PHUKET: Mongolia officially opened an honorary consulate in this southern resort island on Saturday, marking the 49th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the kingdom last week.
The office is based at the Gig Hotel on Soi Bangla in Patong district. The opening ceremony was attended by Mongolia's ambassador to Thailand, Tumur Amarsanaa, as well as Mongolia Honorary Consul, Nattapong Punthakeirtpaisarn, and Phuket governor Sophon Suwannarat.
The honorary consulate's staff will be on hand to provide assistance to Mongolian visitors on the island and its neighbouring provinces, the ambassador said. Mr Nattapong, who was appointed Mongolia Honorary Consul for the Phuket area on Aug 28, said that after 49 years, both countries remain committed to improving bilateral relations through the exchange of knowledge and culture.
With weekly flights between Phuket and Ulaanbataar set to begin next month, around 15,000 Mongolian visitors are expected to visit the island next year. At present, there are three direct flights between Bangkok and Ulaanbataar every week.
Mr Nattapong hoped the opening would also boost the number of Thai visitors in Mongolia. In 2019, about 6,000 Thais visited Mongolia, while about 16,000 Mongolians visited the kingdom. Although pandemic travel rules have been eased, only 1,118 Thais visited Mongolia last year, while 5,245 Mongolians visited Thailand.
The Mongolian government has announced "Years to Visit Mongolia", a campaign aimed at increasing the number of foreign visitors to one million. It hopes to make US$1 billion (36.9 billion baht) for its economy, equal to about 15% of its GDP. Thailand's citizens can travel to Mongolia without a visa, he said.