Mongolia is not one of the main tourist destinations in the world. But this might change soon.
Mongolia is attempting to boost its tourism sector to generate revenue
For many people, the word Mongolia conjures up a whole series of stereotypical images – traveling through the steppes in old Russian-built trucks, sleeping in yurts, riding horses, archery competitions, fatty meat and salty butter tea. Mongolian tourism experts know they can capitalize on such clichés of the nomadic lifestyle. Gantemur Damba, the chairperson of Mongolia’s Sustainable Tourism Development Centre, sums it up in a nutshell:
"Our core resource is lying on the people. People on horseback. People who are the living heritage itself."
Mr Damba thinks tourism is a tool that can be used not only to generate revenue for the country but also to preserve its cultural heritage and nomadic traditions.
Eco-Tourism is the key
Sleeping in yurts is part of the nomadic experience for foreigners visiting Mongolia
In general, tourism is a relatively new industry in Mongolia. The country's visitors' bureau was established in 1954, and the first tent camp for foreign tourists opened as late as 1965. But the sector has grown considerably over the past 20 years. It currently generates five percent of Mongolia’s GDP. Last year, some 460,000 foreigners visited Mongolia, spending some 220 million dollars during their stay.
Bernhard Wulff, the cultural ambassador of Mongolia, says the country attracts a particular type of tourists. "Visitors to Mongolia are usually well-educated people. They are interested in authentic culture," he says. "They want the unadulterated original. They are also more likely to pay attention to ecological and social issues."
For more than ten years, Bernhard Wulff has been involved in an international festival that features some of the most particular aspects of authentic culture. During the annual "Roaring Hooves Festival", musicians from Mongolia meet up with their western counterparts to study throat singing and playing the so-called horse-head violin.
Art to suppport tourism
But Mongolia does not only have nomadic culture to offer. The capital Ulan Bator offers rich classical music thanks to its reputed opera house and philharmonic orchestra. There is also a vibrant group of urban filmmakers, fashion designers and artists. Some of them also came to Berlin last week.
Mongolian artist A. Chadraabal supports tourism with his art
For example, Adiyabazar Chadraabal whose large, bright paintings of bulls and horses were on display at the ITB and at a downtown gallery. He is an artist and the director of the National Modern Art Gallery. He tries to support tourism with his pictures and with art in general, adding that people who look at art can learn a lot about Mongolia's history and culture.
He says that this exchange with foreign art lovers is not only important for Mongolia’s tourism industry but for his own work.
Author: Thomas Völkner
Editor: Ziphora Robina