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As smog increases, tourism to China drops

October 23, 2014

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You’ve all seen the pictures, like this one, of smog enveloping Beijing and other cities in China. And you’ve heard stories about how smog affected the recent Beijing marathon, causing some runners to drop out. (There’s some amazing video at the end of this story.)

Now, there’s evidence that pollution is having an economic impact on China in a crucial way.

A report from the China Tourism Research Institute said China’s in-bound tourism (people traveling from other countries) fell 2.5 percent from a year ago, according to the Xinhua news service.

China hosted 129.08 million inbound tourists in 2013, down 2.51 percent year on year. Although it is the world’s most populous country, it ranks fourth in terms of inbound tourists,  behind France, the United States and Spain.

Nonetheless, revenue from those fewer tourists is actually increasing. The report said $51.66 billion was spent by these tourists in China last year, up 3.27 percent.

Dai Bin, head of the institute, said adverse weather, diplomatic relations, terrorism and the sluggish world economy all affected tours to China. Heavy smog is raising tourists’ worries, the institute chief said.

The number of tourists has fallen every quarter since the beginning of 2012, or nine consecutive quarters, both on an annual and quarterly basis, Dai said, according to the China Daily. Although three-quarters of tourists say they’re satisfied with the sights they’re visiting in China, their satisfaction level is down 11 points from last year.

Water and air quality were cited by tourists as reasons why they were less happy with their visits.


Talk to national or local travel authorities about Chinese tourism from your city

Check the U.S. Embassy’s Beijing smog monitor

Look at message boards on travel sites like TripAdvisor for conversations about smog


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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