In the offices of leading hoteliers, airline executives and top travel agents, the last Wednesday of every month is marked with a prominent red X. This is the day when Skal Club meets for lunch. A former president of the Hong Kong chapter of the global travel industry association, Peter Lowe, says that even though he is frantically busy trying to get the two new Disneyland hotels open by September 12 - he is their general manager - he still makes time for the informal Skal lunches. 'It's a great occasion to network with your peers in the travel industry,' he says. Tomorrow, the luncheon date will be more important than usual: a new president will be announced. She is Susan Field, a 20-year Hong Kong resident and veteran travel industry publicist. It is the first time anyone can remember that the head of the Skal Club has been anyone but an airline official, hotelier or travel agent. Ms Field, who has been a hospitality industry public relations businesswoman for 10 years, has the right background. She studied hotel management at Scarborough Technical College in England and, after graduation, worked in a hotel run by her parents, going the traditional route of kitchen, bar, rooms division and functions. After a stint working in Europe as a cook, she was systems administrator for a company that operated 240 pubs. 'But I'm conscious my business background is a bit unusual for a Skal Club president,' she says, adding that she will speak for all facets of the travel and tourism industry. She first sat on the Skal Club committee three years ago, when then-president Mr Lowe sought expert advice from a member about marketing and public relations. The aim was to elevate the clubs' image, and her response was to design a more colourful logo, set up a website and produce an information pack for new members. Ms Field hopes to liaise with organisations like the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents, the Travel Industry Council, the Hong Kong Hotels Association and other professional groups to discuss industry challenges and try to find solutions. 'Our major role at present is to provide the monthly lunch forum for the industry and to raise money for scholarships, to help worthy youngsters gain professional qualifications,' she said. The educational thrust comes under the Rudy Choy Fund and the Sing Sheng Prize, named after two much-loved Skal members who died several years ago. Every year, donations from members help to send 46 students to courses at technical colleges or universities. This year, Skal Hong Kong will spend $250,000 to help send future tourism industry professionals, ranging from trainee chefs to university-level mid-managers, back to the classroom. Ms Field wants to broaden the club's membership criteria by permitting restaurant groups and clubs to put forward managers as members. 'After all, they're part of the tourism industry,' she says.