Friday, April 1, 2011

Tourism Trade Fair - Ulaanbaatar

by Mark

This past weekend I, along with 3 of my counterparts, traveled to the capital to attend the 2011 Tourism Trade Fair.  For those that may not know it, my focus in Mongolia has largely been on developing the tourism industry within Arkhangai aimag.  I spent early 2010 training trainers to go out into the surrounding towns and lead sessions on sustainable tourism.  I then spent the summer collecting information (surveys, pictures, bios) on a majority of the ger camps, guesthouses, and other companies involved in the industry in our aimag.  This information was then loaded on to a brand new website for our aimag that my friend and I developed -

Companies could join the site for a small annual fee, and overall we managed to sign close to 20 companies.  As of writing this, we're only about a hundred dollars short of covering the entire cost of the project - and we expect to start making a profit on it as early as next month.  I'm really hoping this project continues in subsequent years, as it will bring a nice additional income to one of the companies I work with.

Having launched that site in January of this year, we decided it would be to our benefit to promote the service that it offers to companies that are in the industry throughout the country.  I developed a poster in English, and brochures (both in Mongolian and English) to be given out during the two day event.

My translator, Jackie, and I spent the weekend walking around UB visiting guesthouses - talking to them about the site and asking if they would hang a poster in their place in return for us adding their contact information to the website (so tourists have an option for lodging in the capital!).  Occasionally we'd travel back to the trade show to check on our other counterparts to see how the brochure-handing-out-action was going.

Overall, we managed to sign four new Arkhangai companies to the website who weren't previously involved.  They were impressed with how much of an effort we were putting into advertising the site, and wanted to take part.  I also managed to get asked by about three different company managers to take a look at their websites and help them re-do them.  We considered the trip a success, and I really felt that Mongolia did a magnificent job of advertising their tourism industry.  I was impressed with the materials, the booths, and the overall creativity/showmanship the companies presented at the trade fair.

The work in the capital was good - but I won't really get into a full blown story on the travel to and from Ulaanbaatar.  Let's just say it involved 19 hours in a bus and/or mikr, being puked on, being inches away from a 3-man brawl mid-travel, and getting back to my apartment at 4:30am.  But hey, these are all gonna be great memories...and I choose to look at the potential future benefit this trip has brought to my staff and the tourism industry in Arkhangai instead.  I'll deem it all a success.  Enjoy the photos below...

This was our booth we shared with two other companies that are on the travel website.    My staff includes everyone but the two women on the right.

There were performances on the main stage throughout the two day event, but with the massive LED screen behind the stage it was nearly impossible to take any good pictures as it just washed out everything in front of it.

A snapshot of some of the business booths down one of the walkways.  I was really impressed with the professional advertising materials and displays that most of the places had.

Some animals out front of the expo hall.  You could ride a yak if you wanted to.  I chose not to.

A restaurant chain in UB called "Broadway" had bought out a whole corner of the expo and had food and drinks for sale as well as many different people in costume.  They brought in fake chandeliers, marble columns, glass tables, etc.  It was a magnificent display.

On our way out we took a photo with some of the warriors that wandered around the expo throughout the weekend.  These guys were intense looking, but were really friendly and easy to chat with.  

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