Air pollution contributed to the deaths of an estimated 1.2 million people in China in 2010, and it costs the country nearly six percent of its annual GDP in health care costs, material damages, and premature deaths. Beijing’s air quality is “crazy bad“, and the country’s toxic smog is driving China’s urbanites out of its megacities. Small wonder, then, that air pollution is having a devastating effect on China’s tourism industry. The AP reports:
From January to June, the total number of foreign visitors, including business travelers and residents, entering China declined by 5 percent to just under 13 million compared with the same period last year, according to the China National Tourism Administration. Overall, visitors from Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas all declined.
In Beijing, with major attractions including the Great Wall and the Imperial Palace, the drop is even more striking. The number of foreign tourists visiting the Chinese capital fell by 15 percent in the first six months of the year to 1.9 million, according to the Beijing Tourism Administration
China isn’t taking this lying down, having committed itself to spending $275 billion—roughly the GDP of Hong Kong—to combat its toxic smog problem. But simply throwing money at the problem won’t solve the problem. China still has plans to grow, and is going to burn coal to power that growth. The country currently burns almost half of the world’s coal, and the EIA expects the country to nearly double its coal consumption by 2040.
Beijing doesn’t need to replicate the same stages of development that the Western world went through. The developed world is shifting to an information economy, and there’s no reason why China can’t begin to do the same. Manipulating information is generally less energy intensive than manipulating things, which means less smog and more tourism for China.