It’s time to rethink Mongolia’s image as a destination solely for rugged explorers and adventurers, with the market mix changing along with improving air access from Europe and a “modernising” of the country’s visitor infrastructure.
Marking an inflection point in the destination’s evolution, a new airport – thrice the size of the existing one – is scheduled to open at end-2018, shared Gantemur Damba, president of the Mongolian Tourism Association.
“This creates huge opportunities to increase the number of international flights, especially from Europe, to Mongolia,” Damba told TTG Asia at the recent ITB Berlin.
He added that the destination could soon be getting more connections from Germany, a strategic hub between east and west Europe, with Munich-Mongolia flights slated for early 2019 and plans for Lufthansa to introduce feeder services.
Traditionally, European visitors mainly arrive in Mongolia in two ways – via the Trans Siberian rail and on one of three airlines: Mongolia Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Russia’s Aeroflot.
While many Europeans prefer the Trans Siberian route, they are part of a niche and transient segment of travellers that spend just three to five days in the country, he pointed out.
On the other hand, flights bring in longer-staying travellers with stronger luxury leanings. A typical package for European travellers spans 12 to 21 days.
With improving air access, business events and luxury segments are looking set to become a bigger part of Mongolia’s visitor mix. Moreover, visitor infrastructure is maturing, with about 15 international hotel chains – such as Shangri-La and Kempinski – already in Mongolia.
He said: “In 2016, Mongolia hosted the Asia Europe Meeting, a high-level ministerial summit of 55 countries. (Through it) we showed that Mongolia has the potential to be the next big destination for (business events) and luxury (travel).”
Damba said these developments are also setting Mongolia up as a key transit hub, with the country being well-positioned to connect Asia and Europe in an “economically efficient” way.
Meanwhile, the destination intends to vie for business events with its unique features – modern amenities without the the appearance of being a concrete jungle, remarked Damba.