Interview: Ts. Oyungerel

In what way is the government promoting development of the tourism sector?

TS. OYUNGEREL: Generally speaking, the government is aiming to encourage a combination of private and community investment. The action plan of the current administration specifies that Mongolia will aim to develop “special-interest tourism” over the next four years, specifically tours related to history, Buddhism, wildlife and bird watching, dinosaurs, sports and adventure, and nomadic lifestyle. We are working to identify the preferred investment locations for each of these interest areas, and we expect the cabinet to approve such a direction before the end of the first quarter of 2013. In the meantime, the Ministry of Economic Development will be announcing national investment priorities that include the tourism sector. The significant potential in boosting tourism will ultimately promote a more diversified economy.

How can connectivity for international tourist arrivals be improved in the medium to long run?

OYUNGEREL: The Ministry of Roads and Transportation is working hard to improve infrastructure for international tourist arrivals. Even though the national airline carrier, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, does not currently make a profit from its long-haul flights to Europe, the government is still committed to these routes. Keeping our flights to Europe is expensive – sometimes burdensome – for a country like Mongolia, but we would like to continue to invest in new European tourist arrivals. In fact, we now have direct flights to Berlin and Istanbul, which has already been an improvement. Of course, we are also seeking to boost connectivity to more Asian cities as well.

What are the key markets for Mongolian tourism, and how can investors participate more fully?

OYUNGEREL: Western Europe, Japan, China and the US are currently the leading markets, although domestic tourism is also growing rapidly. In one town, Sainshand, domestic tourism has increased four-fold in four years to 45,000 visitors. We will continue to target to our existing foreign markets, as well as increase investment toward the expanding the domestic market.

Nonetheless, Mongolia first of all needs to improve its current infrastructure deficit and to provide better amenities that meet international standards. Top-end holiday destinations do exist here, but there is certainly room for improvement and expansion.

Once the government announces the special-interest tourism directions and locations, it will be easier for investors to collaborate with us, and especially with the provinces and localities themselves.

Our ministry is planning to organise a tourism policy conference here, with participation from various foreign ambassadors and international organisations. There will be many exciting new opportunities to invest in Mongolia. As I said earlier, we expect that the cabinet will discuss and approve the specific locations toward which the investment could flow to encourage special interest tourism.

To what extent can dinosaur fossils in Gobi Desert encourage a greater focus on niche tourism?

OYUNGEREL: Since the discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert by Roy Chapman Andrews some 90 years ago, the Gobi has been known to possess one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils worldwide. International expeditions take place annually to search for dinosaur fossils among the desert’s sandstone buttes and wind-blown dunes. Thanks to a century-old research by palaeontologists, we currently have a magnificent herd of giant dinosaurs that are waiting to be displayed in museums. Indeed, we are hoping to collaborate with prospective investors to develop a palaeontology museum near Ulaanbaatar and several dinosaur parks in the Gobi.

With the increasing presence of developers and miners, the Gobi Desert requires the attention of conservationists and tourists to preserve its natural heritage.