China's largest online travel agency is now offering tourists "smog insurance", permitting travellers to claim financial compensation should their city break be blighted by bad air. Ctrip.com has created the "haze-travel insurance package" in collaboration with the Chinese insurance firm Ping An and has been selling the new product since Tuesday.
The insurance is focused on six cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an, all of which are popular with tourists – and also suffer from poor air quality. Pollution in China was recently described by scientists as like a "nuclear winter" and smog frequently grounds flights and keeps tourists at home. On one day during a recent bout of bad weather, Beijing's Forbidden City saw visitor numbers drop to 11,200: a quarter of its usual daily draw.
Under the new insurance package, tourists who spend at least two days in the designated city while pollution levels are high will be able to file claims. The level of pollution that triggers an insurance claim varies between the cities but for visitors to Shanghai, claims can be made if the air pollution index exceeds 100. In the past month the city experienced 17 days over this level.
Evidently aimed at domestic rather than international tourists, the premium comes to 10RMB (£1) and travellers can claim 50RMB (£5) per day.
The data for the pollution will be measured using the China Air Quality Index app, which broadcasts the levels of all the country's major cities and is among the top 10 most popular weather apps in China. The popularity of the app is in itself an indication of the lengths Chinese people will go to avoid pollution.
In Hong Kong, bad air quality and poor visibility has led visitors to pose for photos in front of a photo backdrop of the city's skyline. However, when it comes to smog insurance not all tourists in the country are convinced. Tian Yiyi, a sales representative with a Shanghai-based furniture company, told China Daily that despite travelling widely she would not be buying the premium. "The premium does not go directly to tackle the heavily polluted air," she said. "I would like the money to be put to better use."
Qian Yigang, 28, a technician at a Shanghai-based IT company told the paper: "People travel around for fun. If their mood is upset by poor atmospheric conditions, it cannot be fixed by money."
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