Mongolia Looks at Boosting its Presence in Southeast Asia

Mongolia, Thailand, outbound travel

Saranjav Bayasgalan, Director General of Tourism and Namsrai Tserenbat, Minister for Environment and Tourism

Wilderness and vast untouched landscapes, snow and a unique mode of living, this is how Mongolia wants to attract travellers from Southeast Asia and particularly Thais as Bangkok is the only city in ASEAN to benefit from a regular –although seasonal– air connection to Ulan Bataar, Mongolia’s capital.

For a long time, Mongolia remained like a white spot on the tourism map. But it has radically changed over the last decade. In 2000, the country registered only 137,000 international arrivals. A decade later, Mongolia already accommodated over 450,000 foreign visitors. And last year, it reached a new record with 638,000 foreign travellers, up by 6.4% over 2018. “We target a million tourists for 2020 but it is more like a task rather than a number to achieve. If we pass the 700,000 tourists’ mark, it would be a very good result, especially as we might be affected as well by the current virus epidemic from China,” explained Namsrai Tserenbat, Minister for Environment and Tourism at a press conference hosted in Bangkok.

Mongolia tourism still faces hurdles. Such as transport links that the Minister deems as insufficient due to the landlocked situation of the country. “They have been some improvements and we work hard to get more air connections. We would love to have the Bangkok-Ulan Bataar turning into a year-round flight. We are currently linked from the end of October to the end of March with two flights a week by our national carrier MIAT. We also need to find ways to lower the cost of domestic transportation,” said Namsrai Tserenbat. Flights are also available from Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tianjin in Asia.

Thailand is so far the largest market in Southeast Asia. “We receive some 6,000 tourists from Thailand. It is a far outcry from our two largest Asian markets, China with 209,000 travellers and South Korea with 103,000 travellers. However, we feel encouraged as the market progresses regularly. We also recorded last year good growth from Vietnam and Malaysia,” added the Minister. Over 61% of all international arrivals came last year from Asia and the Pacific.

To boost arrivals, authorities are working to the expansion of the new website Mongolia.travel, which was launched at ITB Berlin last year. The Ministry was inspired by the website set up for the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office with its hashtag campaign #Mekongmoments. They consequently worked with the same company, Chameleons Strategies.

“Images were the core of the project as most visitors to Mongolia are first-time traveller. Mongolia.travel is divided into regions and themes but also let local trade to advertise their product on it,” told Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of the MTCO who introduced Chameleon Strategies to the Minister. Mongolia.Travel will come as a mobile phone app. this coming March and that will be again unveiled at ITB Berlin.

A campaign has been launched under #FeelMongolia. When travellers to the country tag their picture with #FeelMongolia on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, they not only give others a glimpse into Mongolia’s wild beauty but they also enter a contest to win a trip back to one of the world’s most mysterious countries. ” Pictures speak more than anything else to describe Mongolia, a country of undescriptive beauty,” stressed Thraenhart.

Themes that the Ministry would like to emphasize in Asia are the vast unpopulated landscapes –tundra, lakes or mountains, the nomadic way of life of locals as well as culture and religion. “Snow is also important for our promotion in Southeast Asia as we can guarantee pristine snowy landscapes in winter,” added Namsrai Tserenbat.