusion of work and recreation that typifies many foreign trips in the modern era. For example, alongside conventional tourists, corporate travellers explore scenic wonders, dine out at local eateries and share space in queues at historical sites.

The 2019 bleisure barometer: Asia’s best cities for work and recreation evaluates the bleisure potential of various cities in Asia-Pacific, based on a survey of global business travellers. It reveals that while Asia’s top bleisure destinations provide the right balance of business activity, high-quality infrastructure and top-flight leisure experiences, many less obvious choices stand out for different reasons, often involving opportunities for cultural exchange.

The key findings are:

  • Tokyo is Asia’s best bleisure destination, ranking first out of 26 cities in the region. The Japanese capital is joined by Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong and Melbourne as a “five-star” bleisure city, as determined by a quantitative barometer constructed for this programme, based on survey responses. Raw scores and number of stars may not correlate perfectly, as the former is an absolute measure and the latter a relative one (see appendix I for the full methodology of barometer and star scoring).
  • Less-affluent cities comprise most of the one-star destinations, with notable exceptions. Business travel may prove arduous in the emerging metropolises of South and South-east Asia, but greater GDP is hardly the only predictor of a high bleisure score. 
    • New Delhi and Hanoi tie for second (alongside Beijing and Hong Kong) in the category measuring opportunities for cultural experiences, providing them a leg up over cities with stronger infrastructure and a bigger international business scene.
    • Shanghai and Beijing, often criticised for their poor urban environments, rank highly on business aspects such as quality of international links and level of digital connectivity, helping them best more ostensibly liveable cities, including Auckland, Brisbane, Seoul, Taipei and Wellington, in the overall ranking.
    • Wealthy Adelaide falls in the one-star category, dragged down by low scores for quality of food and beverage and opportunity for cultural experiences.
  • Ease of transportation is the top urban factor in a successful business trip. Other key aspects include street safety and quality of business venues, according to our survey. Regional differences emerge in these findings, with Asian executives prioritising transportation, while Europeans are less concerned about safety than those hailing from elsewhere.
  • Dining out and enjoying local heritage are the chief ways busy business travellers unwind. These two factors rank well ahead of the third-place finisher, visiting an art museum or gallery. Regional nuances crop up here too: Asian executives are less likely to frequent the local drinking scene and more inclined to visit an amusement park.

The report, including full scoring and star bracket methodology, as well as an infographic and video, can be found at:  

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