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Canned-air souvenir craze gains momentum

By Cao Yin in Beijing and Zhao Kai in Guizhou ( China Daily )

Updated: 2014-03-24

Taking clean air home will not be just a dream for tourists who are troubled by China's smog.

The tourism bureau in Guizhou province, known for its pristine air, has launched a "can of air" project after President Xi Jinping mentioned it during the recent legislative sessions in Beijing.

"Xi's idea seemed humorous, but it represents our leadership's respect for nature," said Fu Yingchun, director of the bureau. "It also shows that Xi is looking forward to a better environment in Guizhou and hopes residents in other areas can duplicate our clean air."

Fu said on Friday that a group of experts from Beijing is making specific plans for the canned air project, while the bureau continues to solicit creative ideas.

The bureau decided to spend seven days soliciting innovative opinions from people worldwide and to publish a list of developers. It aims to make the first batch of products available before June 20 this year, Fu said.

Canned air has been widely discussed since Xi quipped during a panel discussion at the two sessions in March that Guizhou's air could be marketed.

Xi stressed the importance of environmental protection as local authorities strive to develop the economy. And he encouraged the province to enhance its ecological awareness, saying a "colorful Guizhou" that highlights ethnic cultures and is branded to promote tourism must also be clean.

Chen Min'er, a Guizhou lawmaker, was proud of the clean air in his hometown and told Xi the density of PM 2.5 in the area averages less than 50 micrograms per cubic meter.

"The first batch of canned air products will come into the market as tourism souvenirs," Fu said. "And we want to use air from the Mount Fanjing and Mount Leigong areas as the source."

Canned air has been successfully developed at Japan's Mount Fuji, so it must be practical to do a similar project in China, Fu said.

In addition to Guizhou, the tourism bureau in Lin'an, a county-level city near vast forests in Zhejiang province, is also on the canned air bandwagon.

Fu Qiang, an official in charge of the bureau's promotional office, said the authority is considering selling it on the Internet.

"The initial price will be 10 yuan ($1.60) per bottle, but the online price is uncertain," he said. "We haven't decided whether to use Taobao, China's largest online shopping platform, or our own official website. So for now, it's free."

On Friday, 50 cans of air from Lin'an were shared among tourists and citizens in Hangzhou, the provincial capital.

Chen Weihong, deputy director of the city's tourism bureau, said that the promotion of canned air is actually a promotion for tourism in Lin'an.

"Air quality is catching the attention of the public nowadays, and we just want to tell people 'welcome to Lin'an and enjoy the high-quality air'," he said.

However, a few experts and residents do not think the canned air will boost tourism, saying sales of the novelty is more like a business.

"It's a bit ironic. I don't want these tourism bureaus to attract people via the canned air and it's meaningless in solving pollution," Chen Liwen, a staff member of the green group Nature University in Beijing, said.

"If the bureaus can protect their ecological areas well, more tourists will come to visit. The can of air is gimmick that may attract people for only a limited time," she said.

Wang Lirong, a resident in Hangzhou, took one bottle of the free canned air for her granddaughter on Friday, but said she might not be willing to pay for one:

"It is an eye-catching promotion, but who knows what the bottle contains. And what difference would such a small bottle make once we open it and all the surrounding air comes in?"

Wang Huanzhu, 24, a resident in Guiyang, said the canned air seems to be fresh at first glance, "but it doesn't help improve air quality and will just be a souvenir."

Contact the writers at caoyin@chinadaily.com.cn

Yan Yiqi in Hangzhou contributed to this story.

 Canned-air souvenir craze gains momentum

People dressed as cartoon characters hand out jars containing "clean air" in Lin'an, Zhejiang province, to tourists in the West Lake scenic area in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, on Friday. The event was designed to promote tourism in Lin'an. Hu Jianhuan / for China Daily

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