The hospitality and tourism management sector is expected to undergo major worldwide growth over the next 20 years, according to the World Tourism Organisation. In particular, Hong Kong will enjoy four-fold growth and become the fifth most favoured tourist destination in the world by 2020. China is expected to become top. The demand for tourism-based services is clearly strong, but Hong Kong has a shortage of industry professionals to cope with the growth forecast. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has offered a solution - establishing a School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. 'Prior to 1997, tourism was not that important in Hong Kong despite the growing figures. Compared with the economy as a whole, it was regarded as insignificant,' says Lee Kam-hon, professor of marketing and director of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management. When Professor Lee was still the dean of the Faculty of Business Administration in the mid 1990s, he conducted substantial research on the Hong Kong economy in the post-1997 era. 'We anticipated that there would be huge employment problems as manufacturers moved north. 'The once-hot financial and high-technology industries would not be able to generate enough jobs for the unskilled labour force. 'We needed an industry that would stay here and could also absorb the workforce, and we identified this as the tourism and hospitality management industry.' The industry includes not only hotels and airlines but also theme parks, cruise lines, convention services and catering operators. Besides the operational staff, the industry is also in need of management professionals. 'Though there was an argument about the oversupply of talents, we believe there will be a great demand for properly trained professionals in the future,' Professor Lee says. The school started enrolling students in 1999 and the first batch of BA graduates finished the course last year. Compared with other colleges offering similar courses, the school strives to provide a more management-oriented curriculum, according to Professor Lee. 'Most schools are operation- driven and divide their specialisations into tourism, catering, or forest management; whereas our specialisations include marketing, human resources, real estate and finance.' The university also works closely with Cornell University in the United States, the top school for hospitality in the country. The aim is to develop and provide world-class hospitality education in Asia. As well as conventional education programmes, the school runs a number of executive training schemes for industry professionals. It organises frequent conferences, seminars and forums to offer up-to-date training, and knowledge exchange. The school plans to build a teaching hotel by 2006 to attract more students and professionals from around the region. According to Professor Lee, the industry suffers from an image problem that has stopped many young people from joining. 'Young students prefer to earn more and work in a good environment rather than in hotels. Plus, they do not want to serve others.' The lack of young people joining will lead to inadequate numbers of leaders in 10 to 20 years, he says. 'The entire industry will encounter a leadership crisis if we do not have the right people in the first place.' To cope with the problem, industry leaders are committed to uplifting the profession as a whole. Some have launched management trainee programmes within their organisations. 'This is one of the ways to attract top talents,' says Professor Lee. 'Take an example, Philip Chan, once a management trainee at Cathay Pacific, is now its chief operating officer, and is always proud of his early training days. 'Moreover, we are very motivated by the fact senior managers always spare their time to be our course guest speakers and share their valuable insights and knowledge with students.' The monetary return for the industry will also gradually increase. 'We have an encouraging indicator that our first graduating class  were all placed within [their] respective organisations with a median income of $10,000. This is on par with our university's quantitative finance graduates, a very reputed course.' According to Professor Lee, all the graduates will become the 'serving' leaders. 'They will be equipped with both hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge,' he says. 'With a changing image, we hope the industry professionals will be able to identify themselves as business leaders. Both academic and industry efforts need to be done persistently and consistently to nurture future generations of leaders.'