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  • Mongolian tourism sector seems like a homeless person

    We have invited to interview Mr B.Barsbold who is a member of the Board of Directors of Mongolian Tourism Association, and the Director of “Discover Mongolia Travel” Co.Ltd. He talked about current circumstances and future perspectives of Mongolian tourism sector.

    Summer is coming soon. How are you planning to attract foreign tourists and to improve the services? What are the highlights of the current circumstances of Mongolian tourism sector?
    -Last year, 404 thousand tourists came to Mongolia. This year the number of tourists is not increasing, but tourism sector services will be improved compared to last year. On th 13th April 2017, we organized our first meeting in the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where we discussed Mongolian tourism sector development prospects and future guidance to follow.

    Astounding 60.7% of tourists are interested in learning about the lifestyle of native habitants, 42.2% are interested in nomadic lifestyle and culture, 12.1% are willing to experience great adventures in Mongolia, particularly horse riding and, cycling, and 11.3% of the incoming tourists want to know more about Mongolian history. We have many opportunities to develop our tourism sector, but we are not making major changes in the structure in order to increase  tourism. In 2007, 453 thousand tourists came to Mongolia, but now we are receiving only 404 thousand tourists that is a 12% reduction. In other words, we are stuck at where we were 12 years ago.

    According to a survey, the number of tourists worldwide is increasing by 4% every year. Telecommunication and information technology sectors are increasing rapidly. Yet, the number of tourists coming to Mongolia is not increasing. Why is that? As one of the tourism sector representatives, what do you see as the main reasons for the decreasing number of tourists in Mongolia?
    -In my opinion there is  several reasons to the  decreasing number of tourists. Firstly, we do not have clear policy and directions on foreign advertising and marketing that we need. Meanwhile, developing countries in our region like the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, and Myanmar have a 7-10% annual increasing number of tourists. Although we have many different kinds of tourism resources, we do not use them effectively in order to introduce the country, and raise awareness among the tourists. In brief, Mongolian tourism sector seems like a homeless person. Our government has already announced that tourism sector is one of the key sectors of Mongolia. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Nature, Environment, and Tourism, and the Ulaanbaatar City Tourism Office, as well as private entities have taken small actions to introduce and promote the country. However, these private and government organizations do not have unified communication, thus cannot define the markets to target. Also, we do not have any proper long-term strategies to develop internal tourism sector. We are facing issues related to internal and external marketing policy.

    -Many tourism companies are actively operating. However no one has given such clear remarks. What actions needed to be taken to address the current challenges of the tourism sector?
    -I did not mean that we have not anything. Mongolian Tourism Association has formed eight working groups to define the biggest challenges we are facing, and already made recommendations and offered solutions to address such challenges and issues. One of the solutions to improve foreign marketing and advertising. First of all, we have to create a profesional tourism marketing agency. For example, when MIAT - Mongolian airlines established a new route to Singapore a couple of years ago, our tourism sector national marketing policy was not efficient enough to attract sufficient number of Singaporean tourists. Mongolia has lost many similar chances to attract foreign tourists. Therefore, we have to develop effective tourism products and service system.

    -How can we finance the establishment of such a professional tourism marketing and advertising agency?

    "We have to spend more money to marketing and advertising because it will bring more valuable tourists to the country. Mongolia earns 312 million USD from tourism sector every year."

    We have to spend more money to marketing and advertising because it will bring more valuable tourists to the country. Mongolia earns 312 million USD from tourism sector every year. We have discussed that if we can spend 5 USD to every tourist in a way of advertising and marketing, and if the number of tourists increases 10 percent, our budget revenue will increase by 50 million USD every year. Our domestic companies spend approximately 100 million tugriks each when they join international exhibitions and festivals. Yet, the whole year advertising and marketing budget can be like that 100 million tugriks.

    -You mentioned increasing valuable tourists. What does that mean? Does that mean we should restrict backpacker?
    Private and independent backpackers are everywhere. Our tourism season is too short that we need to attract valuable tourists. 40 percent of tourists are spending 140 USD a day to stay in guesthouse or other tourism service providers. The remaining 60 percent of tourists are backpackers. They spend only 70 USD a day. According to the tourism regulations, tour agencies should be in charge of tourists coming to Mongolia. Lately, foreign tour company representatives have taken care of all these tourists and, then took all of their revenues out of the country. However, domestic companies serve the tourists from the beginning till the end. Backpackers tend to receive the worst quality ser and products. Then, after they return home from Mongolia, they complain about the their trips. Tourism sector is a very responsibilized sector as compared to other service sectors.
    Additionally, citizens from 42 countries can travel to Mongolia without VISA which is an essential way of attracting tourists. But, it is a big opportunity for backpackers, too. Thus, such Visa policy is not increasing valuable tourists. Most countries have detailed policies on seasonal tourism, by the way.

    -India uses a slogan “Incredible India”, is there any slogan to express our homeland? Some tourists are unsatisfied that Mongolia majorly showcases only nomadic view and culture. Is there any chance to introduce our country as a mixture of traditional nomadism and modern urbanism?
    -We have used many different kinds of slogans like “Visit Mongolia”, “Discover Mongolia” and “Majestic Mongolia”. Latest slogan is Mongolia: Nomadic by Nature, created by CNN’s professional marketing team. We have to introduce our country as a mixture of urban and nomadic culture. We have great chances to advertise our beautiful country. Only problem is to introduce unified promotion and advertisement of our country. It can not be done by an independent person or an organization. That’s why we need a professional marketing agency in tourism sector to solve this problem.

    Thank you for the interview

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