In Beijing, air pollution is so severe that the Chinese government has declared many a public health alert in recent years, and now the problem has escalated to the point that residents are evacuating in search of cleaner air. Wednesday, December 21, marked the fifth consecutive day that Beijing residents were faced with a tough decision: don protective face masks and air purifiers to accomplish the daily tasks of everyday life, or get out of town. The exodus has kicked off a trend now being described as “smog avoidance” travel, which may be expected to grow as conditions worsen.

While this week’s smog in Beijing is not the worst in history, the air pollution is nearing record levels. Last week, the Chinese government issued a red alert for smog for 23 cities in the northern region, where the air pollution is the most severe. The smog near Beijing is so dense that flight schedules have been disrupted, along with ground traffic and shipping. Schools and businesses are also closing due to the intense air pollution.

Related: Latest surge of smog in China grounds air traffic

Travel industry experts are reporting an uptick in searches for coastal travel, and the figures are significant. Compared to this season in other years, this year has led to four times as many searches for flights to destinations in southern China, where pollution is not such a threat. However, many Beijing residents are unable to get away, due to work schedules and financial constraints.

In an attempt to address those left behind, online booking firms are advertising hotels in the city that are equipped with air filtration systems, hoping to lure in locals who want a reprieve from the smoggy streets.

Via Reuters

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