SIX months have passed since the Chief Executive promised Hong Kong a tourism commissioner. As we report today there have been 70 applications for the job, and the Economic Services Bureau has named two assistant tourism commissioners. But the top post remains unfilled, and we are told the selection process is continuing. This is not good enough. The delay could mean several things - a suitable candidate cannot be found; people who have been approached have turned down the job or baulked at the terms; or the administration does not regard it as a matter for particular urgency. If it is the last, this would be very worrying given tourism's place as a vital ingredient in Hong Kong's past success and future revival. Its economic contribution is obvious. Beyond that, the constant flow of visitors buttresses the SAR's place as an international centre. The recent increase in mainland visitors is very welcome, but Hong Kong also needs to be constantly re-inventing itself as a place for tourists from all over the world. In this respect, the Tourist Association's idea of developing Hong Kong as an Asian centre for cultural tourism was welcome. It is an ambitious goal but one which must be taken seriously as we look towards the SAR's vocation for the coming century. But it is obvious that such a project needs strong leadership to surmount the bureaucratic barriers of entrenched interests, to raise the necessary funding and to meld private and public interests. The appointment of a commissioner with real clout would be an integral part in turning the proposal into reality. There are predictions that by next year tourism will become the world's largest industry and the biggest employer - the effect on the jobs scene here is obvious. As far as Hong Kong is concerned, the situation has improved since the dull days following the handover. But, the cultural project apart, there is also a need to sell the many attractions. Surveys show only one part of Hong Kong - Victoria Peak - attracts more than 30 per cent of visitors, with some potential draws being seen by fewer than five per cent of visitors and most of our museums hardly registering at all. It is high time for the administration to make the promised appointment, and to ensure that whoever is chosen has the full powers to rise to the challenge - for the good of Hong Kong and its visitors.