(Bloomberg) — Wealthy bargain hunters should be wary of getting married in New York, hiring lawyers in Hong Kong or buying fine wines in Rio de Janeiro.
That’s according to research from Julius Baer Group Ltd., which broke out the world’s most expensive cities for a variety of luxury goods and services — from houses to whisky to handbags. High local tax rates make Rio de Janeiro — Brazil’s second-largest city — the world’s most expensive metropolis in five of 18 categories in the Swiss bank’s “Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2020.”
New York ranked as priciest place to lay on a 400-person wedding banquet or hire a personal trainer, while London took top spot for the laser eye surgery that clears blurry vision. Still, Hong Kong is the world’s most expensive city overall, with the former British colony cited frequently in the top 10 priciest municipalities for categories such as fine dining, hotel suites and luxury cars.
The report released Thursday underscores the growing scope of opulence among the world’s wealthy as tensions mount in some nations over the divide between the rich and everyone else. Widening inequality in Hong Kong, fuelled by low taxes, has helped incite the city’s worst unrest since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. There has also been unrest in parts of Latin America and Europe over rising living costs.
The idea of luxury “once stood for fancy goods, such as handbags or sports cars,” Nicolas de Skowronski, head of wealth management solutions at Julius Baer, said in the report. “Now it has morphed into a broad category that includes services and experiences, from fine dining to new lifestyle trends such as wellness.”
While Hong Kong may drop in future rankings after months of protests take their toll on the economy, other Asian cities are well represented in the firm’s ranking of most expensive, including Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok all in the top half. That section also included Los Angeles and Miami — the only other US cities listed in the report — although neither rank top for individual categories of how the wealthy splash their cash.