Air pollution and toxic haze has sparked an exodus among Chinese citizens seeking clean air vacations, Bloomberg reported this week. Travel agencies have been offering "smog avoidance" packages over the holidays, with destinations including sunny locales like Seychelles and the Maldives, as well as cold locations with clean air like Iceland and Antartica, according to "Smog Escape Travel Ranking," a report by Ctrip.com International Ltd.
Meanwhile, online searches for "smog escape," "lung cleansing" and "forests," had tripled during recent weeks, Bloomberg found. Smog has settled over much of China during the last three weeks, forcing 62 cities to issue health alerts since the begining of 2017.
Red alerts, the most severe of the system's four warning levels, were issued in 24 cities, CNN reported. Tourism to Beijing, a city notorious for its air pollution, has suffered. Top travel sites in Beijing reported a 24 percent dip in visitors between Dec. 31 to Jan 2., according to a statement from the Beijing Tourism Development Commission.
In response to the recent wave of smog, Beijing's acting Mayor Cai Qi announced the creation of a police force dedicated to enforcing air quality measures, CNN reported. The environmental police would enforce laws previously overlooked by authorities.
"Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads -- these acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement," Cai told Chinese news outlet Xinhua.
Beijing environmental officials noted that air quality actually improved in 2016. There were 12 more "blue sky days" than there were in 2015.
Chen Jining, the minister of environmental protection, said last week that automobile emissions accounted for 31.3 percent of fine particles in Beijing's air. Jining said the ministry is reviewing plans to help 20 cities deal with heavy air pollution.