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  Main arrow Baikal Mongolia-Asia arrow International Baikal-Mongolia Asia Park of Eco-tourism Project  
 
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1. ABOUT THE PROJECT AND ITS TERRITORY

 

The project is to create  “Baikal-Mongolia”  International Park of Eco-Tourism” (IPE) by means of unification of a part of Tukinskiy National Park in Russia, Khuvsgal National Park in Mongolia and the Okinskiy region of Buryatia. The geographic center will be Khuvsugal Lake in Mongolia.  Also of great interest for the project is feasibility of inclusion of eastern parts of Tuva Republic, Russia,. into the IPE. 
The area to be covered by the IPE is one of great geographical diversity including most peculiar types of landscapes of Southern Siberia and Darhad-Khuvsgul Depression  which is home to many rare  wild animals - red wolf, sable, snow leopard, mountain goose as well as habitat to animals  common here -  musk-deer, reindeer, otters,  lynxes, gluttons brown bear, wild bore, moose, elk, wolverine etc.  The nature resources for recreational use will include such well-known areas of the Khangai and Sayan’s Mountain Ranges with its peak of Munku-Saridag Mt., Lake Ilchir with the Chornyi Irkut river flowing out from it, the valleys formed by rivers that flow into Lake Khuvsgul, a great number of smaller lakes of the Darhad  Depression that are of great importance for the ornithological tourism development,  and other  areas.
Tourist resources of the territory to be covered by  the IPE  also include a large amount of horse livestock in Khuvsgul aimag available for horseback riding trips, opportunities for speleological tourism, rafting and kayaking, mountain biking and fishing which may become another  eco-travel activities in the region.
Of great significance for the IPE and tourism development, in general, will be the opening of the Mondy-Khankh check-point for citizens of third countries other than only for Russian and Mongolian nationals which would make it possible to develop the Baikal-Khuvsgul  transborder corridor to attract a great number of  tourists. By settling the borderline problem between satellite lakes of Baikal and Khuvsgul which are in fact a single natural complex divided by the state borderline would make a serious step toward the formation of a united tourist and economic space in the IPE territory, make it possible throughout one trip to visit  the 2 Great Lakes of Asia, highlighting such unique tour products  as  boating trips  down the river of Shishigt-gol ( Mongolia) and further to  the Yenisey ( Russia),  make the territory covered by the IPE  one-of-a-kind world class eco-travel destination. 

 

Goals for IPE Establishment

 

The major goal of the project is to develop the region as an ecotourism area that would become in prospect a world-famous ecotourism destination and involve people from local communities of these three geographic regions into recreation activities. 
Another goal is to pool efforts in fighting forest fires, protecting rare animals and raising life standards in local communities through making people involved in tourist businesses. 
Establishment of IPE would be first real step in wildlife conservation in this part of Baikal-Mongolia Asia, a real assistance in establishing Khuvsgul National Park in Mongolia and sufficient measure to revive economic activities in northern part of Mongolia which has been isolated due to the lack of roads.  This is also of an interest to Mongolia to promote tourist resources of Tukinskiy National Park and prospected national park in Okinskiy region by organizing an interconnected system of tourist trails.
Additional investments can be found by drawing financial institutions and large enterprises in the joint venture. 
The other important task for IPE is to discourage industrial development and nature resources mining on shores of Lake Khuvsgul (this particularly concerns phosphorite mining), to prevent the construction of hydropower electric station on the Eggiyn-gol river (which may lead to change of water supply for the lake and have a negative impact on bio-diversity) and to conserve the traditional life style of local people (which is one of the major ecotourism attractions in the IPE region).  IPE establishment is crucial because of an inevitable increase of Russian tourists who often lack ecological education and responsibility.
Organizational aspects, economic activity, co-operation with National Parks
IPE establishment may be organized through joint ventures involving tourist companies, nature preservation and conservation organizations, industrial enterprises and municipal authorities. 
IPE board of directors would make contracts (of land lease  or franchise) with National Park and other landowners to construct camping lodges or any other real estate on National Parks’ territory included into the  International Park of Ecotourism.
IPE jointly  with National Parks and local municipal authorities would conduct its own economic activity required for proper International Park of Ecotourism functioning.  This kind of activity includes development of new tourist trails, equipping places for overnight, marking up the trails, producing ecologically sound  foods, gifts and souvenirs, providing eco-transportation services, etc. actively involving the local communities in this hospitality and tourism industry which would certainly raise their life standards and  drastically reduce poaching.
A share of the incomes generated by tourist industry should be withdrawn for bio-diversity conservation.  These measures should include setting up nursery forests, hiring ecological inspectors in addition to Parks’ rangers staff .  IPE together with National Parks would develop other measures to assist nature conservation in the territory to be covered by the  IPE .

 

Prerequisites for IPE establishment 

  
1.
 Already established and functioning Russian and Mongolian National Parks bordering  on each other and availability of a  wide range of recreation resources for educational and active forms of eco-travel (including adventure and active outdoors tourism).
2. Border admission and check-points  in Khakh-Mondy available in this part of Russia-Mongolia boarder ( so far used only for Russian and Mongol nationals., 
3.  Availability of highways and roads  connecting  the territory  covered by IPE project with the industrially developed Irkutsk region and Irkutsk (300 km) where an international airport and Trans-Siberian railroad stations are situated.
4. An experienced Search and Rescue Service, firefighting aircrafts and highly-qualified tourism instructors that are available in Irkutsk at recently constructed new Baikal Emergency & Rescue  Center.  
5. Considerably developed tour operations market in Irkutsk region will provide sufficient  number of visitors for the south of IPE in summer and partially in winter (due to the ice-fishing and other active winter outdoor trips popularity).
6. A sound horse livestock availability in Khuvsgul aimag and Tukinskiy region of Buryatia for horseback riding trips which are the most environmentally safe kind of transportation.
7. Lake Baikal,  famous World Heritage Site , which is situated 200 km away from the  IPE territory.
8. A large amount of Mongolian yurts that is available to accommodate tourist in summer months.
9. Passenger boats are currently available at Lake Khuvgul which would connect south and north shores making the shortest possible route across the lake.

 

Economic feasibility of the EPI

 

A number of  visitors at Khuvsgul ( Khatgal in the southernmost part of  lake Khuvsgul) presently varies from 4  to 5 thousand people annually with 5-day average length of stay.  This generates USD 500 thousand turnover with USD 20 average budget per one tour day.  The number of visitors to the area  would significantly be increased if  Khankh-Mondy border point is open for tourists from foreign counties other then Mongolia and Russia as this would make Ulaanbaator-Khuvsgul-Baikal-Irkutsk direct route available for these visitors (at the moment tourists from other counties are supposed to return to Ulaanbaator after having visited Lake Khuvsgul to get further to Irkutsk).
Tourist surveys done in Mongolia indicate that at lease one out of three tourists visiting Khuvsgul is willing to continue the  trip further to Lake Baikal and then leave for home from Irkutsk.  If the direct route from Ulaanbator to Baikal via Khuvsgul is opened a number of visitors according to Russian and Mongolian tour operators would increase at lease twice.  Thus, tourists from third counties willing to arrive in the covered by IPE area would amount to 12 thousand people annually making USD 1 500 thousand turnover with USD 25 as average tour daily budget. 
It is also important to consider Russian tourist market prospects.  Number of Russians visiting IPE territory may rise to 2 thousand people annually that would result USD 350 thousand turnover with USD 25 cost of tour day and 7-day average length of stay.
So called retreat lodges may become a basic model for tourism development in the  IPE area.  These would be basic points to combine environmental and tourist hosting activities and  provide more opportunities for tourism business under  strict environmental control.
Gers ( Mongol round shaped felt yurts) are deemed as the most perspective environmentally sound type of  accommodation. They are as mobile and environmentally safe as tents but at the same time they are much more comfortable for summer and winter lodging.  Therefore a network of retreat lodges may include all season buildings as well as yurts to accommodate both summer tourist flow and possible winter ones located along the tourist trails to be established in the IPE.
Below  we provide preliminary economic efficiency calculations for tourist  trails with yurt lodging construction .
During the first year one trail with 5 lodges having 5 yurts each to accommodate 4 persons in each yurt ( including one yurt for personnel) will make up  16 beds at each lodge. We consider an average rate of occupancy to be 0.8 (which is 12 beds).  This meets the average number pf tour participants in one group ( 10-12 people)  in eco-tourism prcartices.  Thus, one trail makes 60 beds each day and would generate USD 900 per diem revenue with USD 15 per night rate.  This would amount for USD 54 thousands during summer season (approximately 60 days).
Located at the distance of 15-20 km from each other these 5 lodges enable visitors cover up to 100 km hiking or on horseback getting  acquainted with most of the nature reserve beauties and nature attractions.
Annual cost of running IPE (considering seasonal character of this region tourism) would account for USD 50-60 thousand in 5 years after the project launch. Some share of this amount would be paid by municipals’ budget financing (assigned for National Parks needs).  The rest expenses would be covered from revenues generated by selling of tour services.
Further opportunities for winter recreation, for instance, construction of a permanent retreat lodges, etc. can also be estimated. 

 

Project Support   

    

Ex-President of Mongolia P. Otchirbat, Khovsgul aimag governor Mr. Damdinsuren, “Khuvsgul Travel” holding company and a number of other Mongolia tourist companies, Agency for International Cooperation “Dialogue”, Siberian Tourism Association, Adventure Travel Society (USA), Russian International Academy for Tourism and other government and public organizations supported the project.

 

Author of the Project


Mr. Vladimir Berezhnikh,  editor in chief for the “Open World” Magazine, initiated this project.  He holds a degree in economics and had been working in International Youth Tourism Bureau “Sputnik” for 8 yeas, then  he was vice-director for tourism and international relations of Baikal Maritime National Park.  Mr. Berezhnykh participated in World Ecotourism Congress (Australia, 1994, Chili, 1996). He is a member of FIJET and a member of Adventure Travel Trade Association (USA).
Vladimir Berezhnykh is presently a vice-head of Tourism Department at Irkutsk region government.
        
Project Management Team is being currently formed.

 

Preliminary Stage Activities that are suggested:

- Investigation and description of the prospect International Park of Ecotourism territory,
- Promotion of the project, negotiations with local communities and administrative bodies,
- Development of project management scheme,
- Preparing document package,
- Setting-up environment body to monitor impact of International Park of Ecotourism on ecology and wildlife,
- Business planning.

 

Further Project Ideas


An experience of International Park of Ecotourism establishment on condominium or consortium basis can be implemented when conserving and utilizing Zun-Toreiskiy lakes (Chita region and Mongolia), Buin-Nur Lake (Mongolia, China), Khanka lake (Russia, China).  This kind of condominium may solve not only environmental problems but also a problem of joint economic activities at disputed front line territories.         
 
Project Summary


This project makes an attempt to create a nature preservation area that would help conservation of a unique natural and ethnographical complex emerged on this isolated territory.  This is one-of-a-kind territory where shamanism dominates and did not give place to Lamaism and where local people still raise yaks, reindeer, and horse that is the major means of transportation.      
Until now there was no modern road to Okinskiy region of Buryatia and the lack of it  became the reason for this territory to remain as it used to be in the past.  Mondy settlement is a dead end for Russian road.  The old road which was used to lead beef cattle from Mongolia to Russia went along Lake Khovsgul, then climbed mountain passes at the elevation of 2 thousand meters and crossed the marsh areas which make it extremely hard to drive even for off-road vehicles and trucks. Due to the lack of the roads the territory is hard to access from Tuva Republic of Russia as well.
The other reason for the isolation is that Khank-Mondy boarder point does not allow tourists from counties other than Mongolia and Russia to cross the boarder at this point which make it impossible to use direct tourist route from Ulaanbator to Irkutsk via Lake Khuvsgul.
At the moment, Russian and Mongolian parties signed an agreement which would make the boarder point available for other travelers’ categories.  The agreement will be ratified if necessary infrastructure is constructed (buildings for customs and boarder post needs).  The construction of these buildings requires USD 2-2.3 million.  Trans-Baikal Regional Detachment of Russia’s Federal Frontier Service seeks government financing but at the moment their efforts remain unsuccessful.  One of the reasons for government to refuse financing of this project is that there is currently no significant cargo transfer at this boarder point.  In fact, lack of good roads along Lake Khovsgul and bad conditions of roads in spring and fall seasons (when it is impossible to drive neither regular roads nor ice road across the lake surface) prevent the development of economic ties between west Mongolian aimags, on the one hand, and west regions of Buryatia Republic and Irkutsk region, on the other.  A ferry boat “Sukhe-Bator” connected Khatgal at the lake south and Khankh at the lake north discontinued lately and this added much to a problem.
Tourism activity may become the major incentive for economic and social recovery at this region and one of the major arguments in favor of Mondy boarder point opening.  But does it really matter to build a double-row check point at the boarder right now? It may be sufficient enough at the moment to construct temporary hanger buildings for customs to work at (as it used to be in Sredny military airport that hosted civil airplanes while Irkutsk airport repair).
While Lake Baikal shores become more affected by the so-called independent or unorganized tourist flow which may switch from Lake Baikal to Lake Khovsgul and it would be extremely hard for Khuvsgul National Park administration to cope with such a number of visitors.  At the same time the tourist inflow may be evenly distributed all over the territory of IPE. . 
While at the first stage this territory would be thoroughly investigated from the point of view of future ecotourism destination and the necessary recommendation would be made on possible tourist trails so that the visitors do not disturb or interfere with wildlife and local communities’ lifestyle.  Together with Mongolian party project management team will draw measures to prevent environmental change in International Park of Ecotourism and make it develop on sustainable basis.
It is very important to encourage visitors buy goods and services produced by local communities and International Park of Ecotourism staff and to subject visitors to penalty in case they violate environmental standards and rules.
We suppose if developed and realized the IPE  project could prevent Mongolian government from making a decision to construct hydropower electric station on the Eggiyn-gol river,  Lake Khuvsgul outlet.
France government intended to finance hydropower plant construction but the project has been postponed due to public organizations’ outcry and efforts.  At present, according to our information Malaysian government who signed an agreement for building the plant lobbies further development of the project arguing for Mongolia to become independent in energy supply.  On the other hand, developed tourist infrastructure at Lake Khuvsgul and thus solvent demand created would make sufficient incentives for Irkutsk Region based “Irkutskenergo” Electricity Provider Co.  to sell excess electricity to Mongolia.
But if the power plant near Khuvsgul is constructed, then  water level would rise up to 85 centimeters and flood Lake Khovsgul coastal area which is the major recreational area to be covered by the IPE project.              
 Author & Project initiator: Mr.Vladimir Berezhnikh, Chief Editor of Open World & Inter-Baikal Magazine, Co-Founder of Siberian Tourist Establishment for Tourism Research & Planning.

 
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