Nature Positive Travel Mongolia

Mongolia’s rich biodiversity and unique landscapes are a major draw for travelers, but this biodiversity is in crisis, as it is worldwide. Nature is our life support system, essential for our survival, and depends on a healthy, functioning biosphere. However, human activities, such as our demand for food and energy and over-exploitation of land, are “destroying, degrading, and fragmenting nature at an unprecedented rate” (Global Goal for Nature Group, 2020).

The biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis are inextricably linked, which is why, alongside the UN Climate Convention’s “net zero” emissions goal, governments have committed to a new global goal for biodiversity: being nature-positive by 2030. This involves taking urgent action to halt nature loss. Political leaders, including the President of Mongolia, made a formal commitment at the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in September 2020 to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. This mission is global and measurable, akin to the net zero goal for carbon emissions. The “30 by 30” target aims to protect 30% of land, inland waters, and oceans, while recognizing the rights and leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities to achieve this goal.

Solutions must operate at all levels: government, industry, and individuals. As a small company, we are taking action by being a signatory of  the Glasgow Declaration, committing to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. We are also a member of the Get Nature Positive movement, which helps us prepare for specific goals and metrics, such as the upcoming Science-based Targets for Nature. This commitment involves understanding and reducing harm while working towards restoring nature—a big shout-out for nature.

    

Mongolia's Living Landscapes

Mongolia is located at the crossroads of the Central Asian steppes, the Siberian taiga (forest region), and the Gobi Desert. It hosts a range of globally significant biodiversity within its boundaries.

Monk Vulture Mongolia

Currently, 20% of the country is under special protection (see below), with a targeted increase of 30%. The global importance of Mongolia’s ecosystems is also recognised through its five UNESCO World Heritage Sites (with two designated as natural sites),  two World Wildlife Fund Global 200 Ecoregions, eleven Ramsar Sites (Wetlands of International Importance), seven Biosphere Reserves, and seventy Important Bird Areas (IBAs – designated by Birdlife International).

PROTECTED AREAS IN MONGOLIA

In May 2019, the Mongolian Parliament approved proposals to designate 22 new National Protected Areas covering 8.4 million acres (3.4 million hectares). Mongolia is the world’s 19th largest country and it means that 20% of its epic landmass is under national protection with newly protected areas off-limits to mining development, excavation, timber harvesting and other activities that may negatively impact ecosystem health. However, the Mongolian Parliament have set a goal of ’30 by 30,’ meaning they have pledged to protect 30 percent of the country by 2030.

PROTECTED AREAS IN MONGOLIA 2008

A comparison of protected areas before 2008 and in 2020. Maps from The Nature Conservancy

Nature Conservancy Protected Area Map Of Mongolia 2008

PROTECTED AREAS IN MONGOLIA 2020

A comparison of protected areas before 2008 and in 2020. Maps from The Nature Conservancy

Nature Conservancy Protected Area Map Of Mongolia 2020

Nature Positive Travel

Every sector of the tourism industry impacts nature, whether through light or noise pollution, solid waste disposal, food consumption, infrastructure development, or plastic use. Nature conservation cannot be limited to wildlife or ecotourism trips; it must be a priority for every tourism business in every sector. As the industry relies on people traveling, we have a responsibility to protect and care for the world we explore and inhabit. By traveling better—supporting conservation efforts and reducing carbon emissions—we in the tourism industry can all contribute positively to the environment.

Heroes Of Nature Eco Club Logo

Although Mongolia is famous for its open spaces, 50% of its population lives in Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia’s crowded capital city.In a recent (March 2022) survey carried out by the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), 33% of Ulaanbaatar’s population are aged 17 or younger and these statistics are our motivation in setting up, in partnership with Association Goviin Khulan, a free nature club for Mongolian kids designed especially for kids based in an urban setting. (The DTM survey also highlighted that a percentage of kids in Ulaanbaatar struggle to access clubs as well as a lack of green spaces.) You can find out more here – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/introducing-our-heroes-of-nature-eco-club/

Helping to fund conservation

Nature-positive tourism is about connecting people within communities that can safeguard nature. We work in long-term local community partnership with Association Goviin Khulan, a grassroots NGO in Mongolia dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Khulan (wild ass) and its natural habitat. This multidisciplinary and innovative approach considers the needs, challenges, and culture of the local area, directly involving the local population in research activities for long-term success.

By traveling with us, you help fund conservation and invest in local communities, which is a critical part of nature-positive tourism. Long-term conservation success depends on local people benefiting from these efforts, making this a crucial consideration for sustainable tourism.

Making every trip count

Although we’re contributing to the global carbon emissions in the fact that we promote tourism to Mongolia – one of the most remote countries in the world – nature positive tourism allows travellers to travel better in a way that helps to reduce carbon emissions. Its about making a holiday count and that’s why we’re removing unnecessary internal flights and why we have a foodprint plan. It’s also why we’ve introduced homestay experiences which offer more meaningful engagement and which our guests can access on public transport. It’s also why we’ve introduced our ‘Wild Track’ experiences in which we’re offering longer travel experiences that focus on slow travel. And of course, all of the members of our team are local to Mongolia, and we work in long-term local community partnerships with herding families throughout the country meaning each experience we offer creates economic benefits and employment opportunities.

 

Our Tourism Manifesto For Mongolia

The magnetic appeal of Mongolia’s natural beauty and rich cultural history is undeniable. However, as Mongolia prepares to potentially welcome a million visitors, maintaining a balance between promoting tourism and safeguarding its natural and cultural heritage is imperative. If not responsibly managed, the potential surge in tourism presents risks of environmental and cultural degradation.

The key to reconciling the goals of economic benefit from tourism with environmental and cultural conservation lies in sustainable tourism practices. This is why we advocate for the creation of a sustainable tourism manifesto for Mongolia. Here’s what we envision for both domestic and international tourism in Mongolia:

  • 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 the scarcity of public toilets, an online training academy for guides, drivers, and tour companies could significantly improve sanitary practices. Additionally, an education campaign aimed at domestic tourists on the importance of properly disposing of waste would help manage the environmental impact of increased domestic tourism. This initiative could also benefit Mongolia’s ger camps and tourism hotels by encouraging them to make simple yet impactful changes. These changes include installing dual-flush toilets and adopting an ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ philosophy.
  • Domestic And International Awareness Campaigns: We advocate for the use of influencers and targeted awareness campaigns to educate visitors on minimising their environmental footprint while traveling in Mongolia. Promoting responsible behaviours such as sticking to designated trails and reducing the use of single use plastics—especially important in Mongolia where recycling facilities are limited, 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. 

Tour companies frequently sell Mongolia as being a pristine untouched wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s not. But, with Mongolia’s scenic beauty and wilderness experience being key points behind why people visit Mongolia, preservation of these values is a prerequisite for responsible travel here in Mongolia. Much of Mongolia’s tourism sector, in fact, depends in the long term on the preservation of the country’s cultural and physical landscapes. 

Since 2014, Turuu and I have arranged for members of the Tariat community to spend two days clearing the north shore (and surrounding area including the Khorg volcano) of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park located within the central Khangai Mountains.

Eternal Landscapes national park clean up 2023

We believe that our annual community national park clean-up plays a pivotal role in helping to foster sustainable tourism in the area local to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur. By actively engaging local residents in the preservation of their surroundings we create a sense of shared responsibility for the environment. This not only enhances the aesthetics of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur but also helps maintain the ecological balance. Moreover, these initiatives promote a deeper connection as they emphasize the importance of respecting and protecting the natural beauty of the area.

So is our annual clean-up a success? Yes, we consider it so. Yes, we still fill a 15-ton truck but this still represents success!  We’re proud that the local community is taking charge and working on improving the environmental impact of visitors to the area. Small steps but all in the right direction we hope.

We Would Love To Hear From You!

WhatsApp: +44 (0) 7810280403     Mail: jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk


If you’re in Ulaanbaatar why not pop in to our office. We love receiving guests.
The kettle is always on.

Just call Tuya to arrange +976 88011476.
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