Eco-tourism warrior

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 July, 2010, 12:00am

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Ken Ching See-ho is founder and director of the Eco-education and Resources Centre, an organisation aimed at promoting eco-tourism in Hong Kong.

He is also director of EcoTour Travel, a company providing ecological tours in Hong Kong and other parts of the world.

How did you come to set up the centre?

This all began in 1989 when I finished Form Five and had a chance to study in Australia. Unfortunately, my father had a heart attack, so I decided to stay in Hong Kong and help run my family business, which sold scientific and medical equipment. I also did stints as a part-time tour guide.

In 1995, I went diving in Bali and remember marvelling at the beautiful sights underwater, with so many pretty fish swimming around. I started to realise I wasn't very interested in the family business. I wanted to do something I liked. I loved nature, so I decided to start an ecological tour company. That was in 1996.

I set up the centre in 2002 to raise awareness of the environment and conduct research on Hong Kong's ecology - information that we then use to organise tours at my company and to explain to people what they see on the tours.

What is ecological tourism?

It's definitely not about tourists. Eco-tourism encompasses issues such as souvenir development, waste control and hotel management. But the most important aspect is education. We show people nature and help them to understand why we should protect the environment. It's not just a holiday.

What challenges did you face in promoting eco-tourism?

At that time, many people thought eco-tourism was just about going to a nature reserve to admire the plants and animals there. They didn't understand the difference between a real ecological tour and just any day tour that any tour operator can arrange. We had to explain to people the importance of protecting the beautiful ecology in Hong Kong.

How do you see eco-tourism developing in Hong Kong?

It's going to be an uphill battle unless the government makes it a high priority. We have reached a limit on the size of the market, which is hard to break unless the government designates places where eco-tourism can be developed - such as Tung Ping Chau and Tai O - as restricted areas, just like it has with Mai Po. If that happens, we will see a new dawn.

What's you advice for young people?

The most important thing is to find your interest. When you are a tour guide, you are also an educator in environmental protection. If you are not interested in nature, you won't be able to explain properly and attract people to listen and think about why they want to protect the environment.

1st

Going green

Ten Outstanding Young Persons (2006)

Chairman, Ocean Touch Conservation Association, 2010

Consultant, Hong Kong Young Women's Christian Association, Tai O Cultural and Ecological Integrated Resource Centre (since 2007)