Mongolia’s tourism sector is aiming high in the upcoming year, and with good reason. In November, the Lonely Planet nominated Mongolia as one of the top 10 destinations to visit in 2024.
The country’s nomadic history and culture will serve as an important element for expanding the country’s “third neighbor” policy and economic goals in 2024. The current administration is expanding bilateral ties with third neighbor countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Turkey, and the United States to boost tourism and make Mongolia more accessible to world travelers.
The “Welcome to Mongolia” campaign was launched in 2023 during Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai’s state visit to South Korea. The tourism campaign not only highlights Mongolia’s third neighbor connections but also envisages opportunities for new commercial airline routes and the streamlining of visa systems.
In the effort to diversify Mongolia’s economy, Ulaanbaatar’s third neighbors have made significant leaps in bilateral commercial ties.
In August, Mongolia and the United States signed an Open Skies Agreement in the hopes of “facilitating greater air connectivity between the United States and Mongolia and will provide the legal framework for nonstop passenger flights.” Mongolia also purchased its first Boeing 787 aircraft.
Ulaanbaatar has signed similar agreements with national airline carriers and aviation regulators in Turkey, Vietnam, and Singapore. The Mongolia-Singapore agreement is particularly important for Mongolia to exercise the “fifth freedom of the air”: traffic rights for flights ultimately bound for a third country. Mongolia can thus use Singapore as a transit hub to connect to the Asia-Pacific markets, Europe, and the Americas.
Another key part of Mongolia’s strategy to boost tourism is securing visa-free access for foreign nationals. As of 2023, Mongolia had signed visa-free deals with 34 countries.
Mongolia is also promoting Mongolian culture abroad in the hopes of fomenting interest in the country as a tourist destination. The cultural activities that took place in Paris and London this year can be viewed as groundwork for attracting European tourism to Mongolia in the upcoming years.
The Ministry of Culture of Mongolia has been proactive in exhibiting the country’s culture to the world, even while aiming to recall cultural artifacts.
During the International Cultural Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in November, Minister of Culture Nomin Chinbat launched a call to action, urging other countries to return Mongolian historical cultural artifacts scattered around the world. Other countries may be reluctant to return these items; however, the ministry aims to negotiate to use those artifacts as part of greater exhibits and displays.
For example, the British Museum currently stores 122 Mongolian artifacts from the Ill-Khanid dynasty. Displays of those artifacts present an opportunity to highlight Mongolia to new audiences across the globe and increase the cultural visibility of Mongolian nomadic heritage.
Mongolia’s work has already led to some treasures being brought back to the country, including the return of Mongolian dinosaur fossils from the United States. The French government has agreed to work closely with their Mongolian counterparts to combat illicit trafficking of artifacts.
Another connection between culture and commerce is clear in Mongolia’s creative industries. The government has held talks with Hollywood executives and is offering appealing tax incentives for production companies to film and invest in Mongolia, while also putting the country’s impressive landscapes on screens across the world and hopefully driving further interest and tourism to the country.
This year, Mongolia also held the first Nas Summit, which connected young Mongolians to key social media influencers and content generators with a combined social media following of over 400 million. The influencers from around the world were brought under one roof in Ulaanbaatar to share ideas and discuss the latest technological trends. Events like the Nas Summit raise the visibility of Mongolia’s younger generation in the digital age.
As Mongolia strives to diversify its economy, creativity and newer initiatives are required to bolster the country’s tourism sector. The International Monetary Fund’s October 2023 figures projected that Mongolia’s GDP will expand by another 4.5 percent in 2024. Tourism is hoped to play an increasingly important role in the economy.
“I look forward to 2024 being another year where we see a strengthening of cultural ties between Mongolia and the rest of the world,” Nomin Chinbat, the minister of culture, told The Diplomat. “That is why promoting Mongolia’s culture overseas has been a key part of my work this year.
“Culture and the creative industries are not only a key part of Mongolia’s growth strategy at home but at the heart of our ‘third neighbor’ policy, which builds and strengthens friendships old and new.”
In 2024, Mongolia anticipates building on this success. The government will continue to use cultural diplomacy to amplify its voice on the global stage and strengthen its international partnerships, while attracting tourists from around the world.