Visits to Beijing drop by 50 percent

BY newsdesk  October 31, 2013 at 11:00 AM EDT

Amid the smog, tourists visit Beijing’s Forbidden City. Photo by Flickr user Axel Drainville

It’s been almost one year since the poor air quality and extreme smog in China’s capital city has gathered attention in major news outlets around the world. Since then, tourism in Beijing has been on a steady decline, roughly by 50 percent in the first three quarters of 2013, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday.

Back in September, the Chinese government had announced a plan to curb air pollution by setting limits on coal burning and restricting the use of high-polluting vehicles. Then in late October, the government introduced an emergency plan called Heavy Air Pollution Contingency Plan that would put the city into an emergency mode. This plan would go into effect if the air quality index for fine particular matter, PM2.5, exceeds 300 micrograms per cubic meter for three days. The World Health Organization’s “safe” recommended level is 25 micrograms.

Other parts of China are also suffering from the scourge of smog. Earlier this month, air pollution measuring 40 times higher than the international safety standard blanketed China’s northern city of Harbin.

Most popular tourist sites near Beijing, like The Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and other historic sites are often engulfed in smog. Although the air pollution crisis may be the main factor for keeping tourists out of Beijing, there may also be other factors, according to Wall Street Journal. Many countries still haven’t recovered completely from the European debt crisis, and the Chinese currency, yuan, has appreciated more than 2 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2013.

So if you’re planning on traveling to Beijing soon, here is a way you can check the real-time air quality index of Beijing.

H/T Ariel Min