A survey has revealed that the air quality of cities around the world ranks highly among travellers looking to book trips in the post-Covid age. Olivia Palamountain reports

According to research by hotel booking platform Hoo, air pollution levels are becoming more important to holidaymakers. (In April 2020, Globetrender reported on how global lockdowns were improving air quality.)

In January 2021, the company commissioned Find Out Now to survey 2,569 people on their feelings around air quality and its influence on the holiday booking process, with some intriguing results.

Data found that 48 per cent of UK travellers would pay more money to vacation in a location with better air quality over somewhere more affordable but with higher levels of pollution.

What’s more, exactly half of the respondents would opt for a destination with better air quality if it meant travelling for longer.

With this in mind, Hoo looked at which of the world’s top travel destinations currently offer the perfect holiday mix of affordable hotel rates and low levels of air pollution.

The data crunches the average cost of a hotel per night across 47 destinations around the world, as well as air quality pollution based on particulate concentration levels during the highest hour of the day on the worst air quality day of the year, measured in particulates per metre cubed (µg/m3).

Hoo then gave each destination a “pollution-free hotel price” score to reveal where offers the best mix of both.

The research revealed that the most affordable holiday destination with the lowest level of air pollution is Rio de Janeiro, with a score of 17.1 on the Hoo hotel air pollution index.

On average, a hotel in Rio de Janeiro will set you back just £49 per night while at 35 µg/m3, it’s home to the third-lowest levels of air pollution. Only Auckland and Toronto rank better.

Moscow ranks second with an index score of 18.9. Air pollution levels are currently 41 µg/m3, while the average hotel will cost you just £46 per night.

Bogota (24), Las Vegas (28.2), Toronto (28.3), Chicago (29.3), Sao Paulo (29.3), Auckland (30.1), Vancouver (33.8) and Lison (35.4) also rank in the top ten with the best ratio of affordable hotel rates and clean air.

In contrast, Cape Town ranks as the worst destination for clean air. While the city is home to an average hotel price of just £66 per night, air quality levels are a worrying 1,680 µg/m3.

Singapore also ranks poorly with 490 µg/m3, and while much less polluted than Cape Town, Singapore is also home to a cost of £152 per night for the average hotel.

City Average hotel price per night (Jan 2021) Air quality pollution – particulates µg/m3 (2019) Hotel pollution price ratio score
Rio de Janeiro £49 35 17.1
Moscow £46 41 18.9
Bogota £36 66 24.0
Las Vegas £52 54 28.2
Toronto £83 34 28.3
Chicago £81 36 29.3
Sao Paulo £41 72 29.3
Auckland £91 33 30.1
Vancouver £91 37 33.8
Lisbon £74 48 35.3
Madrid £71 51 36.1
Barcelona £105 42 44.3
Istanbul £54 91 49.2
Bangkok £55 96 52.7
Rome £93 58 53.9
Warsaw £49 111 54.1
Athens £86 65 55.9
Taipei City £81 72 58.0
Lima £39 150 58.5
Manila £66 88 58.5
Melbourne £112 56 62.5
Mexico City £43 151 65.5
Brussels £88 75 65.8

Hoo co-founder, Adrian Murdock, says: “One silver lining of the current pandemic is that a restriction on international and domestic travel have caused pollution levels to plummet in many areas.

“While air pollution levels may not be the first criteria for some when deciding on their next holiday destination, it’s important enough for some to spend more, and even travel further to get there. Which is a tad ironic given this longer period of travel is arguably helping to contribute to higher air pollution levels.

“Of course, once the world does reopen we’re sure to see pollution levels climb once again so if you are looking to book some of the best places for clean air, get there first before everyone else does.

“It’s also important to note that clean air isn’t the sole factor in a health-conscious holiday. For example, Las Vegas ranks pretty high in our index, but you can be sure that a trip to the City of Sin is going to be bad for your health even if air pollution isn’t the reason.”

While pollution has long been a global concern, the pandemic imposed restrictions on international and domestic travel around the world mean we’re all breathing a little bit better.

It’s estimated that nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by as much as 10-50 per cent across the UK during the first lockdown, with other international cities seeing similar patterns.

According to a story by The New York Times in 2019, the United States, “which has some of the cleanest air in the world, fine particulate matter still contributed to 88,000 premature deaths in 2015 – making this pollution more deadly than both diabetes and the flu”. In 2018, because of smoke from wildfires, Sacramento became the temporarily became the world’s most polluted city.

According to IQ Air, Lahore in Pakistan, Milan in Italy and Dhaka in Bangladesh are the most polluted cities in the world today. Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi and Bangkok are also on the red list.

What’s coming next? Trend reports available to download HERE