GNF - Sustainable Tourism at Lake Baikal

Development of sustainable tourism in Russia



The economic crisis caused by the breakdown of the Soviet Union led to extremely uncertain economic earning capacities of the already poor population at Lake Baikal. Buryatia located along the Eastern shore of Lake Baikal is still an underdeveloped Republic of Russia. When the small income of the local inhabitants is barely sufficient to feed their families, then they are forced to poach and cut down forests illegally. Particularly harmful is the illegal nephrite extraction (Russian Jade) by blasting of the upper soil layers thus destroying precious ecosystems, polluting natural water sources and causing soil erosion.


Sustainable tourism can provide new income sources at Lake Baikal. It is important to develop concrete ecotourism offers taking into account social and cultural aspects as well.

Project Targets

The focus of the project, which was launched at the end of 2008, is on environmental protection and local poverty reduction in one of the remotest mountainous villages in the Okinskij region at Lake Baikal. The development of sustainable and socially acceptable tourism as well as further training of the local inhabitants in the management of nature tourism shall contribute to reduce the unemployment and preserve the unique landscape. Apart from these goals, the preservation of the traditional culture of the minority groups involved plays an important role. The project is geared towards the preservation and promotion of traditional cultural values as well as the establishment of sustainable income possibilities.


Concrete Targets

  • Creation of an environment-friendly tourism infrastructure 
  • Development of concrete tourism offers (accommodation, excursions, traditional handicraft, local dishes) 
  • Establishment of marketing structures (focus on Germany and the rest of Europe as well as USA, China and Mongolia)
  • Further training possibilities for the local population
  • Visit of tourists interested in the natural and cultural values of the region and that are willing to pay a fair price for good quality
  • Creation of new jobs

Model project for environment-friendly and socially compatible tourism with transferability of the results to other regions and ethnical groups

Dissemination of the results and experiences from the model project


Project Area

Project area is the Okinskij region at Lake Baikal, in the Republic of Buryatia, where about 1.120 Soyot people live. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the Russian government recognized this small ethnic group as an independent indigenous minority group in  the north of Russia. The average monthly income of the Soyot is very low, the unemployment rate is 21 per cent.


The project consists of two modules. The first module is currently being implemented in the village of Sorok in the Okinskij region at the southern extremity of Lake Baikal. The second module is being realised in the capital of Buryatia and focuses on further training offers in the field of tourism management for the inhabitants of small settlements in the Lake Baikal region taking into account particularly the European experiences in the fields auf sustainable tourism initiatives and Bed and Breakfast.

The speciality of the Sorok village is the traditional way of life the Soyot people have preserved until today. Among it are traditional economic activities such as reindeer breeding and hunting. Additionally, Sorok is located in a still well-preserved natural landscape. There are found numerous natural monuments, mineral springs and lakes. This region is also called „small Tibet“. There are also many interesting hiking trails. Currently, tourism in this region is not so important yet. In the adjacent Tunkinskij region, the growth of tourism has been fast and uncontrolled. No analyses of the carrying capacity were carried out and no environmental and social criteria established. The present project shall help prevent a similar development in the Okinskij region and foster sustainable tourism.

Project Measures

  • Analysis of the ecological, social and physical carrying capacity of the region
  • Seminars for regional decision makers and experts in sustainable tourism development

  • Creation of marketing structures and product advertising

  • Establishment of a „Meeting Point Nature and Culture“ as visitor information centre, where tourists can get information, traditional handicraft and traditional dishes.

  • Workshop with international participants to exchange experiences concerning the chances and challenges of eco-tourism

  • Exchange of experiences with the population especially ethnic minorities in other tourism regions

  • Development of a eco-tourism concept in the Baikal region

 Landscape in winter at Lake Baikal
 Bed and Breakfast in Dulan
 Dulan River
 Selenga Delta
 Church in Suchaya
 Flowers in the Oka Region
 Workshop about eco-tourism

Project Management

Baikal Information Center GRAN

The Global Nature Fund provides advice in the fields of development of sustainable tourism offers at Lake Baikal and marketing through the establishment of contacts to German and European tourism business.  


Project Sponsor

Ursula Merz Foundation

For more information about Lake Baikal please visit our website.

 Landscape in winter

Official Project Titel:



Project Duration:


Project Country:




Project Partner:

Development of sustainable tourism at Lake Baikal, Russia, in areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups


2008 – 2010




Ursula Merz Foundation


Baikal Information Center GRAN