United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

The Application of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) in Promoting Sustainable Tourism and Sustainable Development in Mongolia: the Sustainable Tourism and Sufficiency Economy in Mongolia

Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand (

    The Sustainable Tourism and Sufficiency Economy in Mongolia was a development cooperation project conducted through the trilateral cooperation between Thailand, Germany and Mongolia. This project was a part of the Germany’s Intergrated Mineral Resources Initiative (IMRI) Project that sought to reduce Mongolian people’s economic dependency on the highly volatile mining sector and diversify their economy to include both tourism and agriculture as additional strategic sectors. These sectors were largely untapped and had potential to be the sources of employment and income generation for people in Mongolian rural areas. Thailand sought to build on its experience and best practices in tourism development to promote sustainable tourism and equip local peoples with essential skills and knowledge for tourism development based on the application of Thailand’s homegrown development approach of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP). The Project Areas in Bayankhongor, Selenge and Uvs provinces each had their own uniqueness, distinct cultures, traditions and attractions, making the areas suitable for further tourism development. Originally, these provinces drew a handful of tourists mainly from neighbouring Russia and China. However, without sufficient knowledge and infrastructure, their tourism sector could not develop further.


    The objective of this project was to reduce poverty in rural areas through income supplementation and employment generation via sustainable tourism through the following activities; - Capacity building of local tourism facilitators and tourism development strategy and planning - Development of eco-tourism products and value chains in 3 destinations - Support for local tourism service providers and public and private partnership - Improvement of legal framework and investment and coordination of national and regional tourism development It could be seen that this project aimed to improve the provinces’ tourism development and management capacities and help distribute the income from tourism to more groups and more households in the villages by increasing employment opportunities and supplement existing incomes of the villagers through tourism. It promoted rural community and nomadic herder-based tourism in these provinces, implementing the sectoral diversification strategy put forward by the Mongolia Government, while seeking to preserve the villagers’ way of life. This project also paid special attention to poor and marginalized groups, while taking into account the promotion of gender equality and active participation of women.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The contributions to SDGs implementation of this project are twofold. From the beginning, the focus area, method and thinking framework of this project were designed with SDGs in mind. Firstly, tourism has enormous potential to contribute both directly and indirectly towards the achievement of all SDG Goals, as identified by WTO. In particular, tourism development is a sustainable solution to the challenges concerning the accomplishment of Goals 1, 8, 10 and 12. In terms of Goal 1, tourism fosters economic growth and development, especially at the grassroots level and provide income through new income sources. It is clear that sustainable tourism development in many countries correlate directly to national poverty reduction, entrepreneurship promotion and the growth of small businesses. For Goal 8, tourism is a major driving force of global economic growth. The WTO indicated that the sector is responsible for 1 in 11 jobs worldwide. The sector gives decent work opportunities to many in the societies, including youth, women and marginalized groups, while providing them with ample opportunities for skills and professional development. Target 8.9 recognizes that “By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.” For Goal 10, tourism development--especially in local communities—is a powerful tool in reducing inequalities through its engagement with local populations and stakeholders. The spread of tourism growth from urban to more rural areas means giving local communities the opportunities to grow without letting go of their origins and reduce regional economic imbalances in the country without necessitating urbanization. For Goal 12, sustainable tourism promotes responsible consumption and production. Green tourism encourages the global shift toward sustainability and contributes to behavioural changes by both providers and users of service to be more responsible consumers, without having to sacrifice economic gains, service qualities or distorting market environments. Lastly, the application of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) also contributes to the implementation of Goals 4, 5, 11 and 17. For Goal 4, the development cooperation projects based on SEP prioritizes capacity building as the means to sustainably enhance the local populations’ capabilities in generating income, improving their communities and attaining sustainable development through the applications of knowledge and essential skills that fit the local contexts and needs. For Goal 5, SEP recognizes the importance of having inclusive development that comprises all groups in the societies, including women. From the start, SEP encourages active participation of women in all groupings in the communities, while undertaking activities and training to improve women’s capacities in fulfilling their roles in community development. For Goal 11, sustainable development through SEP means promoting sustainable cities that stay true to their cultural and natural heritage through the adoption of development that fits the local geo-social contexts and ensures participants’ ownership for their communities’ development among the local populations in order to ensure sustainability in the long term. For Goal 17, while it is obvious that undertaking development cooperation programmes with other partner countries would constitute partnerships for sustainability, the SEP goes further in looking to promote the more multi-level partnerships between households, communities and agencies. SEP recognizes that sustainable partnerships are key to development at all levels, and, to this end, seeks to engage, not only partner countries, but local stakeholders and grassroots households in order to ensure that the development reaches both the top and the bottom of the societies and encompasses the roles of all those, whose lives it seeks to improve.

    Implementation methodologies

    The project comprised four workplans based on each objective. Workplan one was the human resource development that supports tourism planning and destination management. The activities of this workplan included 1) development of SEP model for tourism sector as guideline for tourism development 2) study visits on sustainable, SEP-based and community-based tourism in Thailand 3) training courses for tourism facilitators in sustainable tourism (concept, development process, management network and marketing) 4) training courses in community enterprise operation and management 5) activity to establish communities’ linkages with the academic sector in order to imrpove community capacity building process 6) capacity building activities for local tourism service providers 7) development of local tourism development plans 8) community enterprise establishment 9) service standard development and 10) establishment of linkages between involved communities. Workplan two sought to develop eco-tourism products and value chains in the three villages. The activities of this workplan included 1) community research to gather essential data and information on the villages 2) market analysis with participation from local populations (demand, trend, target group, potential competitors and pricing) 3) community tour program design and branding and 4) activities to improve the communities’ capabilities in products development and management. Work plan three aimed to develop tourism-related services and public-private cooperation for further market development. This workplan’s activities included 1) establishment of partnerships with tour operators and SMEs in Mongolia 2) integration of the three vilages into the national tourism campaigns 3) organization of local events to launch new destinations and 4) study visit to Thailand to learn about technology and innovations that could help the development of tourism in Mongolia. Workplan four focused on policy regulation to improve regulatory framework and promote investment in Mongolian tourism. Activities in this workplan included 1) review of then-existing tourism plan and action plan 2) development of monitoring and evaluation structure and process at the policy level and 3) establishment of plan and knowledge management mechanism to provide inputs to national tourism campaigns that comprises sustainable tourism development.


    In line with its expected outputs, the project has resulted in tangible outcomes and impacts, as follows; 1. Strategic eco-tourism planning and destination management plans for the three villages were developed. 2. Eco-tourism product and value chain development plans were developed at the destination /community level. 3. Business development services and training courses for local SMEs catering to the tourism sector were established, and models for public-private and private-private cooperation to support the local market were developed. 4. Recommendations for national and provincial tourism policies and draft sector strategies were developed. These outcomes would ensure that three villages stay on track towards sustainable development, which would in turn become a driving force for Mongolia to achieve the SDGs.

    Factors and Constraints

    Enabling factors: Mongolian government, GIZ Mongolian Office and all Mongolian participants in the target areas were very eager to participate in the project. They understod the new knowledge in tourism quickly and adadpted to their tourism activities. Constrainsts: The 3 target areas under the project are in different regions so it was quite challenging for the coordinator to run and follow up the activities under the project. Another chalenge was that the Mongolian living culture; they live in Gers (house) and have a nomadic way of life, raising and following their cattles from place to place. Thus, suitable activities and tourisim plans had to be deesigned to fit the lifestyle.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The project was conducted in a result-oriented manner, with several elements to ensure the project’s success. Prior to the project’s implementation, all cooperating sides (Thailand, Germany and Mongolia) organized a feasibility study trip to the project sites to conduct fact-finding mission, discuss with stakeholders, gather essential information, find out local contexts and familiarize themselves with the local communities, their challenges, needs and situations. In addition to this, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) was also established, with endorsement and participation by all sides. The PSC meeting was scheduled to take place periodically, as needed by the project or as requested. Together with the meeting, team of experts from both Germany and Thailand were deployed in the villages to gather more information, evaluate and monitor the ongoing situations on the ground. Their inputs played a significant role in the decisions taken by the PSC meeting. Contact persons of all cooperating sides also maintained regular communication with one another in order to follow the project’s progress and be ready for any changes that could affect the project. After the project’s conclusion, all cooperating sides would participate in impact assessment visit to review and evaluate the success of the project as well as discuss ways the project could be expanded or furtherly built upon.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The project was affected considerably by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several activities were postponed due to the changing circumstances and difficulties that came with the travel restrictions. For example, networking activities between service providers and local communities could not take place and were postponed until further notice. The lockdown measures in place in Mongolia also meant that all activities that remained to be conducted—including a result dissemination forum and media trip—had to take place virtually / be postponed. Thailand and Germany cooperated in alleviating the effect the pandemic had on the project by conducting some activities virtually and remaining in constant contact with the communities in order to provide support when necessary. The upcoming impact assessment visit, scheduled to take place after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, will also look into the effect the pandemic has on the communities, Mongolian tourism and find ways to help the communities build back better including the continued promotion of SEP as a resilience-oriented development approach.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 January 2018 (start date)
    31 December 2020 (date of completion)
    Contact Information

    Theerawit, Attaché