Chinese people in search of a second home are increasingly opting for vacation spots with healthy living environments, providing buyers with an occasional break from city smog.


Popular vacation destinations such as Hainan and Yunnan have clear environmental benefits – a warm climate, mountains, beaches and fresh air, factors that are increasingly attractive to residents of Chinese cities with air pollution problems. In Haikou, capital of Hainan province, more than 43 percent of the residential properties were sold to people from outside the province last year, according to the city's housing and urban-rural development bureau.


"The figure is expected to increase in 2014, because Haikou is among the country's most livable cities," said Dai Kaiquan, director of the bureau's market management department.


Beijing residents bought 1,832 houses in Haikou last year, about twice the number in 2012, according to the bureau. Since 2012, Beijing has experienced its worst air pollution levels in more than half a century, suggesting that the capital's residents are drawn to Haikou due to its good air quality.


Air in Haikou is consistently ranked as the best of the 74 cities monitored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.


Dai said the relaxed lifestyle, reasonable property values and low living costs are also attracting more people to Hainan's provincial capital.


Li Cong, an immigrant to the United States, bought a villa in Hainan this winter for his parents after selling his only apartment in Beijing.


Li, who moved to the US some years ago, said he would like to return to China when he gets older, but the smog-filled cities don't attract him.


"Beijing and other metropolitan areas are no longer fit for habitation, especially for elderly people," Li said.


Levels of fine particulate matter in some Chinese cities have reached tens of times the recommended exposure limit set by the World Health Organization. Experts have warned that the potential health impact of worsening air quality could be much greater than the SARS epidemic in 2003.


Golden brand


Chen Ci, Party chief of Haikou, said good air quality is a "golden brand" and that any measures, including traffic control and clean energy, should be considered to maintain the brand.


Property investment in Hainan has been boosted by worsening air quality elsewhere in China, according to a report from the Hainan provincial housing and urban-rural development bureau.


The total investment in real estate development on the island province surged to nearly 120 billion yuan ($19.5 billion) in 2013, a 35 percent year-on-year increase, about 21 times the figure for 2004, according to the bureau.


Yunnan also wants to keep its claim on the golden brand of clean air and low pollution.


Ren Jianzheng, president of Northstar Group in Yunnan, who serves as an NPC deputy, said Yunnan has consistently implemented policies on the tourism industry to reduce environmental contamination.


"Yunnan never had smog and is among the few provinces with no food safety violations. You won't find better water, food and air," he said.


Chen Xiaofeng, a real estate agent in Kunming, capital of Yunnan, said China's middle and upper classes often pay millions of yuan for a house in the province.


In the Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, a famous travel destination in northwest Yunnan, a one-courtyard house near the Erhai Lake can sell for around 9 million yuan ($1.5 million), Chen said.


"When they have spare time, they can go to Yunnan and take a break from the fast pace of work or travel around for several days. That's more enjoyable than being in Beijing or Shanghai," he said.


SOURCE: China Daily


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