At Blind Experiences we believe that equal rights are human rights and we welcome travellers from across the LGBTQIA+ community. That commitment includes our team and everyone we work with from Italy to Mongolia!
Our friend Zachary Murray at Big Mongolia Travel is cis & straight, but has become something of a specialist in supporting the LGBTQIA+ travel community. He has a realistic outlook at what to expect as an LGBTQIA+ traveller in the Mongolia, saying it is a very family orientated country and safe and exciting place to visit if you know its cultural quirks:
“Mongolia is a welcoming and very accepting country. Hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as hate speech, have been outlawed by the government since 2017. However awareness of homosexuality is rather new in Mongolia, it’s more common in the capital, but very rare in rural areas. Most Mongolians don’t really understand it, but if they do, they don't mind it at all - their main focus is on family and kids. In fact Mongolian's put strong social pressure on each other to have lots of children and to increase the number of people in their and vast comparatively underpopulated country (compared with their powerful neighbour China.) Because of this pressure, some people view homosexuality as running counter to a social and national obligation to have children, but that’s only for other Mongolians, they don’t mind at all about the sexual orientation of foreigners.
That said, everyday LGBTQIA+ culture is becoming more and more popular: more gay bars are appearing, Pride Week is becoming more popular, the LGBTQIA+ center of Mongolia is becoming more active, with more drag shows opening, and LGBTQIA+ celebrities becoming more well known and followed on social media.
As Big Mongolia Travel is a small company, we celebrate pride in our own way. We work with many LGBTQIA+ travel agencies across the globe and we love to celebrate from afar with them, wishing them a happy Pride Week. Our staff normally celebrate Pride Week with others, but since Covid, none of us have been able to due to social distancing. But in normal times if I am in a location where pride celebrations are happening, you can bet I am out there having fun and supporting my friends!
We have a number of LGBTQIA+ members of staff who work mostly in contract marketing. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ guides and drivers are rare in Mongolia, we wish there were more as they work in the customer facing area of the business and it would be reassuring and welcoming for our LGBTQIA+ clients. But regardless, we don’t ask or inquire about the sexual orientation of our staff. It’s up to them, if they want to share that information with us then we are an open and equal workplace. Due to the population pressure it’s a rather old fashioned cultural norm in Mongolia to ask "when will you be married to a nice man/woman?" or "when are you going to have kids? A woman your age should find a nice man by now." I am sure this kind of thing happens in a lot of countries, but we do not stand for this kind of social pressure in our organisation and discourage this kind of talk.
It is very important for our business to appeal to the LGBTQIA+ market because we work with a lot of LGBTQIA+ clients, and also because we want to be there for support. Before we started working with so many LGBTQIA+ clients, there wasn’t a provider for them in Mongolia. It made me really upset to know that Mongolia, which is such a beautiful and unique land, was being avoided by many of my gay friends because the "Gay tour agencies they traveled with did not have a partner in Mongolia." That they didn't have anyone that they felt they could travel with safely and that just made me frustrated and a little angry. I wanted to help, which is why we now have a large number of LGBTQIA+ guests. So while it is very important for our business model, it is also very extremely important that I can support my friends and the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.
The LGBTQIA+ market is a major growth area for the future. I might be a little bit biased in thinking this, but the LGBTQIA+ travellers we work with in Mongolia are extremely adventurous. Much more than their straight counterparts. They love life and want to experience the world. Some of my closest retired gay friends travel(at least before Covid) every month, spending only half the year in their home.
In terms of LGBTQIA+ family trips then Mongolia is a great choice of destination. Regardless of anything else, family is of the utmost importance to Mongolians. I don't want to over generalise, but a strong and loving family is what they care about the most. It is up to the clients if they would like to "out" themselves or just not even talk about it with the nomadic families (or anyone) they visit. But say for example there was a lesbian couple with kids traveling through Mongolia, that would be no problem at all. They would have a wonderful time exploring the untouched corners of Mongolia! It's a great family vacation.
Overall I would advise LGBTQIA+ clients to prepare for a holiday in Mongolia by making sure they travel with an agency that understands their specific needs and can properly explain the cultural norms within the country. Mongolia is very accepting and has legendary hospitality, but you always want to make sure all your bases are covered no matter where you go in the world. Also, you want to prepare yourself for an experience of a lifetime - that’s what Mongolia is!
Oh, and lastly, definitely stop by a gay bar in the capital. We recommend Zorig's bar. You might be able to catch a spectacular drag show if you are lucky!"
Big thanks to Zak for his insights and see you in Mongolia for plenty of surprises with Blind Experiences!