Mongolia kicked off an annual ice festival in its Khatgal village in the northern province of Khuvsgul on March 3.
The annual festival called "Blue Pearl" was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
The two-day tourism event has been co-organized by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the provincial governor's office since 2000.
"The tourism event aims to revive the country's pandemic-hit tourism sector, promote winter tourism, better protect Khuvsgul Lake's ecosystem and increase the income of local residents through tourism. This year's event is expected to attract at least 30,000 domestic and foreign tourists," Sharavdorj Iderbayasgalan, governor of Khuvsgul province, told reporters during the event.
Under the motto of "Fresher, Purer," the festival included many activities such as ice knuckle-bone shooting contests, bicycle and ice skate races, moto sports performances, sled dog race, tug of war, relay race, family contests and horse races.
"Mongolia's tourism sector is seasonal. Therefore, I think that in order to eliminate the seasonality of the tourism industry, it is necessary to work with countries who have developed winter tourism and promote this event internationally," Gantumur Tuvdendorj, deputy minister of environment and tourism, said at the event.
Tumendash Sarantsetseg is one of the thousands of domestic tourists visiting the festival. "This ice festival is going so well. It is a good thing that efforts are being made to develop winter tourism," said Sarantsetseg, who came with her five friends from Erdenet, which is over 400 kilometers away from Khatgal, to enjoy the festival.
Mongolia's tourism sector has been hit severely by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, losing 1.5 billion Mongolian Tugriks (around 523,000 U.S. dollars), according to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
The Asian country has set itself a goal of welcoming 1 million foreign tourists and earning 1 billion U.S. dollars from tourism in 2024.
To achieve this goal, it is important to eliminate seasonality and develop winter tourism, which is one of the challenges to the Mongolian tourism industry, by organizing these kinds of events, the ministry said.
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