Buyantogtokh Munkhbayar, the General Manager of the Three Camel Lodge, shares the latest updates on our continued efforts to be a good host for our people, the planet, and our eco-travel guests who travel gently to visit our beautiful lodge in the heart of the Gobi Desert. As pioneers of sustainable travel and destinations, we strive year in and year out to further our mission, following three pillars of sustainable tourism. Three Camel Lodge has remained deeply integrated with our Gobi community, providing full-time employment, training, and promotion, while spearheading conservation initiatives protecting both our environment and our culture. Emerging from COVID, we now look forward to a return to travel this Summer as our country reopens for tourism.
When and how will the lodge re-open to receive guests?
The lodge will open in early June. Our staff have been trained and we have taken measures to enhance our safety and cleaning protocols and will be ready to welcome our guests. The Mongolian government hasn’t announced yet the full entry requirements, but as soon as they are announced we will share them with our travelers.
As you reflect on 2020, what stands out to you as something you learned?
2020 has been a very difficult year for so many people around the world and especially for all of us who work in the travel and hospitality industry. Borders were closed in March, and we received zero foreign guests at the lodge. Mongolia’s number of tourists went from 577,000 tourists in 2019 to essentially 0 in 2020. Tourism’s income went down by 65.8 percent in 2020. The total of 2,300 entities operating in the Mongolian tourism sector and 88,700 people who are employed in the sector have been struggling to survive.
How has Three Camel Lodge utilized this time?
I feel very grateful that first of all, all our employees and their families have stayed healthy and we didn’t have a single case with COVID amongst us. I am also grateful that we opened the lodge for domestic travelers and were able to keep most of our lodge employees employed during 2020 season.
We have used this time to enhance our guest experiences and strengthened our efforts to further our mission of enhancing lives and protecting places. We launched successfully the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help preserve the native Bankhar dog breed, and reintroduce it to the Mongolian grassland steppes, thereby protecting Mongolian herding culture. We have two mated dogs at the lodge, have welcomed 3 puppies, and started working with potential nomadic families who will receive these puppies.
I am also proud that we were able to support nomadic families that live near our lodge with grass and hay distribution this winter, which nomads desperately needed due to low rainfall, since there was not enough grass for animals to eat this winter. I think nomads in Mongolia have always known how much their lives depend on nature and how important it is to respect and not disturb the mother nature, but it seems that the pandemic showed to all people around the world how we are all connected very deeply to nature and the communities around us.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
I am looking forward to welcoming guests to our lodge once again. Mongolia announced that it is planning to reopen our borders gradually in June and fully from July 1, so I and my team are working hard to prepare for our opening of the lodge. We are excited that this season we will start rebuilding the travel industry in Mongolia and will be able to hire more people and help more people in our community as well.
What can we expect from the Bankhar Project in years to come?
For us to start delivering Bankhar puppies to the nomadic families, which will help these families to herd their livestock. Also, there will be no fear of the predators they were used to facing in their everyday life like wolves and snow leopard.
We will be cooperating with the Bankhar Project staff to navigate our project research and other guidelines to follow. We are hoping to receive our second birth from our Bankhar mates in autumn. This project will help nomads to practice their traditional way of life, guarding livestock from being killed. When families have fewer animals, it means less wool or meat for them to sell, which means they have less income to buy essentials that their animals can’t provide–such as flour, rice, oil, etc.—and less money to support their children’s education, for example.
Why has the Three Camel Lodge joined the new brand Beyond Green, a portfolio of 24 founding sustainable hotels, resorts, and lodges?
I think climate change and sustainability are issues that no one can solve on their own. Many lodges around the world are committed to sustainability and are doing great work to conserve the land, protect wildlife, preserve the indigenous cultures, and empower local communities. But though we can continue to work individually towards sustainability goals, we can achieve far greater results if we join forces to address climate change and make our global communities more sustainable. This is what we believe Beyond Green’s purpose is, and we feel honored to join other leaders in sustainable tourism around the world who make up this collection of lodges and share a common purpose and passion for sustainability.
What does it mean to those at the Three Camel Lodge to be a part of Beyond Green?
To me and my team, it means we are a part of the community of lodges from different corners of the world and through this collection my and our team will learn about lodges in Africa and Australia for example, their environment and their culture and how they effectively solve sustainability questions in their part of their world. There is something truly inspiring about this aspect of Beyond Green.
What new activities and experiences has the lodge added for 2021?
We have constructed a brand-new spa called Arshaan that will welcome our guests. We will offer a combination of Eastern and Western treatments here. We have also created new routes for our horseback riding and mountain biking activities at the lodge. And whether you come for a family vacation, a corporate retreat, or stay as a luxurious finish line to a trek across Mongolia or the Gobi—we of course have something for everyone.