As part of Virtuoso’s ongoing commitment to sustainable travel, we’re profiling the experts, trendsetters, and industry leaders making a difference in sustainable tourism today. Here, a conversation with Undraa Buyannemekh, the president of Nomadic Expeditions, a tour company specializing in travel to Mongolia, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and beyond.
Sustainable tourism in Mongolia: I spent my summers herding animals with my grandparents, who lived a nomadic life in the countryside. It’s safe to say that the spirit of my family is the reason that travel has always been important to me, and why today I’m proud to help lead a company committed to Mongolia’s stunning nature and ancient cultures. While roughly 500,000 travelers visited Mongolia last year, the government has declared a goal of increasing this to 2 million tourists annually. With that kind of growth, it’s crucial to protect our natural ecosystems and nomadic way of life – the very things visitors also come to experience – while creating jobs for local people.
Nomadic Expedition’s new ecolodge: I’m excited about the ecolodge we’re building in Karakorum, the Mongolian capital during Genghis Khan’s time, to complement our flagship Gobi Desert lodge. Nomadic Expeditions strives to help shape Mongolia’s tourism industry by example, sharing best practices with other lodges and tour operators in the country. One of our greatest successes is the Golden Eagle Festival, which we established to preserve ancient Mongolian falconry traditions and have helped support over the past two decades.
On empowering female leaders: As one of the few female travel executives in Mongolia, it’s important for me to empower other young women to succeed. I’m particularly proud that our support for the festival has opened the door for girls and women to participate in this cultural practice: One such story is told in the award-winning documentary The Eagle Huntress, which demonstrates how tourism can be a force for good.
How to travel sustainably: Sustainability is at the heart of our business, but it’s also important to me personally. When I travel, I choose hotels that care about the environment, and I only purchase souvenirs made by local artisans. I tend to be a minimalist and like to donate anything I’m not using or don’t need. That’s the nomadic spirit I was raised with: Travel lightly, and care about the places you visit. – Interviewed by Costas Christ
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