CHINA - Tourists will soon have the chance to be compensated financially if they encounter haze and smoggy days during their trips.
China's largest online travel agency Ctrip.com International Ltd, together with Chinese insurance giant Ping An Insurance (Group) Co of China Ltd, started to sell haze travel insurance on Tuesday, the first travel service to exploit air quality in China. Tourists who have booked packaged tours or backpack tours via Ctrip that last between three and seven days can all choose to buy haze insurance on the website. The insurance will be available to customers even during the most popular holidays such as Labor Day.
During the insurance period, so long as tourists stay in the designated city for at least two days during hazy weather, they will be able to file claims on their insurance. The premium is priced at 10 yuan (about S$2) or 15 yuan each, and the daily compensation limit is 50 yuan per person.
In this sense, a tourist can receive 350 yuan compensation at the most if he or she stays in the city for seven days and the weather report indicates pollution. The tourist can claim the compensation by providing an identity card, a compensation application form and an itinerary copy.
The first six cities chosen for the insurance are Beijing, Xi'an, Harbin, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Ctrip and Ping An are drawing up a second batch of cities and relevant products.
Ctrip told China Daily it chose the first six cities based on their popularity among tourists and the state of their weather. Standards for compensation vary between cities.
Based on the daily AQI index provided by the widely used mobile phone application Fresh Idea, compensation will be given to tourists in Xi'an and Beijing if they suffer two consecutive days of the air pollution index exceeding 200. The standard is 150 for Harbin and Chengdu and 100 for Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Based on recent reports, it will not be difficult to receive the compensation. Between Feb 16 and March 17, Shanghai experienced 17 days of air pollution with the index exceeding 100. People in Beijing suffered nine days with the index over 200. Haze and smog have become a huge concern for Chinese people. Ctrip designed the insurance product to make up for any loss tourists suffer from pollution as well as to provide a better travel experience.
Ping An Insurance told China Daily in an e-mail response that it will continue cooperation with Ctrip with the help of modern technology to provide more specific insurance products that advocate a "low-carbon" life and improve people's health.
Tian Yiyi, a sales representative with a Shanghai-based furniture company, travels widely. She said she will not buy such insurance products despite the nature of her work.
"First of all, it is very difficult to tell whether the air quality index has truly reflected the real conditions. Second, the premium does not go directly to tackle the heavily polluted air. I would like the money to be put to better use," she said.
Qian Yigang, 28, a technician at a Shanghai-based IT company, travels frequently around the country for his job, but he said he, too, would not buy the product because of its inefficacy in dealing with the root problem.
"For one thing, most of the younger generation usually travel overseas, where the insurance offers no coverage and may not even be necessary. For another, people travel around for fun. If their mood is upset by poor atmospheric conditions, it cannot be rewound or fixed by money," he said.