A traveller’s insights into the challenges of urbanization in Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia’s political economy.

We are sat at Chuka’s desk while she adds up numbers on a large notebook: we are investigating options for a short tour during our second week in Mongolia, now that we have our visas for China. ‘It depends how far you want to go, the most expensive thing is the gas’ she says to us in French, but it will be difficult for her to plan a very good trip with only four days to spare, and we would spend much of it in a van. We think about the options while she turn to breastfeed her son; her apartment also serves as guest-house and office.

She has convinced us that her small family-run business is truly aiming to provide sustainable and responsible tourism options for the growing influx of travellers to Mongolia. Her agency is a member of the community-based tourism network, and is committed supporting local environmental initiatives. We learn that the government has announced that ‘tourism is now a strategic area for economic development’, yet another sign of increasing reliance upon foreign investment.

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