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Many Expats Ponder Leaving Chiang Mai Over Poor Air Quality

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Many of Chiang Mai’s Expats Ponder Leaving Over Air Quality

A recent survey by Honorary British Consul in Chiang Mai asked members of the international community about the poor air quality. An impressive 1,500 people responded and being reviewed by the governor of Chiang Mai.

Honorary British Consul Ben Svasti thanked members of the international community in Chiang Mai, who took part in the Air Quality for International Community Survey. He said over 1,500 expats from 45 countries responded to our survey; this is an excellent response rate of almost 10% of the international community.

Last week, the Consular Corps, requested a meeting with Chiang Mai’s governor and heads of key agencies. Above all to share our very real concerns, on behalf of the international community, about the worsening annual smoke haze.

Highlighted was the fact that a major proportion of the international community, including long stayers, tourists and foreign investors were seriously considering leaving Chiang Mai. Above all due to the worsening smoke haze and that this would have a serious detrimental effect on the local economy.

The Consular Corps, asked, and the governor kindly agreed, that the international community be provided with more advice, news and updates about air quality in Chiang Mai, Svasti told City News.

The key finding is that over half of the overall survey respondents (52%) are considering leaving Chiang Mai because of air pollution. This figure increases to almost 65% among the 15-45 years’ age group; this group is a major contributor to the local economy, most being business people and heads of families.

Svasti says that he and the Consular Corps will continue to work with various authorities on the pollution, as well as other fronts affecting expatriates here in Chiang Mai.

Air Quality Expat Survey Chiang Mai

The survey took place from 22nd June until 7th July 2020. The survey was promoted mainly through English language social media in Chiang Mai. Although attempts were also made to promote it through other language networks such as Japanese, Chinese, German, French and Korean.

The purpose of the survey was to gather feedback from the international community in order to improve the health environment in Chiang Mai.

Executive Summary 2

In all 1,529 responses were received from foreign residents representing 45 countries. This is a response rate of about 5- 10% of the total estimated international population in Chiang Mai. ● Key finding: Over half of the overall survey respondents (52%) are considering leaving Chiang Mai because of air pollution. This figure increases to almost 65% among the 15-45 years age group; this group is a major contributor to the local economy, most being businesspeople and heads of families.

Executive Summary 3

Conclusion: The international community have a strong affection for the people, culture, way of life and business environment of Chiang Mai. They do not want to leave and take their families and businesses elsewhere. But they feel strongly, particularly those with families of young children, that the worsening air pollution and health concerns gives them no choice but to leave Chiang Mai, many of them permanently.

Feedback from Foreign Business Sector 1

Foreign run businesses report that it is often difficult to recruit new employees due to widespread publicity of worsening air pollution in Chiang Mai and during the worst months Feb-Apr, many employees choose to take unpaid leave.

International Schools often find it hard to recruit teachers and students and parents often choose schools in other regions unaffected by air pollution.

Businesses report losses due to employees off sick with respiratory infections during the worst periods of smoke haze.

Feedback from Foreign Business Sector 2

Income from tourism contributes 50% of GDP for Chiang Mai which equates to about 100,000 million baht. It has been estimated that the loss to tourism from fall in hotel bookings in the peak pollution months of March and April is more than 6,300 million baht. The loss to tourism will surely increase as the brand image of tourism in Chiang Mai suffers all year round. The province was once famous as a hub for health, nature outdoors pursuits now the image is one of burning forests and air pollution which at times is the worst in the world.

Foreign Business Sector 3

As tourists, long stayers, retirees, international school teachers/students/parents and foreign investors start to leave Chiang Mai in large numbers, the losses to the local economy will be significant. Particularly hard hit will be businesses who are largely dependent on international tourists and residents, for example hotel and spa industry, hospitals and international schools.

Foreign Investment/Hotels Survey (Survey in in progress)

Foreign Investment Businesses

66% Loss of revenue due to smoke haze. Average loss 4-5 Million Baht

90% reported employees had health problems, take more sick leave, losses to production 89% permanent negative image of Chiang Mai all year-round

Several businesses also relocating to other areas of Thailand


83% report cancellations during smoke season

66% hotel guest had health problems

Major hotel losses due to smoke, one hotel reported 25 Million Baht loss due to smoke Feb-May.  83% believed that reports of Chiang Mai as most polluted city would have a permanent effect on the cities image. Air quality also leads a decline in attractiveness of Chiang Mai as a tourist destination

Nationality of Survey Respondents Nationality

TOTAL: 1,581 Dual Nationals: 51 Triple National: 1 Countries: 45

United States, 328; United Kingdom, 267 ;Germany, 172; Switzerland, 137; Australia, 115; South Korea,103

Other countries:

France (64), Canada (59), Japan (53), Thailand (50), Netherlands (43), China (41), Ireland (19), Italy (16), Belgium (15), New Zealand (14), Sweden (11), Austria (8), Finland 7), Portugal (5), Myanmar (5), Russia (5), Philippines (5), Spain (4), Singapore (4), India (4), Malaysia (3), Argentina (2), Colombia (2), Hungary (2), Israel (2), Norway (2), Denmark (2), Brazil (1), Bulgaria (1), Costa Rica (1), Czech Republic (1), Indonesia (1), Iran (1), Luxembourg (1), Morocco (1), Poland (1), Serbia (1), South Africa (1), Venezuela (1)


What is your age?

Air quality chiang mai

– Most international long stay residents of Chiang Mai are over 60 yrs old

Living arrangements

Who do you live with?

word image 2

Most live with a spouse/partner/friend

Purpose of stay in Chiang Mai

What is the purpose of your stay in Chiang Mai?

word image 3

– Most are in retirement and wish to stay for the long-term

Reasons for Coming to Chiang Mai

Which option best describes why you first moved to Chiang Mai or northern Thailand?

word image 4

– Most came to Chiang Mai for retirement and because of the culture

Reasons for Leaving Chiang Mai

If you plan to leave within the next year, which of the following options best describe why you are planning to leave Chiang Mai or northern Thailand?

Air quality chiang mai

– Most no longer wish to stay in Chiang Mai due to air pollution

Reasons for Coming to and Leaving Chiang Mai

How has air pollution changed your desire to live in Chiang Mai?

Air quality chiang mai

– Over 66% intend to leave Chiang Mai withing next year due to air pollution and health concerns



The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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