Managing herder-community-based tourism: An institutional framework for an integrated social–ecological system

Undrakh Zagarkhorloo*, Wim Heijman, Liesbeth Dries, Buyanzaya Batjargal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Improving household livelihoods through tourism, while at the same time achieving the goals of conservation, remains a challenge in high-value nature areas around the world. This paper studies a herder-community-based tourism system in Mongolia in light of these challenges. The social–ecological system (SES) framework was used as a conceptual foundation. The generic SES framework was adapted to the case of the herder-community-based tourism system. The adapted framework was then used to assess the economic, ecological, and social objectives of the herder-community-based tourism system characterised by natural resources and cultural landscapes. Primary data collection included interviews with key informants in the tourism sector: tourism researchers, representatives of donor projects, managers of tour operators, and guides. Based on their responses, the study site was selected in the buffer zone of the Hustai National Park, which is a protected area. Respondents in the second stage of interviews were herders who participate in herder-based tourism and who live in the vicinity of the protected area. Results show that the SES framework is able to diagnose the sustainability of the herder-community-tourism system, but sustainability outcomes indicate an imbalance between social, economic, and environmental performance. The herder-community-based tourism system is successful in conserving wildlife and habitats; however, the distribution of revenues gained from tourism shows that only a small and inequitable share reaches the herder community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4001
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2021


  • Common-pool resource
  • Community-based tourism
  • Diversification
  • Social–ecological system
  • Sustainability


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