Pollution blamed for drop in Beijing tourism: State media

BEIJING (AFP) - The number of tourists visiting China's capital fell by more than 14 per cent in the first half of this year compared to 2012, state media reported on Saturday, with air pollution blamed for the decline.

The total number of tourists arriving in Beijing during the first half of 2013 dropped 14.3 per cent compared to the same period last year, the state-run China Daily reported, citing official statistics.

It is the first time China's capital has seen a decline in inbound tourists over the first six months of a year since 2008, the report said, adding that the total number of tourist visits during the period was 2.14 million.

"Frequent air pollution" contributed to the decline in tourists, along with a weak global economy, the paper quoted Mr Lu Yong, director of the Beijing Commission of Tourism Development, as saying.

The decline came despite a new policy allowing travellers from 45 countries to stop in Beijing for 72 hours visa-free, which was introduced in January.

Beijing regularly sees hazardous air pollution, and levels of particulate matter rose to almost 40 times World Health Organisation (WHO) limits during a heavy bout of smog in January which attracted worldwide attention.