AKIPRESS.COM - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved $38 million in loans to develop ecotourism in Khuvsgul Lake National Park and Onon-Balj National Park to serve as models for economically inclusive development and conservation in Mongolia.
The lending marks ADB’s first project loans in Mongolia to focus on tourism and protected area management. They will benefit around 11,000 residents as well as improve local environmental conservation and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Khuvsgul Lake in Khuvsgul Lake National Park is Mongolia’s largest freshwater resource, while Onon-Balj National Park is the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan, a revered leader in Mongolia’s history.
“Tourism is the largest and fastest growing sector of the global economy, and Mongolia’s magnificent landscapes and unique heritage can capitalize on this,” said ADB Senior Environment Specialist for East Asia Mr. Mark Bezuijen. “That said, ADB’s support will help ensure that tourism growth in Mongolia benefits local residents and preserves fragile environments over the long term.”
In 2017, tourism comprised 11.4% of Mongolia’s gross domestic product (GDP), while generating $1.2 billion in revenue and providing 121,500 jobs. Developing tourism is a government priority to help diversify the economy. By 2028, tourism is forecast to provide 11.0% of GDP, $2.1 billion in revenue, and provide 149,000 jobs. International visitors alone are expected to double to 1 million.
The Sustainable Tourism Development Project will improve planning for community-based tourism that will both support visitors but also create local income generation opportunities. It will also upgrade tourism infrastructure, including tourism centers such as the Chinggis Khaan Tourism Complex and ticket booths, install toilets and other waste management facilities that will benefit both tourists and the host communities, and improve park management to safeguard wilderness areas. It will also pilot test Mongolia’s first tourism concession manuals and eco-certification programs for protected areas.
ADB’s support is aligned with Mongolia’s National Program on Tourism Development, 2016–2030, and promotes the country’s strategies and efforts to diversify the economy, improve climate-resilient infrastructure, protect the environment, and increase economic opportunities for residents in rural areas. The government has identified a range of other sites for ecotourism development. These could benefit from lessons learned under the ADB project.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.