"Tourism continues to be a sunrise industry with continuing employment growth" Kaye Chon, Dean Chair professor in the Honk Kong Polytechnic University

6 min reading time

Published on 05/01/22 - Updated on 17/03/22

In our special Hospitality ON issue on hospitality management schools and trainings (No 308-309/May-June 2021) we interviewed Academic Directors of renowned hotel schools around the world. Here we unveil insights from Kaye Chon, Dean Chair Professor in School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Honk Kong Polytechnic University.

What innovations, programmes and projects have been implemented in your school over the last two years?

One of the key tasks in hospitality and tourism education is to reflect on what has already been achieved and what might be possible in the future. Ever innovative, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University stays at the forefront of hospitality and tourism education and research.

Having served the industry for more than four decades, the SHTM is proud to be always at the forefront of research supporting the industry’s timely and sustainable recovery. Our cutting-edge, high-impact research continues to guide businesses and institutions in finding creative routes out of the pandemic crisis.

Dedicated to bridging the gap between hospitality and tourism theory and industry practice, the Hospitality and Tourism Research Centre was launched as a unique research-based platform with an expansive network of hospitality and tourism academics from the SHTM and partner institutions, along with leading industry executives to support academic research for the development of hospitality and tourism knowledge on topics of importance to industry performance.

The Hospitality and Tourism Research Centre hosted an innovative workshop entitled “Application of Neuroscience Approach in Hospitality and Tourism Research”, giving attendees a hands-on understanding of how neuroscientific work is carried out and its potential to support and enhance hospitality and tourism research.

As a flag-bearer for innovation, the SHTM continues to pioneer international conferences and events dedicated to driving the sustainable development of the industry. One such event was the inaugural International Conference on Wine Market and Cultures of Consumption in 2019 which was organized in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Culture and Traditions of Wine at the University of Burgundy.

The SHTM always looks for innovative ways to advance the industry, and has thus consolidated such efforts with the launch of the SHTM+ICON Consultancy. Combining a unique educational model, cutting-edge research and an awardwinning hospitality experience, the pairing of the SHTM and Hotel ICON redefines possibilities in hospitality and tourism as it combines both people, resources and expertise into a dedicated, professional hotel and tourism-related consultancy service.

What approach(es) has your school chosen to train its students? What are the specificities of your schools?

As a global centre of excellence in hospitality and tourism education and research, the SHTM serves its industry and academic communities through the advancement of education and dissemination of knowledge. We set ourselves apart from other hospitality and tourism educational institutions by remaining in the upper echelons of international rankings, making us best placed to provide an international education with a distinct Asian context.
We differentiate ourselves from others in that, in addition to academic excellence, we design and deliver applicationoriented education programmes, conduct applied research and provide consultancy services to support the development of business and industry. We also have two active Advisory Committees consisting of industry leaders advising us on curriculum and development matters. This helps ensure that the curricula mirror the realities and fill the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s industry.

Has the COVID-19 crisis impacted the students interest in the hospitality industry?

In the short-term, students may feel a little hesitant but they do realize that what we’re facing is only temporary. In reality, by the time that new entrants into the hospitality and tourism programmes are completing their studies and entering the job market, the industry will have recovered and come back even stronger. Globally the hospitality and tourism industry continues to grow faster than the economy overall.
This pattern has long been established, and we’re still talking about a “sunrise industry”.
Over past decades the industry has bounced back quickly after every setback that it has experienced in Asia and beyond. And the tourism forecasts that we conduct here at the SHTM indicate that the Asia Pacific region will remain the engine of growth globally. In fact, the demand for our degree programmes stay strong and for postgraduate studies, there’s even an increase in the number of applications, which is a strong sign that students and prospective students have a firm faith and belief in the industry that it will come back in full swing when the global pandemic is over. Our students are fully aware that they have little to worry about fitting into a hospitality world of tomorrow.

What values / skills do you think are necessary for the hospitality industry that should be taught in a hotel school?

Hospitality and tourism is a people’s industry, industry leaders are expected to understand the dynamics of people-to-people contact. Having an outgoing personality is surely an advantage, and this can be backed by communication skills and cultural sensitivity. But at the same time, the industry is also moving fast to embrace technologies ranging from robots, to AI, and big data. Graduates who have knowledge and insights about the “human-machine” interface can also make contributions to the field. Our School has been ahead of this trend and we have added courses that focus on digital management, marketing, marketing in a digital age, and big data analytics, among others. But even with enhanced curriculum on technology capabilities, we have to realize that “hospitality is a spirit”, and so the need for soft skills will never grow out of trend.
At the SHTM, we instill in students compassion, positivity, adaptability, ingenuity and creativity. We also place great emphasis on social responsibility, environmental sustainability and responsible governance, and we try to embed these philosophies both in the curriculum and in the School’s credo. It is important that we strike a balance between imparting soft skills and service philosophy, and technology knowhow. We are not grooming students in computing and we are not raising technocrats after all.

What do you think hoteliers need to do to attract & keep young talent?

It is important that hoteliers encourage among young talents the understanding of the breadth and depth of the organizations, including its vision, mission, corporate culture, people and the like. Employers should paint a clear career path for employees which the latter can identify with. It is also of equal importance for employers to recruit the right person with the right mentality to suit the needs of the industry.

Younger generations are capable of working towards the organization’s objectives while also realizing their own. Management has to be aware of this and accommodate the changing needs of young talents. They also need to revamp and adjust their own way of thinking, engendering a supportive culture to help employees realize their own potentials while fulfilling organizational goals.

What message would you give to future generations?

Students have little to worry about fitting into a hospitality and tourism world of tomorrow. Tourism continues to be a sunrise industry with continuing employment growth, including at leadership level and this gives our students confidence about their future prospects. The industry is dynamic and international, and innovation is constant. New and innovative initiatives are exciting for the new generation of young leaders who want to work in an industry that is receptive to entrepreneurism and innovation. Hospitality is a tool for success. As we move into the “experience economy”, those who are trained to provide excellent service, leading to delightful experiences will be in high demand. Our graduates do not only excel in the hospitality and tourism industry, they are highly sought after by other service sectors (eg. finance, luxury businesses) as well.

Embarking on a career in hospitality and tourism in the post-pandemic world might seem a little challenging, but it will be rewarding at the same time. My experience has shown me that SHTM graduates are precisely what the industry needs to thrive.

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