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Velká očekávání: co si turisti skutečně myslí o Mongolsku ?

Velké očekávání: co si turisti skutečně myslí o Mongolsku ? - obrázek

Velké očekávání: co si turisti skutečně myslí o Mongolsku ? - obrázek

Walking down Peace Avenue no longer makes me feel like I am on display. I have been in Mongolia long enough to have become used to being very obviously "alien", or at least so I thought. Now the early season tourists have started to appear, I am once again reminded that here, even in Ulaanbaatar, it is very ethnically homogeneous, compared to say, London, where in a single shop you are likely to see ten or more different ethnicities mingling together. Tourists in Mongolia stand out, there is no denying it, but what are these tourists actually thinking about Mongolia? More...

Now that the tourist season is beginning again the first impressions that people get of Mongolia are very important. The tourism industry in Mongolia has grown in the past decade and initiatives such as "Discover Mongolia" in 2004 have helped the industry to grow and increase foreign visitors by up to 20%. Tourist attractions such as the Sky Resort and the Chingis Khan Statue, and the advertising of events such as the Ice Festival, Thousand Camel Festival and Nadaam may certainly have had an impact. In 2010, according to the World Bank, the number of tourists was 456,000, up from 446,000 in 2008.

With tourism making up to 4% of Mongolia's total GDP, it is important to know what tourists actually expect when they come to Mongolia, and if their expectations are met. This year is the 850th anniversary of Chingis Khan and many tourists will be attracted to the country to view historical sites and learn about the history and culture of what is still considered to be a very unique and still untouched country. But what do tourists actually think? I spoke with a few early season tourists to find out.

Most people come by plane or train, a few by jeep and even fewer by bicycle. But usually their first sight of Mongolia is the sprawling city of Ulaanbaatar. The city may not be the best representation of Mongolia as a whole, but because it is the first part of Mongolia that many see, those all important first opinions are made here. One tourist was expecting to see a large city when she arrived but was still surprised at the modernity of Ulaanbaatar. She commented on the airport, on the number of cars, on the skyscrapers and the Louis Vuitton shop in Central Tower. Another person spoke of how they had expected Ulaanbaatar to be a small city, with a rural feel, horses roaming the streets and people still wearing their traditional clothing standing on street corners.

Others commented on what they expected from Mongolian people. The general expectation was that the people were friendly and generous, and some I spoke to said that they had found Mongolians to be "fantastic". Whereas some disagreed and said it was difficult to approach Mongolian people to ask for directions or help because they looked so severe and disapproving. I was met on the whole with amazement at the generosity of families in the countryside, and a real admiration for nomadic culture and traditions. Even if the expected unappealing boiled mutton did not quite agree with those who I spoke with, they were impressed none the less with the hospitality that they had received.

Poverty was another issue that was brought up. Tourists coming to Mongolia expect to see a lot of poverty in the city. Street children, beggars and bedraggled families. Instead they find themselves faced with 4x4's, designer clothes and I-phones. Poverty certainly does exist in Mongolia, but for tourists, who are here just briefly in the most forgiving season of the year, it is hard to see. Although, a few tourists were shocked at the levels of alcoholism that are evident across Ulaanbaatar. Outside the central post office an old man was huddled over his bottle of vodka. I was asked if it was normal for a middle aged man to be drinking hard liquor at eight in the morning. Except for this, most said they felt Ulaanbaatar was a relatively safe city, and beyond the odd pickpocket, they didn't feel threatened.

The most popular topic however was the traffic. Alison Winkfield, a tourist from the UK said "I sat in the front seat coming to the guesthouse, which was a bit of an eye opener. Have you ever been to third world countries before? You don't expect the driving to be perfect. But I was quite surprised about the people crossing the roads who managed to get between the cars while the traffic was still moving." The sheer number of vehicles and the hair raising driving, especially that first trek from airport to city, is quite an introduction to the open and expansive 'land of blue skies'.

There was a hint of disappointment in some of the statements, a wistfulness for the days gone by. Certainly it would be nice if Mongolian horsemen still rode down Peace Avenue squinting and shading their eyes from the glare caused by Blue Sky Tower. But this is not the Mongolia of today, and Ulaanbaatar needs to advertise itself as a modern city, to prepare tourists for the busy streets and lively nightlife. The countryside is why most tourists visit Mongolia; they cannot wait to leave the capital before even exploring its unique atmosphere and appeal. I think this is a shame; the Mongolian government and the tourist industry is missing a trick.

Source: UB Post


08.04.2013 14:35:46
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