Mongolia’s sweeping steppe and nomadic heritage attract tens of thousands of tourists from around the world each summer. Come winter, though, popular tourist spots are eerily deserted; tour operators have traditionally hibernated. But some are starting to ask: ‘are we missing an opportunity?’
Tourist season in Mongolia typically lasts from mid-May to mid-September. Most operators rely on revenue generated during these months to survive for the rest of the year. “No matter how successful you are in summer, winter is a dead season,” said Gereltuv Dashdoorov, director of operations at Nomadic Expeditions, a tour agency. “That’s the same story for most companies.”
The actual drop in tourist numbers between seasons is hard to calculate as official statistics define a tourist as anyone who enters Mongolia on a tourist visa and stays for a minimum of three days. Dashdoorov says the drop in bookings for most agencies is between 85 and 90 percent. Winter visitors are mostly passengers on the Trans-Siberian Railway on a three-day layover in Ulaanbaatar – the world’s coldest capital – between trains.
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Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar.