Mongolia seeks to grow tourism sector amid challenges

ULAANBAATAR: Most of the groups that tour guide Ariun Bold leads in Mongolia are from neighbouring China.

“The mainland may have been cooped up for a longer period of time, so after the removal of restrictions, the uncles and aunties might want to travel abroad more,” said the 26-year-old. 

Although she is Mongolian, Ms Bold, who is known as Xiao Ai to the tour groups, speaks fluent Mandarin, a language she picked up while studying in Shanghai, on a scholarship funded by the Chinese government.  

Among the itinerary for tourists is a visit to the towering 40m-high equestrian statue of Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol empire, which sits on the famous Mongolian steppe and a trip to the Gobi desert.  

She believes more are curious about Mongolia after the country became part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The global infrastructure project is meant to improve China’s connections with the rest of the world, in a 21st-century version of the Silk Road trading routes from China to the Middle East and onto Europe. 

“When people talk about the Belt and Road, they will definitely think of Mongolia or these regions in Central Asia. After all, it was indeed a very important country at that time. It was in the 13th century, and Mongolia was a trading city,” said Ms Bold.

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