Every winter for the past 15 years, adventurous Mongolians and foreign visitors have braved sub-zero temperatures to enjoy an ice festival. The two-day celebration in Mongolia’s far north, initiated by tourist companies based in the capital Ulaanbaatar, strives to boost tourism around Lake Khovsgol and raise awareness about the area’s fragile environment.
“The main idea was to promote winter tourism in the area and to provide an opportunity to locals to earn extra income during the low season,” says Enkhbaatar Byambadorj, the Manager of Active Adventures, the tourist outfit that organizes the festival. Though he admits the company has yet to turn a profit on the event, Byambadorj believes the firm’s investment will eventually pay off by encouraging local people to think of innovative ways to attract tourists and preserve the area, rather than opt for potentially destructive alternatives, such as illegal mining or logging. Several conservation groups set up information booths at the festival, distribution material that highlighted their work and publicized the region’s biodiversity.
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Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar.