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Mongolian ger for our Earth Day Mongolia blog post

Earth Day: Our Tourism Manifesto For Mongolia

As the world celebrates Earth Day, this post explores the challenges and promising opportunities that Mongolia confronts as it aims to significantly expand its tourism sector to an ambitious target of one million visitors. While tourism is a cornerstone of our livelihood, offering enriching experiences in Mongolia, we recognise the critical need for sustainable management to avoid undue pressures on Mongolia’s unique cultural heritage and fragile ecosystems.

This beautiful film footage of Mongolia by Mongolian filmmaker @coziestone will give you an idea of the diversity and sheer beauty of Mongolia’s landscapes.

 

The magnetic appeal of Mongolia’s natural beauty and rich cultural history is undeniable. However, the potential surge in tourism, if not responsibly managed, presents risks of environmental and cultural degradation.


April 22nd marks Earth Day, a global celebration that began on this date in 1970 to promote ecological awareness and encourage environmentally friendly practices. Known as the launch of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day highlights the critical importance of conservation as we confront unprecedented climate-related challenges worldwide, including in Mongolia.

For centuries, Mongolia’s traditional nomadic lifestyle has played a crucial role in sustaining the natural environment. The herders’ deep-rooted understanding of conservation practices has been essential in minimizing ecological impacts and is still pivotal in the 21st century. However, Mongolia now faces escalating challenges. The country’s rich deposits of oil and minerals have attracted intense development interest, posing significant environmental risks.

Key environmental issues include desertification exacerbated by excessive grazing, an inadequate water supply, and widespread air and water pollution. Severe weather patterns, such as increasingly frequent and extreme dzuds (harsh winters) and dust storms, not only threaten the livelihoods of local herders but also have profound effects on Mongolia’s cashmere industry and food security. These challenges underscore the urgent need for sustainable practices to protect and preserve Mongolia’s unique environment and traditional ways of life. On this Earth Day, let us renew our commitment to environmental stewardship and recognize the delicate balance required to safeguard our planet for future generations.


Mongolia’s remote mountains serve as one of the last refuges for the critically endangered snow leopard. The prospect of encountering these majestic animals in the wild has drawn wildlife enthusiasts globally. Yet, without responsible management, increased tourism could disrupt these creatures, leading to stress and displacement due to heightened human activity and noise. Moreover, this surge could exacerbate the risks of poaching and illegal wildlife trade, despite stringent conservation efforts.

Additionally, the interest in the Mongol Kazakh eagle hunters, who have historically utilised their female golden eagles for hunting, has caused the number of eagle festivals to multiply, especially during autumn. This raises questions about the role and impact of ‘heritage’ tourism and whether the increasing scale of these festivals truly honours or exploits this tradition.

At one of Mongolia's Eagle Festivals

Image by EL guest Tammy McCorkle

Another significant draw is the traditional nomadic lifestyle of Mongolia’s herders, who, as mentioned, are already contending with the repercussions of climate change. With such challenges, how can they be expected to accommodate a surge in visitor numbers?

Striking the Right Balance: Our Tourism Mongolia Manifest

The key to reconciling the goals of economic benefit from tourism with environmental and cultural conservation lies in sustainable tourism practices. That’s why, on Earth Day, we advocate for the creation of a sustainable tourism manifesto for Mongolia. Here’s what we would like to see done:

  • Implementing Visitor Caps:  Enforcing visitor limits in sensitive areas, particularly the habitats of the snow leopard and other vulnerable species, is crucial to minimising ecological disturbance. These measures should be complemented by educating tourists on the vulnerability of these environments.
  • Establishing A Visitor Etiquette Code: This would guide interactions with wildlife and cultural practices. Given the mix of visitors’ cultural backgrounds—some seek solitude while others travel in large, noisy groups—a clear code could help balance these impacts.
  • Enhancing Sanitary Education: With few public toilets available, an online training academy for guides, drivers, and tour companies could significantly improve sanitary practices. This initiative would help manage the environmental impact of increased tourism.
  • Domestic And International Awareness Campaigns: We advocate for the use of influencers and awareness campaigns to educate visitors on minimising their environmental footprint. Promoting behaviours like adhering to trails and reducing plastic use can significantly mitigate adverse effects.
  • National Volunteer Days: A designated day two or three times a year where tourism businesses of all sizes come together and collectively focus on enhancing their environment through litter clearing as well as other environmental improvement efforts. This collaborative initiative not only helps beautify and preserve natural landscapes but also fosters a sense of community and responsibility among businesses in the tourism sector. 

As Mongolia gears up to potentially welcome a million visitors, maintaining a balance between promoting tourism and safeguarding its natural and cultural heritage is imperative. Discover more about our mission to achieve this balance and how our experiences are designed to have a positive impact here. Explore the travel opportunities we offer here.

 

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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