If you would like to be part of leading the way forward, studies in hospitality and tourism can lay the groundwork for an exhilarating career in hospitality and tourism, and prepare yourself when the industry bounces back even stronger. One especially amazing destination for pursuing studies in this field is Hong Kong. Here’s a closer look at the state of the hospitality industry and what it means for aspiring workers in this field, why Hong Kong excels in hospitality and tourism, and one school in particular which can position you to lead the way forward.

An industry poised for a comeback

There’s no denying the last 12 months have disrupted the travel industry. With global vaccinations underway, things are looking up. In fact, many entities within the travel industry are reporting that a rebound is underway. And while leisure travel is having a faster recovery than business travel at the moment, analysts anticipate an eventual return across all aspects of travel.

Deloitte’s ‘The Future of Hospitality Report’ asserts, “The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually fade. The economy will recover, and the hospitality sector—from restaurants to hotels, casinos to sports—will regain its footing and look forward with confidence to a successful, thriving future. Now is the time for companies to act, adapt to the new normal, position themselves for nimbleness, and thrive in the years ahead.”

Speaking of the “new normal”, what can we expect? Tourism expert Marianna Sigala told Hospitality Net that travelers will be looking for new things, including more personal and private tourism options, higher quality holiday experiences, and flexible and penalty-free cancellation policies. People may also be more likely to pre-plan their trips while also incorporating more outdoor activities.

The need for travel and tourism reskilling

According to Sigala, “New travelers and new travel preferences will require tourism executives to review and even rewrite the ways in which their enterprises are managed.”

Even prior to COVID, the hospital and tourism sector was undergoing rapid change. Now, the industry is being forced to pivot yet again with the responsibility for managing the transition landing on its leaders. Specifically, it will mandate the acquisition of new skills, according to Sigala -- including digital expertise, cognitive skills for redesign and innovation, and social and emotional skills toward collaboration, management and communication. Meanwhile, “soft skills,” such as adaptability and resilience will also be essential.

Professor Kaye Chon, Dean and Chair Professor and Walter and Wendy Kwok Family Foundation Professor in International Hospitality Management of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, offers a message of hope for the industry. He says, “This crisis presents an opportunity for us to reorient our curriculum and the way we teach, but the hospitality and tourism industry has already been moving towards technology and digitalisation in various aspects, from marketing to HR and finance management. The crisis has merely forced the industry to speed up its technology revolution. Hospitality is a spirit that will never grow out of trend and relevance.”

Hong Kong as a travel and tourism leader

With innovation the imperative, it begs the question: Which countries excel in this aspect? Thanks to a commitment by the government to strengthen it as a leading innovation and technology center, Hong Kong is a frontrunner.

Ranked 13 out of 141 countries on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Hong Kong shines in measures of health and hygiene, safety and security, international openness, infrastructure, ICT readiness and business environment. Its commitment to becoming a world-class “smart city” is another example of its commitment to innovation and sustainable economic development.

Hong Kong is also a draw for tourism and hospitality students for yet another reason: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM).

A global center of excellence in hospitality and tourism education and research known for its cutting-edge programs in hotel management, tourism management, and convention and events management, SHTM was ranked first in 2020 in the “Hospitality and Tourism Management” category in Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects for the fourth consecutive year, as well as first in the “Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services” category in the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) for three years in a row.

SHTM offers an array of leading postgraduate degrees in tourism and hospitality: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Hotel and Tourism Management; Doctor of Hotel and Tourism Management (D.HTM); Master of Science (MSc) degrees in Global Hospitality Business; International Hospitality Management; International Tourism and Convention Management; International Wine Management; and MicroMasters in International Hospitality Management (Online Programme) .It also offers the Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Hons) degrees in Hotel Management and Tourism and Events Management.

In addition to its inimitable Asia-Pacific region location, which has undergone a tourism and hospitality boom in the past decades, SHTM also boasts another unique draw: Hotel ICON, an upscale hotel “with a purpose” integrating teaching, learning and research in a full-service environment. The embodiment of innovation, Hotel ICON is a teaching and research hotel as well as a fully commercial hotel, so it offers a dynamic, interactive, hands-on, and real-world learning environment for students, who can take advantage of a fully integrated approach to teaching and learning.

Other stand-out features of SHTM include the Samsung Digital Lab for Hospitality Technology, the Che-woo Lui Hotel and Tourism Resource Centre, the Hospitality and Tourism Resource Centre, the Food and Wine Academy, Vinoteca Lab and Bistro 1979, a student-operated restaurant where students can learn the art of Western-style service.

Of course, there’s no better testament to the benefits of studies in Hong Kong at SHTM than from the students themselves. SHTM alumna and current Assistant Manager at Grand Hyatt Berlin, Kristina, says, “I knew I had to become a global citizen, build rapport in the industry and gain the hard and soft skills I needed to succeed in my field. SHTM helped me realize my dream and potential.”

Learning from faculty members with diverse backgrounds gives SHTM graduates a big advantage in the increasingly globalised tourism and hospitality market. Indeed, D.HTM graduate Dr James Mabey, Standard International's Managing Director Asia & Middle East and Chief International Business Officer, notes, “The diversity of the faculty, the students, and Hong Kong itself is very valuable, considering the ever-changing landscape of our industry.”

“SHTM teaches you how to think strategically, he adds. “This is critical in today’s environment. In a world full of change, knowing how to adapt, plan and execute is the most important skill you can have. I draw on the knowledge and experience I gained while at the SHTM on a daily basis. I use critical analysis skills that I learned at SHTM every day. I also coordinate with Alumni and friends I met while at SHTM every day as well. SHTM is widely known as the global leader in hospitality education. Graduates entering the workforce or advancing their careers can benefit greatly from the powerful name of SHTM behind them.”

Each year, the SHTM awards a special honour to a graduate whose remarkable leadership is shaping the future of the hospitality and tourism industry. This year’s winner of the SHTM Outstanding Alumni Award is Mr David Lau, Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Sky Hotel Management Limited.

An exemplary student, Mr Lau enrolled in the SHTM’s MSc in International Hospitality Management “because of the reputation of the school and the world-class teaching hotel facility Hotel ICON that SHTM provided”, and he graduated in 2013. Taking classes at night, he prepared for the launch of his independent boutique hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui during the day. Popway Hotel opened to great acclaim just two years later, followed by expansion into the Japanese market.

He explains, “I think SHTM’s programmes put a strong emphasis on students being able to utilise what they learnt in class in a workplace setting and the teaching contents are very practical and up to date. The programme strengthened my knowledge in many aspects including hotel design concepts, revenue management, multi-unit management, and marketing, all of which have proved to be highly useful in my business venture. I was able to apply what I learnt from SHTM in my hotel projects.”

“Building industry network was another treasure I gained from the programme. When I was preparing for the opening of the F&B outlet in Popway Hotel, I employed a catering consultant company which is founded by one of my classmates Yvonne Lo. Three years ago when I first entered the Japan hospitality market, I sought advice from my Japanese classmate Miki Takashima, then I managed my first hotel opening in Osaka Japan in January 2020 and [I have] one more hotel project coming up. They were all my close friends and good teammates in the programme. We spent great time studying together and [we are] now striving for excellence in our own aspects with regular communications.”

The SHTM takes pride in its innovative and entrepreneurial graduates who push the hospitality and tourism industry to new heights, such as Mr Lau. He is keen to “keep generating ground-breaking ideas to make Hong Kong hotels more unique and successful in the future”. And he is hopeful for the industry amid COVID, believing “where there is risk, there is opportunity”.

So opportunities abound at SHTM -- whether you’re at the beginning of your career or you’re already established in the field and are looking to level up with a master’s or Ph.D.. On that note, if you’re in the latter category, you may be wondering whether it will be worth it to step off the track you’re on in order to return to academia...

When it comes to navigating the way forward for the hospitality and tourism industry, colleges and universities around the world will be instrumental in preparing students “for entry-level positions while bringing current managers up-to-speed for operational success in the revitalized tourism industry,” adds Sigala.

We can think of no institution and no better programs that are better equipped for this task than The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management.

Article written in association with the School of Hotel and Tourism Management.